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Friendship Trays opens nonprofit restaurant in South End

Chef Chelsa Howard prepares sandwiches at the new Friendship Market on Friday.  The cafe is a nonprofit that will open Wednesday to serve food to the public and make money for the charity.
Chef Chelsa Howard prepares sandwiches at the new Friendship Market on Friday. The cafe is a nonprofit that will open Wednesday to serve food to the public and make money for the charity. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte’s booming South End will get its first nonprofit restaurant Wednesday with the opening of the Friendship Market near the intersection of Remount Road and South Tryon Street.

Created by Friendship Trays – a nonprofit that delivers meals to shut-ins – the restaurant will capitalize on some fancier menu items that were created as part of the agency’s already popular catering service.

Examples include a brazed short rib sandwich with arugula, manchego cheese and chimichurri aioli; Italian panzanella style salad; and roasted chickpeas and cauliflower over Israeli couscous.

Ingredients will be local whenever possible, including vegetables and herbs from Friendship Gardens, a network of community gardens affiliated through Friendship Trays. The market also will sell local baked goods, jams and jellies, and coffee, said Lucy Bush Carter of Friendship Trays.

All profits from the restaurant will go to Friendship Tray’s $1.8 million annual budget, which covers delivering 600 meals daily to people who are elderly, disabled or convalescing.

The restaurant is part of a trend among nonprofits to find ways to supplement budgets with a steady source of income beyond donations.

Two other nonprofit restaurants are already operating in Charlotte, the oldest and best-known of which is the King’s Kitchen on West Trade Street in uptown.

The other, Encore Catering and Cafe, opened last fall and offers food cooked by the Community Culinary School of Charlotte. The school operated in the same building as Friendship Trays until it moved last year to Monroe Road.

Chef Ron Ahlert, head of the culinary school, said business at the newly opened cafe has been so good that it was recently licensed to supply food for a satellite location.

A fourth nonprofit restaurant, Second Helping on Central Avenue, closed in September after failing to find support. Its mission was to help formerly incarcerated women get back into the job market.

At the Friendship Market, a goal is to take advantage of the agency’s proximity to South End’s growing population and upscale development, Carter said. The area was primarily industrial and commercial until the Lynx light rail opened in 2007. Now about 5,000 people live there and the population is projected to be 7,300 by 2020.

“I love that a meals-on-wheels program is operating right in the heart of this trendy growth area,” said Carter, noting the new market is sandwiched between two breweries and is just a block from the light rail.

“Feeding people in need is part of what a community does, so it fits that we’re right in the middle of everything.”

Price: 704-358-5245

Friendship Market

The grand opening will include free food samples from the menu.

When: Grand opening will be 9:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday.

Where: 2401-A Distribution Street off Remount Road in historic South End.

Regular hours: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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