Everyone we've talked to agrees: The light rail coming to South End was the best damn thing to happen to this neighborhood. But you know what else is pretty cool about this area? The selection of retail: From consignment to exclusive sneakers, women's fashion to furniture, a shopaholic can go buckwild.
We talked to the owners of three independent shops in the area to find out what brought them to South End, how the neighborhood has changed in recent years and more.
ON THE VIBE
Jennifer Branham, co-owner of The Boulevard: South End is a great mix of independently owned restaurants, salons and boutiques; it has a small neighborhood feel within an urban environment. We see so many young professionals making South End their home and that was one of the reasons that brought us here. The businesses in South End are a great support system to each other; we are all in this together and all have the desire to make South End a destination for in-town and out-of-town visitors.
Josh Frazier, owner of Black Sheep, a skateboard/sneaker shop: You have some throwback, skateboarder, tattooed kids or whatever, and you've also got some professionals in their button-downs grabbing a drink at the Common Market after work, as well as families. To me, it's a good mix.
Laura Gribble, owner of consignment store South End Exchange: What it is growing toward, as more and more apartments are built, is that it's one of the only places in Charlotte where you can walk around from place to place. We're just hoping that'll keep growing and connecting down Camden Road.
ON HOW SOUTH END HAS CHANGED IN 10 YEARS
Gribble: When we first opened, everyone would say, "Be careful, lock up, don't stay down there by yourself." Honestly, now I feel safer being down here after closing, practically. It's when everyone gets home from work and they're just walking around to get something to eat, moms pushing their babies in strollers. It's just pedestrian-friendly, and I love that.
Frazier: The light rail is definitely the most notable [change]. I think in a lot of ways, South End is turning into the type of neighborhood I envisioned 10 years ago when I decided to start Black Sheep there: a lot of great, independent businesses.
ON SOUTH END'S PLACE IN CHARLOTTE
Frazier: On the one hand, you could say South End hasn't really found its identity yet — it's almost resisting being defined — but to me that's a strength. It's got diversity.
Branham: I think South End is filling a niche that Charlotte needed, a unique place to live and bring your family and friends, especially those visiting from other cities, to experience something that is unique to Charlotte. Anyone can go to the mall.
We asked our followers: What is something you can only find in South End? Here are the responses we received:
@paula_h: Gas station fried chicken
@CLT2N: The best Friday nite summer hangout - Food Truck Friday! Grab a drink at @commonmarket first! @cltfoodtrucks
@petzilla: Has so much unique but a few personal would be Ultimate CrossFit & @modpaleo at Atherton also Tremont Music Hall!
@CLTdining: best fried chicken in the world at Price's!
@Jay_Weezie: the smell of funnel cakes on certain days.
@gosenga: dog friendly common market and blind beagle in a dog stroller that loves to hang out there
@clt_mel: the coolest people and the yummiest ranch and chicken pizza at Tyber Creek Pub!
@CLTToolBank: A ToolBank!
@Babydick9: pikes soda shop
@littledistrict: How about the amazing @PhatBurrito?
@cloister_honey: You can only taste our honey before you buy it at Atherton Market in @SouthEndCLT!