Restaurant owner and developer is combining real estate with new eatery near Charlotte

Rendering of Cowboy
Rendering of Cowboy

Joe Douglas has spent much of his career combining his enthusiasm for real estate development with his appreciation of food.

Now, he’s developing another new restaurant concept in Cornelius: Cowboy, a fast-casual eatery that will serve steak, house-made bread, ribs and rotisserie chicken. Douglas is also developing the building at Statesville and Bailey Roads, adjacent from another set of retail and office buildings he developed and owns, where one of his 131 Main restaurants is located.

A company affiliated with Douglas bought the vacant land in 2015 for $804,000, property records show. Once Cowboy is developed, he plans to build more retail space with offices above shops and restaurants on the remaining land, which could accommodate two more buildings.

Douglas’s development of his own space, rather than leasing space from an owner, allows him more control over the future of his restaurants. He said he plans to try new concepts in his buildings, which will also include a test kitchen for developing new recipes.

“This will be a platform to kick off new concepts,” Douglas said.

There are three 131 Main locations, in Cornelius, Asheville and Blakeney (Douglas shuttered the East Boulevard location in Dilworth last year after a series of fires in the kitchen). Another 131 Main location is opening in the coming months in SouthPark, at 5970 Fairview Road.

Douglas said Cowboy, set to open in early December, will offer a bar, take-away food (with big platters of brisket and bottles of wine, for example) and sit-down dining.

The building design is meant to evoke mid-century California, Douglas said.

Joe Douglas at Cowboy in Cornelius. Ely Portillo

“We’re not a yee-haw kind of place,” despite the Cowboy name, Douglas said. Prices will be around $8 to $18, with a sandwich or lunch plate with tacos going for around $10.

“We can differentiate ourselves with service and quality,” he said.

Douglas has had previous success building and selling a fast-casual chain. Tenders, a chicken chain that became the prototype for PDQ, was started in 2009 by 131 Main’s owners.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo