You can learn a lot about an area by its small businesses. From the mainstay, decades-old bookstore to the newer, bustling barbershop, local ventures say much about the vibrancy and diversity of a community.
Whether you are new or have been around for years, here’s a way to feel more at home in the Charlotte area: Visit some of these places and shopping areas that help define the personality of our place. While this isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list, here are some favorites:
Dilworth Coffee: Don and Alyene Keen opened Dilworth Coffeehouse on East Boulevard in 1989. Today, that original shop is still standing as Dilworth Coffee, along with four other area locations known for comfortable spaces featuring locally made treats, or even artwork for sale.
East Boulevard : This small-business corridor filled with boutiques, consignment shops and restaurants includes the well-known Paper Skyscraper, a card, book and gift store celebrating 25 years in business this fall. Berrybrook Farm Natural Food, with its recognizable red wagon parked in front, opened in 1972 and bills itself as Charlotte’s first natural food store.
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No Grease Inc.: After opening their first barbershop in 1997, founders and twins Damian and Jermaine Johnson quickly made a name for their business through community involvement and networking with the city’s black entrepreneurs. Former Charlotte Bobcats majority owner Bob Johnson was among their customers and mentors. Their fourth location, at Carolina Place Mall in Pineville, opened in July.
Park Road Shopping Center: Debuting in 1956, Charlotte’s first open-air retail center now sports a refreshed look, thanks to a multimillion-dollar makeover under a new owner/developer. You’ll find some of Charlotte’s most recognizable retailers here, including family-owned Blackhawk Hardware, open since 1976, where shoppers can help themselves to a scoop of popcorn before roaming the aisles for goods as varied as cabinetry, dog beds, barbecue grills and hand sanitizer. A few doors down is independent bookstore Park Road Books, established in 1977, which endures in the age of e-readers, thanks to author readings and signings and book clubs.
Price’s Chicken Coop: This South End mainstay serves up some of the most celebrated fried chicken in the South. Brothers Talmadge and Pat Price opened Price’s Chicken Coop in 1962 at 1614 Camden Road. Over the years, this cash- and carry-out-only eatery has received recognition from national magazines Bon Appetit (2007), Gourmet (2008, calling its chicken “the best in North Carolina, maybe the best in the South – and, therefore, the best anywhere”) and Esquire (second in a survey of “the most life-changing fried chicken in America” in 2012).
Renfrow Hardware and General Merchandise: Find it all at this 114-year-old hardware store in downtown Matthews: knife-sharpening services, live baby chicks, Japanese eggplants already started at the on-site greenhouse. Located at 188 N. Trade St., Renfrow partners with the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market held in the open space right next to it.
South Main Street in Davidson: Here, many of the stores, eateries and boutiques promote the “shop local” message right in their storefronts, with “Turn around, shop in town” posters in the window. That includes Main Street Books, open since 1987. Find books, souvenir postcards and an honor system for purchasing newspapers outside: Pay through the mail slot in the front door.
The Wine Vault: This wine bar and store near the lake at the Shoppes at University Place started in 1986 as a wine and cheese shop, according to owner Tim Wallace, who bought the place in 2000. Stop by for a solo sip, socializing or live music. (Concord’s celebrated Avett Brothers, Scott and Seth, played there.)