CHARLOTTE, NC (AXIOS) – The Thrift Road is now exactly the right place.
What’s happening: Six new businesses are coming to Wesley Heights in 2022 and early 2023: Azul Tacos and Beer serving authentic Mexican street food, an event space called The Ruth, Boxcar Bar + Bites, Runaway Whiskey and Wine Bar, a yoga studio called The Coterie Wellness Studio and pizza baby.
- Development works at 2121 and 2135 Thrift Road are expected to be completed in Q4 2022. Tenant construction at 2122 Thrift Road is ongoing.
Why it matters: Wesley Heights, particularly along Thrift Road, has evolved from an industrial area into a booming food and beverage district.
Yes but: The West Charlotte neighborhood is experiencing gentrification, and has been for several years.
Flashback: Wesley Heights was not established as a historically black neighborhood like neighboring Washington Heights and Biddleville. It was a mostly white neighborhood, a streetcar suburb, until urban renewal forced black residents out of Brooklyn.
The developer is The Browder Group Real Estate, which owns seven properties on Thrift Road.
- 56% of Browder Group’s Thrift Road tenants operate minority-owned businesses and 24% are owned by women.
- “When we look for local talent, we also find tenants who are startup companies and things like that who don’t have the financial backing that other landlords might ask for, and we give them a chance,” Matt Browder from Browder Group says Axios.
Between the lines: Homes in Wesley Heights have been more affordable to those who bought in recent years, and they’re still more affordable than places like Myers Park. However, prices are rising, and this applies to the whole city.
- The average selling price in Wesley Heights increased from $337,000 in June 2019 to $538,000 in April 2020, according to Redfin data.
- Young couples like The Coterie owner Caitlyn Sheff and her husband bought their home in Wesley Heights four years ago.
- Pizza Baby owner Chef Trey Wilson and his family also call the neighborhood home.
What you say: “I’m very aware of my personal privilege and the fact that I’m opening a yoga studio in a gentrifying part of town,” Sheff tells Axios.
- Sheff chose the 2135 Thrift Location because she wanted to be close to home and serve her neighborhood. She will offer structured graduation to make tuition affordable.
- She also works with Rebby Kern, Equality NC’s director of education policy, who champions racial justice and gender justice, and Raudhah Rahman, a web designer and yoga teacher who focuses on branding through anti-oppression frameworks to create an inclusive space .
The big picture: These new businesses join Midnight Mulligan Brewing, Summit Seltzer, Lucky Dog Bark and Brew, Counter, a ghost kitchen collective, Wray Ward’s office of more than 100 employees. Plus nearby neighbors are Noble Smoke and Lulu’s Maryland-Style Chicken and Seafood.
- Plus, The area is now more accessible and less of a headache as the roundabout at the intersection of Tuckaseegee Road, Berryhill Road and Thrift Road where Enderly Park, Seversville and Wesley Heights meet is open.
Here’s a look at the six arriving companies:
Azul tacos and beer
It’s a family affair for the Womacks. Katrina Womack, owner of the new concept, moved with her family from Southern California to Charlotte in 2006 to attend Johnson & Wales University. But she couldn’t find authentic Mexican food unless she made it at home.
- What we see here is much more Tex-Mex or a fusion style.
- “You would never find cheddar cheese in your grandmother’s house,” she said, nodding to her son Anthony Castañeda, who co-owns it. His grandparents, uncle, aunt, siblings Joseph Castañeda and Marissa Castañeda, and childhood friend Marvin Brindis are also partners in the project.
- They previously operated the Gourmet Street Food Truck, which served wings, which they plan to remodel as an extension of Azul Tacos and Beer.
What to expect: Authentic Mexican street food in 2,700 square feet. They serve tacos, burritos, tortas, mulatas, ceviche and more. But if you want to buy a pack of their handmade tortillas and a few pounds of meat to make something at home, you can.
- The drinks are mainly mezcal and tequila based. They also offer agua frescas (a water and fruit drink) and Mexican lemonade.
- It will be a fast paced leisure experience with seating for 70-75 people including bar seating, a long country style table and retractable doors, and a shelf around the outside railing for people to eat.
- The decor will be modern, with a mural by Rosalía Torres-Weiner
Price: Tacos start at $3. They still finalize other price points for menus.
Location: 2122 Thrift Street
What’s next: They hope to open in August.
Marysue Boyle is about to open her third function space in the Charlotte area. Her other two are The Collector’s Room in the South End and Circle M Farm in Lincolnton.
- “The goal is to build an ecosystem of venues in and around the Carolinas so people know how we operate as a company and appreciate the care we take in dealing with and working with our customers and our vision for spaces,” Boyle tells Axios.
What to expect: A 10,000 square meter space that can accommodate around 300 people and 600 standing places, as well as a bar and separate meeting rooms and an outdoor area. The Ruth is available for events such as weddings, galas, birthdays and corporate events.
- plus They offer mixology classes, rollicking brunches, and Panther Sundays where you brunch and then get taken to the game. They plan to expand the latter to include some Charlotte FC games and other events at Bank of America Stadium. You can also stay at The Ruth and watch games there.
Location: 2122 Thrift Street
Price: Venue rentals start at around $3,000, but a Saturday in peak season costs around $8,000.
What’s next: Boyle is targeting an early fall 2022 opening with an open house to showcase the space during the holidays.
- She also hopes to have six to eight spots in the next three to four years.
This New York-style pizza is part of the third concept from Charlotte Chef Trey Wilson, who opened Custom Shop in Elizabeth 15 years ago and Flour Shop at Park Road Shopping Center five years ago. All three of Wilson’s concepts are now owned by the Art & Commerce Food Group, which he launched this spring with chef Andres Kaifer and operator Steven De Falco.
- Wilson’s dough goes through a 24-36 hour fermentation process to become a crunchy, high-moisture dough.
- “It’s a lot of work to get a simple product,” Wilson says of Axios.
What to expect: The 3,000 square meter area offers space for 90 people outside and around 70 people inside. Also, the dough room will be open, similar to the Flour Shop open concept, where you can see your food being prepared, and Pizza Baby’s menu will also change weekly like its sister concepts.
- The Seven Sisters Farm will supply the produce, specifically tomatoes for sauces and lettuce for the salads.
- Pizza Baby will have eight to ten pizzas on the menu, plus four to six salads and vegan options. The dough itself will be vegan and will be available for sale. They also offer dough making classes.
- On the drinks side, there’s local craft beer, Italian-focused wines, and sparkling low-alcohol drinks.
Location: 2135 Thrift Street
Price: Pies will be 17 inches tall and will cost $18-$24.
What’s next: Pizza Baby aims to open in early 2023.
- Wilson wants his fourth concept to be bread-focused, but for now he’s focused on opening concept #3.
The Coterie Wellness Studio
Sheff left her position at the company in May 2019 to teach full-time in the fitness industry. Last year she decided to open her own yoga studio.
- “It’s not just going to be a workout,” Sheff told me.
What to expect: The Coterie will offer three yoga formats: Vinyasa (flow) yoga, yoga with weights and yin yoga. Only Vinyasa classes will be heated and the studio will use infrared panels.
Location: 2135 Thrift Street
Price: There will be a three-tier structure for monthly membership and drop-in courses: a community plan, which is under $100 for a monthly membership and under $10 for a drop-in course, a supporter plan, and a supporter -tariff. There will also be class pack options (prices are TBD).
What’s next: Sheff is targeting opening in winter 2022 or early 2023. Until then, you can attend her class every Thursday at 6:15 p.m. with her neighbor, Midnight Mulligan. She will also teach once a month in the Collector’s Room as well as a SweatNET class on August 16th at the Metropolitan.
Boxcar bars + appetizers and Runaway whiskey and wine bar
Steven Martin and Logan Donaldson have been best friends for more than a decade and owned a tiki bar together in South Carolina, but always wanted to move to Charlotte. Now they are coming in with two separate concepts that will share an area of 5,300 square meters. They will be separated by the kitchen, which they will also share.
- Martin and Donaldson are just relocating here from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.
What to expect: Boxcar has more of a sports bar feel, but you’ll also want to have brunch at it, and it alternates between local and regional craft beers and specialty cocktails. They’re still ironing out the menu, but think “classic filling dishes with a twist,” Martin told me.
- The Boxcar is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner on weekends.
- They also plan to hire local artists to create interior murals, which will change regularly.
Run away will take you back to the Prohibition Era of the 1920s with its decor. It will also feature small spots, specialty cocktails, and craft beers. Unlike Boxcar, there will be no television. So if you want to watch the game you can walk down the hallway. It is open for brunch on weekends and for dinner daily.
Location: 2135 Thrift Street
What’s next: They plan to open towards the end of this year.
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