[Editor’s note: This story uses the format of our Rockin’ the Suburbs series, but since Derita isn’t exactly in the suburbs, we changed the label.]
Derita — if it wasn’t for the road construction slowing down traffic you might miss it.
It’s not trendy. It doesn’t have any art galleries. It’s definitely not gentrified. You can not get a pour-over coffee in Derita.
But this working-class community six miles from uptown Charlotte stands apart for me for many reasons: It’s diverse and unpretentious. The majority of businesses are independently owned and several have been here for decades.
Derita’s “downtown” is the stretch of West Sugar Creek Road between Graham Street and Mallard Creek Road.
Here are some of my favorite spots:
It’s been around for a long time. I mess up and call it Maddie’s sometimes because that’s what it used to be called. This is a true neighborhood gathering spot, where the friendly waitstaff always seems glad to see you.
They’ve got a boot scraper mat by the entrance and a sign prohibiting profanity. They’re open for breakfast and lunch but you can order breakfast whenever they’re open.
2801 West Sugar Creek Road
This is a real Derita long-timer. It’s been around since 1932 and in the beginning its business really was farm equipment, but the next year, when Prohibition ended, owner Ralph Puckett started selling beer too. As farms started failing, farmers were more into the beer than the equipment.
Today, third-generation owner Gary Puckett still sells beer, but the real draw is the music: country, bluegrass and rock. Every year they have a Johnny Cash Bash. It calls itself a 21st Century Honky Tonk and you won’t find another place like it in Charlotte. It made CharlotteFive’s Weird Charlotte for having a prosthetic leg as a tip jar.
2740 West Sugar Creek Road
The Treasure Chest
This thrift store might not look like much from the outside but it’s called a “treasure chest” for a reason. It’s packed with musical instruments, leather jackets, Elvis memorabilia, tons of NASCAR souvenirs, sports equipment and lots of stuff that I can’t quite figure out. Like a “Neurological Amplifier.”
I got a killer deal on two leather couches there once. There’s always gospel or religious music playing in the store. The owner, Terry, is the nicest man in Charlotte.
2743 West Sugar Creek Road
I mentioned the lack of pretense and this place is a good example. You order your lunch through a walk-up window and hang out in the parking lot with the rest of the lunch crowd while they’re preparing your hot dog and milkshake, both of which are surprisingly good. And cheap.
Derita Dairy Bar has been around since the 60s, but it was called JR’s Dairy Bar until recently.
2737 West Sugar Creek Road
The fact that this nature preserve, with its ponds, fields, streams and forests, exists at all just a mile from the intersection of I-77 and I-85 is amazing. It’s almost surreal to step into it and get lost within the quiet, secluded 188 acres.
When I say “get lost” I’m not being poetic. The trails aren’t marked all that well and I once did get lost there for an embarrassingly long time. So go, but maybe bring a friend with a good sense of direction.
4601 Nevin Road
A few other noteworthy things about Derita:
– Gary’s Barber Shop is another business that’s been around for decades and has a loyal following. 2825 West Sugar Creek Road.
– At Martha Ferrell’s Florist you can also buy discount caskets and homemade pies.
2741 West Sugar Creek Road.
– Minh Dang Quang, the Vietnamese Buddhist is monastery where the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace made a tour stop in May. 4310 West Sugar Creek Road.
Derita is a good place to go if your car is dirty because there are a couple guys one parking lot down from The Treasure Chest who offer hand washes for $10. They do a good job.