I grew up in south Charlotte and now live in Dilworth and I feel like I’ve lived in two completely different cities. One of the biggest differences between the uptown area and its surrounding pockets (Plaza Midwood/South End/Wesley Heights/NoDa/etc.) and south Charlotte’s pockets (Cotswold/South Park/Ballantyne/Arboretum/etc.) is that one is noticeably embedded with markets and the other is not.

I’m not talking markets like farmers markets and Fresh Markets — both south Charlotte and the uptown area have those. I’m talking open, community gathering places like Common Market in Plaza Midwood, 7th Street Public Market uptown, Rhino Market in Wesley Heights, Atherton Mill & Market in South End. Places to find a coffee and/or adult beverage, plus snacks and public events.

These places in and around uptown embody the part of the “market” definition that is “a meeting together of people for the purpose of trade.” Yes, at the Fresh Market and farmers markets you “trade” money for goods.

And you do that at Common Market, etc. as well. But these markets enhance the meaning of trade. More often than not, people aren’t coming to these markets to take what they need and leave. They have turned these markets into places to meet together, trade business cards, words, ideas and inspiration. They have turned these markets into gathering places, experiences, spaces to work on their crafts, opportunities to mill about and bump into people and interact.

It’s by virtue of what’s offered by these markets.

Rhino Market & Deli offers a deli counter plus Pure Intentions coffee, Lenny Boy kombucha and a slew of beer and wine to take away and sit and sip. And who doesn’t want to sit and sip? Monday night trivia is a year-round activity just as much as the afternoon business meetings you see happening over cake or beer. This is a conversational space.

7th Street Public Market offers an array of vendors from Pure Pizza, to Local Loaf, to Not Just Coffee to entice the aimless wanderer as much as the lunch and coffee crowds. Yogis have come here for yoga classes after hours with NC Yoga Bar. The Great Cookie Crumble event just took place in August, bringing businesses into the competition like Cloud 9 Confections, Coastal Kitchen- Charlotte Hilton Center City and Poplar Street Café with the opportunity for the public to participate as judges. I’ve interviewed people for articles over Viva Raw juice here. It’s abuzz with activity.

Before Common Market South End shut its doors, I was constantly digging a fork into their hummus scoop salads. I was involved with a poetry-based community event with Creative Mornings/Charlotte. I talked with strangers over shots of kombucha. I brought friends there to split a bottle of wine over live music. Now the Plaza Midwood Common Market may be that place for me that says, “anything can happen here.”

Atherton Mill and Market has drawn me in for a BYOB latte art throwdown with Not Just Coffee, and for sporadic exploration of the vendors that set up there, like Queen City Pantry. It’s drawn my friends in for cooking classes with Chef Alyssa. Something is evolving here.

But no matter which uptown pocket has led me to a market, I’ve met new people at all of these places. I’ve networked at these places, worked on my computer here, read books here, hashed out life with friends here, explored something here.

These aren’t just places where you find what you’re looking for and continue on your merry way. These are hubs for activities and conversations and creative minds. Which generally also happen to have coffee/drinks/food.

In south Charlotte, I default to Panera or Starbucks. Sometimes Amelie’s.

In south Charlotte, I haven’t found my markets, my hubs, my pieces of proof that people have emerged from their neighborhoods to participate in community exchanges or creative endeavors. We’re missing the markets there, and we have to go somewhere else to find them.

Photo: Rachel Stone

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