Blog » A Savvy Shopper’s Guide to Charlotte’s Hippest ‘Hoods
Next week, an expected 35,000 visitors will converge in uptown Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention. When they get here they’ll find the city abuzz with political rallies, protest marches, speeches, concerts, and more. What they won’t find much of within the secured perimeter of uptown, is shopping. While uptown Charlotte enjoys an array of fine restaurants, museums, and sleek office buildings, the one thing that’s conspicuously lacking is retail. Fortunately, there are plenty of nearby neighborhoods brimming with unique stores, galleries, and boutiques — if you just know where to look.
Charlotte’s uptown business district is surrounded by a ring of historic and character-rich suburban neighborhoods. There are more mom-and-pop shops and independent retailers than I could possibly mention, but I’ll highlight the key neighborhoods within a few minutes’ drive of uptown, and a few of my favorite shopping venues to get you started.
Immediately to the north of uptown is NoDa, a bohemian enclave known for art galleries and artists’ studios. North Davidson Street forms the neighborhood’s central spine, and hosts a busy nightlife at hot spots including the Neighborhood Theater and Evening Muse. Stop by Amelie’s French Bakery any time of the day or night (they’re open 24 hours) for delicious cakes and pastries. In the center of all the action is Ruby’s Gifts, offering a colorful selection of local art and hand-made jewelry.
Working clockwise down from NoDa, the next neighborhood is possibly the hippest and best place to live in Charlotte: Plaza Midwood. (It’s my neighborhood; I’m totally biased). Head east on Central Avenue and you’ll find a slew of restaurants so popular there’s almost always a wait to get in. MoNA Gallery, located in a charming gray bungalow on Central Avenue, is a showcase for works by local artists and a purveyor of delicious Davidson’s Chocolates. Their in-house partner, Frock Shop, offers vintage and recently resurrected fashion. For the home, Slate Interiors is a must-stop for their stylish selection of new and vintage furniture. Expect to find 1960s sunburst mirrors, Lucite tables, brightly colored pillows, and paintings by local artists displayed in inspiring and well-curated vignettes.
Next stop is Dilworth, with its gentrified streets and refurbished older homes. Many of the neighborhood’s restaurants and businesses are located along East Boulevard, and it’s here you’ll find Maddi’s Gallery, an award-winning retailer specializing in American-made folk art and crafts. Stop in to admire gorgeous art glass, pottery, and the tempting selection of jewelry. Just down the street, Alexander Scott is the place to go for traditional home furnishings “with a twist.” French flea market finds, newly upholstered vintage chairs, retro mirrors, and ginger jar lamps complement one another beautifully in this artfully arranged store.
Finally, there’s Charlotte’s South End neighborhood, located between South Boulevard and South Tryon Street. A bit gritty with an industrial edge, this neighborhood is a rich destination for art and design. Charlotte’s Design Center is located here, as well as a number of great galleries and furniture stores. For your next craft or upholstery project, pay a visit to Modern Fabrics, specializing in reclaimed designer textiles. A bit off the beaten path is The Furniture Connector, with a funky showroom and friendly staff who will help you find the perfect sofa or occasional table from their fashionable lines of contemporary furniture.
Charlotte’s residents and business owners are just a bit nervous, yet cautiously optimistic, about the upcoming DNC. One store owner said, “We’ll either be really busy or really quiet next week.” Here’s hoping for really busy, and that our guests discover there’s much more to Charlotte than its urban uptown. Local flavor and great shopping is not far away, and I’m glad to help you to find it!
Tamara Leicester is a Charlotte-based designer, mom, and ex-corporate citizen turned entrepreneur. Heeding the call to follow her life’s passion, she established Tamara Heather Interior Design and the Design Carolinas blog in 2011. In her blog she shares her design discoveries, local sources and Carolina-grown ideas for home décor. She loves reading to her son, traveling, and molten chocolate lava cake.