Charlotte’s neighborhoods are filled with some of the region’s most stately, unique and family-friendly homes. But it isn’t just the residential part of our city that’s bringing new residents here in droves. From dining to shopping and more, there are dozens of one-of-a-kind local businesses that truly add jewels to the crown of the Queen City.
The professionals at Helen Adams Realty have already told us all about the up-and-coming and hidden gem neighborhoods in the area. Now they’re sharing some of the delicious, funky, and lesser-known local spots to visit, with tips on safe options for right now. Whether you’re up at the lake or down below the state line, here are some great local businesses to support in your neighborhood:
“With three teenagers at home … someone is always hungry around here! When I need a pre-made family meal to feed the whole crew I turn to Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen,” says Helen Adams Realty Agent Julie Sullivan Valbuena. “They have a delicious menu with something for everyone, packaged to go with easy reheating instructions included. Chef Alyssa’s also has both in-person and virtual cooking classes for adults and teens that come in a variety of skill levels from sushi making to cake decorating and everything in between. We tried pasta making and it was a hit!”
Helen Adams Realty Agent Lisa Donovan said her thoughts immediately went to local small businesses when she heard about the COVID-19 restrictions.
“Small businesses are the fabric of our neighborhoods,” she said. “From day one, I made a commitment to ‘Support Local.’
Some of her favorites: Mr. K’s Soft Ice Cream for the Big K, onion rings and tea (always saving room for ice cream of course), and Price’s Chicken Coop (pro tip from Lisa: pick up a whole bird and serve it with salad and vegetables you make at home … no one will know you’re ‘cheating’ with this ‘home-cooked’ meal).
Bored with looking at the same decor at home every day? Freshen up your space with new-to-you pieces from South End Exchange, recommends Helen Adams Realty Agent Holly Chapman.
“South End Exchange is one of my favorite places to shop for one-of-a-kind home decor. I recommend following them on Instagram and checking out their daily stories that showcase a lot of inventory,” Holly says. “They’re great about providing brand information, fabric close-up photos and measurements, so you can gauge how items might look in your home before you visit the store.”
In Lisa’s quest to avoid Amazon as much as possible during quarantine, she discovered the CLT Boutique.
“I picked up a few quarantine gifts for my neighbors and a really nice pair of stylish shoes for $25!” she says.
Looking for somewhere to eat for a special occasion? When Julie’s in the mood for fine dining (like on her son’s 21st birthday), she and her family head to Haymaker next to Romare Bearden Park.
“Haymaker has an incredible atmosphere and amazing food, but they are also screening guests and employees with health questions and temperature checks to keep the environment safe,” Julie says.
If you’re like Julie and picked up the new hobby (/addiction) of collecting house plants over quarantine, you’ll love strolling the greenhouses at Oakdale or popping into Plant Bar, the trendy plant nursery and DIY terrarium workshop in Dilworth.
Lisa and countless others stayed fit during quarantine with the outdoor fitness classes at the Dowd YMCA when they offered them starting this summer.
“The instructors were so supportive and everyone was so happy to have a bit of ‘normalcy’ back. Not sure if we were there for the exercise or the ‘social’, but we all agreed that coming to the Dowd Y every day was good for the mind, body and soul,” she says.
When Holly’s looking for some fun jewelry or a unique outfit, she heads to L.A. East at Blakeney.
“They post a lot of their items on Facebook, and are happy to set something aside if you call the store,” she says. “When I shop, I’m usually on a mission to find a particular type of item and I love knowing that when I go into L.A. East, I’m guaranteed to find something unexpected yet perfect.”
If you’re into wine, beer and charcuterie with locally sourced ingredients, check out The Loyalist Market, where you’re likely to run into Holly.
“I can’t stay enough about The Loyalist Market in Matthews. You can eat inside, or stay warm under the heaters on their outdoor patio. They also have online ordering with curbside pickup and offer a large variety of items to purchase, if you want to throw together a cute gift basket or make your own charcuterie board,” Holly says. “When COVID forced schools to shut down last March, the founder of The Loyalist Market teamed up with several other local restaurants and raised money to keep people employed while making food for kids who were missing out on their subsidized school lunches. Like I said, I can’t say enough!”
Runners can take a page from Holly’s playbook and head to the trails at Francis Beatty Park.
“Outdoor parks and running paths have been my saving grace during Covid,” Holly says. “My favorite trail to run on is at Francis Beatty Park … The heavy tree canopy helps the trail to stay cooler in the warmer months and the uneven terrain helps keep me from getting bored.”
If you’re looking for a more level gravel path to run on, head up the road to Holly’s other go-to, McAlpine Creek Park.
“It stays fairly busy with bikers, runners and walkers, which helps me feel safe,” she says.
Fort Mill/Rock Hill/Indian Land
Helen Adams Realty Agent Marie DeMartino is passionate about supporting the local businesses that make our area such a great place to live.
One of Marie’s favorite places to grab a meal for the whole family is downtown Fort Mill’s Local Dish. Get on their email list to find out the “family take-out” menu – $35 feeds a family of four with upgraded Southern fares like Cheerwine pork loin, macaroni & cheese and roasted mixed veggies.
Take your drinks to go with a “boozy basket” from The Office Craft Beer & Kitchen in Indian Land. Marie’s favorite during quarantine was one filled with six Coronas or Dos Equis, pineapple jalapeno margarita mix, salt and limes for Cinco de Mayo.
Pick up a quick gift (or a treat for yourself) at The Market on Tom Hall Street in downtown Fort Mill. Marie recommends checking out owner Kathy’s embroidered hand towels featuring your zip code or subdivision. She also loves that the shop carries items from local woman business owners, Stirred By Hand’s homemade caramels and Blanchard Designs‘ hand-painted ornaments.
“There’s no better place for social distancing than out on Lake Norman!” says Helen Adams Realty Agent Jennifer Korinchak. “Even before the pandemic, we moved to the Lake Norman area to be actively involved in the
boating and lake lifestyle. If you don’t live directly on the water, being a member at Safe Harbor Marina is the next best thing. When we’re ready for a day out on the lake, all we have to do is show up! Our boat is carried from its dry storage rack in a secure building, valeted out to the dock, and gassed up by the Safe Harbor staff.”
Lace up your hiking boots and head to Lake Norman State Park, which features 520 miles of shoreline, plenty of hiking and biking trails (Jennifer’s favorite is the six-mile Lakeshore Trail) and an expansive beach with public access to the otherwise privately-owned lake.
If you’re looking for the best sunset on the lake, head to the Hager Creek Access Area in Mooresville, says Helen Adams Realty Agent Erin Ficenec. Bring a picnic basket filled with snacks and adult beverages from nearby Wine Maestro or K Craft Beer and Wine.
Speaking of wine, Erin loves having COVID-safe outdoor hangouts at Devasté Vineyards in Troutman, which features outdoor seating, live music and local vendors.
For a great workout, grab your mat and head to (woman-owned!) Good Soul Yoga for hot yoga, Baptiste yoga, vinyasa flow, spin classes and Erin’s personal favorite, inferno hot pilates. Read about the studio’s COVID-19 safety protocols here.
“I joined GoodSoul about 15 months ago. It changed my life!” Erin says. “Both my mind AND body are stronger because of this great studio!”
Need a jolt of caffeine to jump-start your day? Jennifer swears by Black Powder Coffee, a small-batch coffee roaster that has a storefront for when you want to grab a cup when you’re out and about, as well as K-cups and bulk coffee to brew at home. Her personal favorite is a floral and fruity medium-light roast called Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.
If you’re hungry, Jennifer suggests doing some grocery shopping at Lowes Foods. But don’t forget to stop by the beer den, where you can taste a selection of local craft beers at a brewpub right in the middle of the grocery store.
For a quick bite, head to Killington’s in Huntersville (or at their Fort Mill location in Baxter Village if you’re farther south) and get curbside pickup of Marie’s longtime favorite salmon BLT.
“The salmon is always cooked to whatever temperature you want and the pancetta and aioli are delicious,” Marie says. “I order it with the corn, sweet potato hash as a side. It’s a very different side with peppers and onions added also.”
For clothing, accessories and home decor, Erin suggests checking out Cozy Boutique in Mooresville. If you’re looking for a unique hostess or baby shower gift like handmade candles or funj coffee mugs, visit Sweet Grass.
Do you have any favorite under-the-radar local spots? Let us know in the comments!