CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AXIOS) – Thrift Road is the place to be right now.
What is 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 Baby Pizza.
- Developer construction at 2121 and 2135 Thrift Road is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2022. Tenant construction is underway at 2122 Thrift Road.
Why is this important: Wesley Heights, particularly along Thrift Road, has transformed from an industrial area into a booming restaurant district.
Yes, but: The West Charlotte neighborhood has been experiencing gentrification for several years.
Rollback: Wesley Heights was not founded as a historically black neighborhood like its neighbors Washington Heights and Biddleville. It was a predominantly white neighborhood, a streetcar suburb, until urban renewal forced black residents out of Brooklyn.
The Browder Group Real Estate, which owns seven properties on Thrift Road, is the developer.
- 56% of Browder Group’s Thrift Road tenants operate minority-owned businesses and 24% are owned by women.
- “By finding local talent, we also find tenants who are start-ups and things like that, who don’t have the financial backing that might be required by other landlords, and we give them a chance,” Matt Browder of Browder Group tells Axios.
Between the lines: Homes in Wesley Heights were more affordable for those who bought in recent years, and they are still more affordable than places like Myers Park. However, the prices are increasing, which is true throughout the city.
- The median sale price in Wesley Heights rose 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’s owner, chef Trey Wilson, and his family also live in the neighborhood.
What they say : “I’m hyper aware of my personal privilege and the fact that I’m opening a yoga studio in a gentrifying part of town,” Sheff told Axios.
- Sheff chose 2135 Thrift Location because she wanted to be close to home and serve her neighborhood. It will offer a structured sliding scale to make courses affordable.
- She also works with Rebby Kern, Director of Education Policy for Equality NC, which advocates for racial equity and gender justice, and Raudhah Rahman, a web designer and yoga instructor who focuses on branding at through an anti-oppression framework, to create an inclusive space.
The big picture: These new ventures join Midnight Mulligan Brewing, Summit Seltzer, Lucky Dog Bark and Brew, Counter-, a ghost kitchen collective, the Wray Ward office with over 100 employees. Plus, nearby neighbors include Noble Smoke and Lulu’s Maryland-Style Chicken and Seafood.
- More, the area is more easily accessible and less difficult to navigate now that the roundabout at the intersection of Tuckaseegee Road, Berryhill Road and Thrift Road, where Enderly Park, Seversville and Wesley Heights meet, is open.
Here is an overview in the six incoming shops:
Azul Tacos and Beer
It’s a family affair for the Womacks. Katrina Womack, owner of the new concept, moved her family to Charlotte from Southern California 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’ll never find cheddar cheese in grandma’s house,” she said, nodding to her son Anthony Castañeda, who is co-owner. His grandparents, aunt uncle, 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 revamp as an extension of Azul Tacos and Beer.
What to expect: Authentic Mexican street food in a 2,700 square foot space. They will 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 will be mainly based on mezcal and tequila. They will also offer agua frescas (a water and fruit drink) and Mexican soda.
- It will be a fast and relaxed experience with seating for 70-75, including bar seating, a long farmhouse-style table and pop-up doors, plus a shelf around the outside railings for people to eat.
- The decor will be modern, with a mural by Rosalía Torres-Weiner
Price: Tacos will start at $3. They are still finalizing other menu prices.
Location: 2122 Thrift Road
And after: They hope to open in August.
Marysue Boyle is about to open her third event space in the Charlotte area. His other two are The Collector’s Room in South End and Circle M Farm in Lincolnton.
- “The goal is to create an ecosystem of places in and around the Carolinas that people can really go deep into to learn about how we work as a company and appreciate the care we take in dealing with and working with our customers and trust our vision of spaces,” Boyle tells Axios.
What to expect: A 10,000 square foot space that can accommodate approximately 300 people and 600 standing, plus a bar and separate meeting rooms and outdoor space. The Ruth will be available for events like weddings, galas, birthdays and corporate events.
- More they offer mixology classes, boozy brunches, and Sunday Panthers, where you have brunch and then transfer to the game. They plan to expand the latter to include select Charlotte FC games and other events at Bank of America Stadium. You can also stay at Ruth and watch games there.
Location: 2122 Thrift Road
Price: Room rentals will start at around $3,000, but a Saturday during peak season will cost around $8,000.
And after: Boyle is aiming for an early fall 2022 opening with an open house to showcase the space over the holidays.
- She also hopes to have six to eight spots in the next three to four years.
This New York-style pizza is the third concept from chef Charlotte Trey Wilson, who opened Customshop in Elizabeth 15 years ago and Flour Shop in Park Road Shopping Center five years ago. Wilson’s three concepts are now under Art & Commerce Food Group, which he launched this spring with chef Andres Kaifer and operator Steven De Falco.
- Wilson’s dough will go through a 24-36 hour fermentation process to become a crisp, high-moisture dough.
- “It’s a lot of work to get a simple product,” Wilson tells Axios.
What to expect: The 3,000 square foot space will accommodate 90 people outdoors and approximately 70 people indoors. Additionally, the dough room will be open, similar to the open concept of Flour Shop where you can see your food being prepared, and also like its sister concepts, Pizza Baby’s menu will change weekly.
- Seven Sisters Farm will supply produce, including tomatoes for the 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 for sale. They will also offer dough making classes.
- On the drinks side, they will have local craft beer, Italian wines, and low ABV spritz-style drinks.
Location: 2135 Thrift Road
Price: The pies will be 17 inches and $18-$24.
And after: Pizza Baby aims to open in early 2023.
- Wilson wants his fourth concept to focus on bread, but for now he’s focused on opening concept #3.
The Coterie Wellness Studio
Sheff quit her corporate job in May 2019 to pursue a full-time education in the fitness industry. Last year, she decided to open her own yoga studio.
- “It won’t just be a practice,” Sheff told me.
What to expect: La Coterie will offer three yoga formulas: vinyasa (flow) yoga, yoga with weight and yin yoga. Only vinyasa classes will be heated and the studio will use infrared panels.
Location: 2135 Thrift Road
Price: There will be a three-tier structure for monthly subscriptions and walk-in classes: a community rate, which will be less than $100 for a monthly subscription and less than $10 for a walk-in class, a support and a support rate. There will also be class pack options (prices TBD).
And after: Sheff is targeting winter 2022 or early 2023 to open. Until then, you can catch his class every Thursday at 6:15 p.m. at his neighbors, Midnight Mulligan. She will also be teaching once a month at The Collector’s Room, as well as a SweatNET class on August 16 at the Metropolitan.
Boxcar Bar + Bites and Runaway Whiskey and Wine Bar
Steven Martin and Logan Donaldson have been best friends for over a decade and had a tiki bar together in South Carolina, but always wanted to move to Charlotte. Now they are coming up with two separate concepts, which will share a 5,300 square foot space. They will be separated by the kitchen, which they will also share.
- Martin and Donaldson are moving from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.
What to expect: Boxcar will offer a sports bar atmosphere, but also a brunch, offering local and regional craft beers and specialty cocktails. They’re still revamping the menu, but think “classic dishes with a twist,” Martin told me.
- Boxcar will be open for weekend brunch, lunch and dinner.
- They also plan to hire local artists to create interior murals, which will change periodically.
Run away will take you back to the prohibition era of the 1920’s with its decor. It will also offer small seats, specialty cocktails and craft beer. Unlike Boxcar, there will be no TVS, so if you want to see the game you can walk down the hall. It will be open for brunch on weekends and daily for dinner.
Location: 2135 Thrift Road
And after: They plan to open towards the end of this year.
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