Walking in to the new Soul Wired cafe feels instantly relaxing. The interior space is tiny—no bigger than a typical apartment living room—but it feels expansive, and little details brought over from the original location make it feel familiar as well. It’s cozy, welcoming, the kind of place where you could meet a friend for lunch and end up talking for hours.
“That has always been the vibe of Soul Wired cafe,” says owner Stacey “Soul” Winters. “It’s just about taking off stuff, you know, you leave it when you come in.
That “vibe” is no accident. It’s the result of a lot of hard work, careful thought, and–in the new location–many personal touches.
“I took some time and made some quirky things that are more hands-on,” Soul explains. “Like making tables out of corks and pallet wood, the paper floor, just little elements that are personal.” The artwork on the walls comes mainly from Soul’s daughter, an art teacher in Memphis, and a friend named Mike who painted the walls at the original location.
Aside from the handmade items, many elements in the space come from the old location, but given new life and a new decor scheme. Soul has also spent time scouring antique malls, garage sales, and online resources such as Facebook Marketplace to find unique pieces on a budget.
“I tell people, ‘If it cost more than $10, it’s probably not meant to be part of soul wired cafe!”” she laughs.
All of these details have taken time to perfect, but Soul had time to spend. She officially closed down her original location nearly a year ago, in May 2017. She’d been open for 7 years at that point, and “it was time for a change.”
“It was almost time for a ‘never anymore,'” she recalls. “I really was burnt out. I went through a phase where I felt like I needed to reinvent myself a little bit and reinvent what I was doing.”
It turns out that “reinventing” things meant making food a much more central part of the experience at Soul Wired Cafe. A community garden is taking shape to one side of the parking lot, while inside one wall is taken up with a food service area handmade from pallet wood and bottle caps. Soul, wearing a uniform embroidered with her new identity as “Soul: The Kitchen Poet,” will be serving organic, healthy dishes for lunch and dinner.
“I’ve always loved to cook, but at the other space I was focused on events,” Soul explains. “Rock bands, reggae, poetry. Those were my main focus. My focus over here is going to be having some organic, healthy dishes. I want to do something that adds value, something different.”
“The mainstay will be grilled Panini-type sandwiches, and salads. Salmon, ahi tuna, turkey, vegan mac n cheese, jackfruit pulled pork sliders. Healthy things, and things you don’t normally expect.” And, as her title suggests, each unique recipe will come with a poem attached.
It’s clear that Soul is happy with the changes she’s made to Soul Wired Cafe. She says the new concept “feels good” to her, and that she feels “totally relaxed, back with that same passion that I had when I first wanted to go into business.” But the original Soul Wired Cafe had a lot of loyal fans, who have been anxiously awaiting its reopening and who may get a little nervous hearing Soul talk about “reinventing” things.
It’s true that some big changes have been made: the new location will have a huge outdoor area, but the interior is certainly much smaller. And the hours are changing: the new Soul Wired Cafe isn’t quite ready to open yet, but once it does it will close at 9 p.m. most days, and at midnight on Thursdays and Saturdays. That sounds awfully early to the late night poetry crowd, used to lounging at the mic until the early morning hours at the original location.
But open mic poetry nights and live music are still a huge part of Soul Wired Cafe, just a little earlier in the evenings. “I’m training ’em,” Soul laughs, confident that her community will adjust. She has good reason to be confident: those open mic nights have always been successful because they are such a perfect fit for the core mission of Soul Wired Cafe, and that hasn’t changed one bit.
“I always tell people, here you can be the young Maya Angelou or you can be Joe from around the corner, what you have to say is no less,” Soul smiles. “Everybody matters here. You get love, and that’s that. That’s what I want this to be.”