At the long-awaited reopening of West Side’s Charlotte’s Bojangles’, Eddie Williams nailed it:
“This ain’t the West Side anymore,” he said, standing in line with his friend Terrell Woods. A native of Charlotte who grew up near Oaklawn Avenue in West Charlotte, Williams, 22, was one of the first people in line Thursday after a 5-month closing while the store was completely rebuilt, right down to a bigger parking lot.
Growing up, he usually came in at least once a week for his usual order of Chicken Supremes. His friend Terrell, though, was there for one thing: Biscuits.
“That’s what people love,” he said. “I’ve been missing it.”
The Bojangles’ at 1401 W. Trade St. is still a Bojangles’, of course: Still fried chicken, biscuits and very sweet tea. But it also isn’t the same Bojangles’. The store (No. 16 in Bojangles’ history, opened in 1980 after the chain was founded in Charlotte in 1977) is the second to get a makeover that aims to make the Bo less take-out and more stick-around.
There’s now a “Biscuit Theater” (a glass window in front of the baking station in the kitchen) promising “Biscuits Made From Scratch Every 20 Minutes”). There’s free Wi-Fi and charging stations. There are distressed-brick walls, a faux tin ceiling, and wood-and-slate floors. There’s a comfy waiting area, with a red adirondack chair, where you can wait to pick up your takeout. Even the restroom doors have rolling-pin cutouts where you push.
“The thinking is, we needed it to be comfortable and new,” said Randy Icard, vice president of development and construction, who was on hand for the ribbon cutting. “We wanted history and new.”
The food, on the other hand, won’t change at all, Icard says. No KFC-style hiding of the “F” word (for fried). Bojangles’ food will still be Bojangles’ food, he says.
“We still hand-bread the chicken, we still steep the iced tea. People want to know their food is authentic and real. We’re not afraid to sell great Southern fried chicken.”
Even though the first in the chain’s new style was a store in Greenville, S.C., the location of the West Side store comes loaded with a lot of Charlotte history. At the ribbon cutting, city council member Al Austin, who represents the district, pointed out that for years, the late Malachi Greene, a longtime politician and activist for West Charlotte, made his “office” at the old Bojangles’.
“There’s another city council in this city and it met right here, with Malachi Greene,” he said. “You wanted to know what’s happening, you came here.”
The new Bojangles’ makes a point of connecting to that location, on West Trade Street between historically black Johnson C. Smith University and rapidly redeveloping Wesley Heights. Austin pointed out that the new sign doesn’t just say “Bojangles’.” It says “West End Bojangles’.”
“I’m loving it,” he said, swapping in another chain’s slogan.