South Charlotte

Another big empty box? Sigh

A new salon in Union County's Lake Park could mean a big deal to black women used to driving elsewhere to get their hair done. Image Salon and Spa debuted earlier this month in the space formerly owned by Hairloom.

Owner Sharon Williams of Image bought the Hairloom business, and still continues the same coloring, cuts, and perms as the earlier business, with the same stylists on staff.

But she's looking for other stylists, too – who can do relaxers, braids, dreadlocks and other styles.

“When I found out that Hairloom was looking for a new owner, I decided to take the opportunity and go ahead and … open a multicultural full-service salon,” said Williams, who lives in Lake Park and attended Empire Beauty School in Matthews.

“Lake Park is a very diverse neighborhood,” said Williams, who is African American and Portuguese. “We have African Americans that go all the way to Charlotte to get their hair done. Now they can come here.”

Image Salon and Spa is open Tuesdays through Saturdays at 6200-A Creft Circle in the Town Center.

Salon expands business

A Shop Talk column earlier this month about the Steve & Barry's retail clothing chain and its struggle for profitability prompted a reader to call in this worry: Will one more big-box space get left behind?

Big spaces sitting empty plague some commercial corridors, prompting government leaders to find creative solutions. Union County did just that about a decade ago, converting retail space into county offices.

Steve & Barry's opened in 2006 on Sardis Road North off Independence Boulevard in a space formerly occupied by Kmart. Why, the reader wondered, wasn't that space turned into something else – like a school – when the original tenant vacated? It's not known if that space will go vacant again. Steve and Barry's recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. While all its 276 retail locations are open, for business, the company announced it was “exploring a potential sale of the company and/or its assets, to repay outstanding debt.”

Converting big spaces that defunct retailers leave behind is an ongoing discussion in the region.

Matthews Mayor Lee Myers said the idea of using one of these vacated big-box spaces as a school came up several years ago to deal with overcrowding at Mecklenburg's Butler High School. The proposal involved using a space in a shopping center that had been vacated by Kmart.

The idea wasn't logistically feasible, Myers said: the site wasn't within walking distance of Butler, so students would have needed transportation to classes and the cafeteria. ( Ashley Furniture later took over the space and is open; ironically, it's a few doors down from vacated space created earlier this year when Sofa Express and More went out of business.)

Other entities have converted big shopping spaces to other purposes. In Union County, commissioners converted retail space in the Union Village Shopping Center into a center housing county health and social services departments. In the University area, Sugar Creek Charter School found a home in a remodeled Kmart.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools uses the old Gateway computer store in Windsor Square Shopping Center for its East Learning Center.

“The future is not in big boxes in Matthews, because we're already seeing them being vacated,” Myers said. “If we build more big boxes, we're going to see more turnover as more development moves out to Union County, which it's already doing.”

Myers says he's seen enough huge parking lots in Matthews. Instead of building spaces for new big retailers, he'd rather the town draw new corporate businesses hiring workers.

“Ballantyne is going to be a great long-lasting area because it has housing and jobs, along with retail. The component we need is jobs,” Myers said.

News, notes

Merrifield Partners, an affiliate of the developer Crosland, announced Watson Floor Covering is moving to Old Hickory Business Park on Indian Trail-Fairview Road in Indian Trail. J Watson's Investments LLC purchased the 2.17-acre site for the supplier and installer of carpet and hardwood flooring.