A busy corner that was Charlotte’s spot for fish for more than 40 years will dive back into business this spring as the new location of the Meat & Fish Co.
On Jan. 1, owner Michael LaVecchia took possession of the 8,000-square-foot building at East Morehead and South McDowell that was known for years as the home of Butler’s Seafood. He expects the new business to open by May 1.
“Everybody’s got a story about this location,” LaVecchia said Wednesday. “You still hear ‘Butler’s Seafood,’ ” even though the Butler family closed their store in the early 1990s. Other fish stores and small businesses have occupied the site in the years since.
LaVecchia’s national seafood business, also called Meat & Fish Co., has 500 accounts nationwide, mostly restaurants, hotels and casinos. But he moved into retail with the original location of Meat & Fish Co. when the 7th Street Public Market opened in 2011.
LaVecchia closed that location last year and started looking for a space closer to Dilworth. The 7th Street Market space was taken over by the butcher What’s Your Beef.
LaVecchia has ambitious plans for the new space: a retail store with meat, fish, cheese and charcuterie; a deli and a catering division that will eventually branch out into wedding planning. A dry cleaner that was in the building has moved out, and LaVecchia plans to use the entire building, with the upstairs for his wholesale and catering businesses.
While the store will open with European-style cured meats from Angel Salumi in California, he’s hoping to add custom cases for curing meat on-site. He also plans to offer fish from the North Carolina coast when it’s available.
He also wants to maintain that connection to Butler’s Seafood, he says. Founder Bill Butler started the business in 1947 and bought the location of a defunct fish market at Morehead and McDowell in 1948. In 1971, the original building was torn down and replaced with the current building when McDowell Street was widened. Butler’s closed in 1992 and was replaced by another fish store.
LaVecchia plans to meet with Butler family members to get the history of the building, and he’s trying to find the old sign that showed a giant lobster.
There are a lot of stories about the original business, he says. “At Thanksgiving, people would line up around the corner there to get their oysters.”
There also is a large cooler that only goes to 50 degrees. He’s learned it was designed to hold live crabs, with a door on the side to add them to the tank.
The lack of large fish markets had been a common complaint in Charlotte food shopping for many years. But in the last few years, several businesses have opened, including Clean Catch on Selwyn Avenue and Deep Sea on Monroe Road.
LaVecchia sees it as a sea change in retail that favors entrepreneurs, and a trend toward convenience with people supporting neighborhood locations.
“Just 10 years ago, our community wouldn’t have been able to support any of these,” he said. “The customers are getting smarter, the palates are getting better, and the flow of people coming in to the city has created demand for smaller butcher and seafood shops.”