By Lelita Cannon
With a population inching toward a million residents, Charlotte proper boasts more than the title of the largest city in the Tarheel State. The Queen City is the 15th largest in the U.S. Charlotte is currently the third fastest-growing major U.S. city, and with that growth comes a beacon for burgeoning businesses. It is home to quite a few wanderlust-worthy locations. Whether you need some R&R, a gift for a friend (or yourself), or simply a reason to venture outside the house, these Charlotte hotspots should be at the top of your list.
Tamu Curtis, a native Oaklander and owner of The Cocktailery — a newly opened cocktail supply and beverage lifestyle shop — relocated to Charlotte in 2012. “I saw the city had a lot of opportunity,” Curtis said. “It was growing. It was very community-oriented; people supported small businesses.” She felt she could thrive in such an environment.
Curtis believes cocktails are an experience, and she wants others to experience them from conception to sipping.At her shop, you can find an array of supplies from barware to bitters, mixers to muddlers and strainers to shakers. Interactive, hands-on classes where patrons can learn to craft libations are also offered.
The Cocktailery is located inside Atherton Mill in South End.
No Grease! Barbershop
Twin brothers, Damian and Jermaine Johnson are second generation barbers. They are also the founders of No Grease! Barbershop, established in June 1997. Their acumen was imparted to them by their mother—a businesswoman, salon owner and beautician. Shortly after formalizing their business, the Johnson siblings united with fellow master barber, Charlie Petty. With over 75 years of collective experience, they fortified No Grease! into an alliance that “develops people, who develop families, who develop communities.” No Grease! offers franchise opportunities for those interested in the industry. The shop has over 10 locations spanning across North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, as well as a barber school in Charlotte, NC.
Urban Reader, a bookseller specializing in African American literature, is Charlotte’s only Black-owned bookstore. The brick-and-mortar location opened in July, though the business has been in existence since 2000. “The goal is to rebuild our community with books”, says owner Sonyah Spencer, whose mission is quite clear. “We consign with other Black-owned businesses and authors.”
The proprietor’s future plans include potential expansion with a café and a larger section of children’s books.
Urban Reader holds monthly open mic events and paint and sip sessions with muralist Tajmah Allison. Taj’s work is displayed throughout the store.
Ms. Elsie’s Caribbean Bed & Breakfast
Born from a dream Cheryl Watkins had on March 2, 2000, she opened Ms. Elsie’s Caribbean B&B to celebrate her grandmother’s life and their heritage. At the quaint retreat, tucked away in the Cotswold neighborhood of Charlotte, visitors experience the spirit of the islands sans air travel. Boarders are introduced to an eclectic Creole mix of Caribbean cuisine for breakfast. Watkins says, “We have karaoke, island music, dance contests, bingo nights; play spades, chess, corn hole, and double-dutch. The games bring out the child in our guests, and the competitions can be fierce.” On September 20, 2021, Ms. Elsie’s celebrated 21 years of unsurpassed island hospitality.
It’s Poppin! Gourmet Kettle Korn
Janelle Doyle, who recently made Forbes’ 2021 The Next 1000 List, is passionate about making truly transformative popcorn. She is the founder of It’s Poppin! Gourmet Kettle Korn and Executive Chef Desmen Milligan is the “Flavor Creator” behind sweet, savory and specialty options. Customers can choose from a variety of flavors including Sweet Tea, Cinna Pop, Cookies N Cream, Beer, Mac N Cheese and the most popular — Fried Chicken. Doyle and Milligan’s business ambitions initially focused on a food truck. However, an article about kettle corn scrolled across Doyle’s Facebook timeline one day, and she had an Aha! moment. “Popcorn is a blank slate; you can season it to taste like whatever you want,” she said. “We knew we could create different flavors that are not typical popcorn flavors you’ll find elsewhere, plus we wanted to truly transform people’s thoughts and ideas on what popcorn should be.” It’s Poppin! Gourmet Kettle Korn was established in February 2017.
Zamariya Spa of Africa is a hybrid wellness retreat that has been in business since 2017.
Owner Anita Dereen grew Zamariya from a mobile operation where she traveled to client homes and physician offices to her current full-service location in Charlotte. Here, she offers therapeutic massage, skincare, waxing, yoni steams, body contouring, weight loss and detox services, as well as classes.
Dereen says, “We not only focus on relaxation, but chronic pain. We want to know how you’re doing emotionally, spiritually and physically. You are allowed to be and release what you need to for healing your way.” Secure your appointment online at vagaro.com/zamariyaspaofafrica.
The Brooklyn Collective
At the corner of South Brevard and 3rd Street, an intersection for inclusivity, community, culture and collaboration with an emphasis on upward mobility and support of home-grown talent in Charlotte subsists.
That crossroads is the Brooklyn Collective. These three buildings once served as a stratosphere for Black people who endeavored and advocated for progress in the Queen City of the early 1900s. Today, visitors of the Brooklyn Collective appreciate the unique dynamic each historic foundation houses. They might visit the gallery to view works from national and resident artists; register to attend live music events; take in a performance at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center; or enjoy The Grace, the former AME Zion church celebrating 120 years this year. Monique Douglas, co-owner at Studio 229 on Brevard, says guests “always walk away feeling educated about a piece of our city’s history and understanding a legacy left behind by the African-American founders. They love the cultural diversity we promote and our always making them feel at home.”