When a Charlotte landmark reaches 60 years, you know there must be something special about it. We Charlotteans tend to knock down and rebuild in a NASCAR minute.

Park Road Shopping Center is still thriving with an eclectic range of restaurants and specialty shops. Here are six secrets you may have been missing out on.

(1) A time capsule was buried for 50 years on the grounds of the Regal Cinema

With festive flair, it was unearthed in May 2014 by then-Mayor Dan Clodfeldter. Unfortunately, most of the contents had deteriorated into sludge. Surviving items — including a small format film reel, a Key to the City, and a couple coins from 1964 — are now displayed in the theater lobby.

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By the way, Regal Park Terrace Stadium 6 itself is a gem, often showing independent movies and critically-acclaimed foreign films.

(2) There’s a “tree” smack in the middle of a restaurant.

As if delicious, steaming bowls of pho weren’t enough, CO is a feast for the eyes, too. According to a restaurant spokesman, the tree-like structure at the center of this new pan-Asian restaurant was inspired by a wood ceiling feature Owner Greg Bauer saw in a Hong Kong hotel.

Courtesy of Amsley Agency
Courtesy of Amsley Agency

Bauer wanted a décor that would combine elements of Asian architecture and nature.

(3) The independent bookstore hosts monthly book clubs.

Park Road Books, established in 1977, is one of the only independent bookstores in town. It hosts four monthly book clubs, open to the public.

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Current and former employees guide the hour-long chats, including special groups for self-proclaimed fans of Geek or Foodie literature.

“We try to make it easy so you don’t have to angst about it,” says owner Sally Brewster. “You don’t have to clean your house.”

(4) There’s free popcorn and an adorable garden shop at “The World’s Coolest Hardware Store.”

According to the sign, more than a million people have nibbled on Blackhawk Hardware’s movie-style popcorn while browsing this eclectic store.

“That’s what we came in for,” says Sheryl Hoeskstra, waiting alongside her 16-month granddaughter while a fresh batch pops away.

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She loves shopping in the locally-owned establishment, which according to its website was ranked “The World’s Coolest Hardware Store” in 2011 (out of 4,500 ACE stores).

The store is packed with home design goods as well as typical hardware fare. Don’t miss the quaint garden shop out back that’s like a zen retreat for home gardeners.

(5) This real, old-fashioned bakery makes hard-to-find Cuban Bread.

Walk in and inhale. That buttery-sweet aroma leaves no doubt that Suarez Bakery’s desserts are made from scratch. Bakers start mixing ingredients as early as 4 a.m. to create their array of desserts, including phenomenal butter cookies.

On Saturdays, they also make Cuban Bread — something nearly impossible to find elsewhere in Charlotte. Crusty on the outside without being doughy, it’s great for sandwiches or for breakfast with a touch of butter, says Carlos Suárez Jr., son of owner and founder, Carlos, Sr.

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“It’s a simple bread that’s hard to get just right, but the results are worth the effort.”

(6) There’s way more than meets the eye at this hidden pub.

The sign for Sir Edmond Halley’s Restaurant and Freehouse makes it look like Platform 9 ¾ from Harry Potter but you don’t really have to walk through the post to get to this subterranean pub or its spacious outdoor patio.

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Just follow the stairs down, under the bridge. It’s a great late-night choice too since the full menu is served until 2 a.m. A pint from its impressive collection of draught beers wouldn’t hurt either.

Have some Park Road Shopping Center secrets of your own? Let us know.

Photos: Liz Bertrand; Amsley Agency

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