Tater tot poutine. Banh mi for breakfast. Come 2020, this and more will be available at The Degenerate, a sports bar/gastropub set to open in Villa Heights. Located at 2116 N. Davidson St., it promises more internationally-inspired, yet homey fusions, as well as draft cocktails.
The sophisticated sports-themed bar is a continuation of Villa Heights’ upward economic trajectory. Long overshadowed by cooler siblings NoDa and Plaza Midwood, since the opening of the light rail a year and a half ago, over a dozen shops have planted their flags in the neighborhood bordered by Matheson, North Davidson, The Plaza and Parkwood streets.
Business is booming in Villa Heights.
The little ‘hood that could appears to be catching up to neighboring communities in terms of eateries, bars, even nail salons and dentistry offices. Rhino Market has opened a store in the area, as have Ebb & Flow Movement Studio; Stellar Dental; The Hobbyist coffee shop, wine and beer bar and more.
Chef Trung Cao, owner of Saigon Bay in University, opened Pho at NoDa in Villa Heights four months ago, but he wasn’t exactly new to the area. In the 1990s, Cao called Villa Heights home.
“I just work here now. I wish I could afford the houses,” he said with a laugh. “Everything is newer. It’s changed a lot, but it’s great.”
Earlier this year, Rob Rondelez opened a new outpost of Rhino Market in a 3,000 square-foot space in the same building as Free Range Brewing. The market has breakfast and lunch options, as well as the extensive wine and beer selection that made its West side mother store a staple. Rondelez said he’d been eyeing the Villa Heights market for some time.
“I just think there’s a ton of potential over there,” he said.
For Bryson and Julie Woodside, owners of The Hobbyist, Villa Heights has held cache for years. They live nearby in Plaza Midwood and say they’ve driven through the Heights several times a day for the last four years.
“Though it’s not as established as other neighborhoods in the area, it’s always had an appeal, with its eclectic nature, proximity to arts districts, yet still is an up-and-coming community,” Bryson said. “That’s what we found here, with folks more than happy that we opened up shop. We love our neighbors, love the community here and do anything we can to stand out.”
That includes hiring local artist Sharon Dowell to paint a large mural in the back of the shop that features Villa Heights-specific themes, giving Charlotte musicians an audience every Friday and Saturday and partnering with local pastry chefs for much of the baked goods sold.
This past September, it also extended to fundraising when a long-time Villa Heights resident lost his home to arson. The Hobbyist, along with close to a dozen local businesses, raffled tickets to help Stanley Carter and his family, and hosted the main event at the shop Sept. 19.
“In my mind, if you own a business like this you have an obligation to help folks in your local community,” Bryson said.
2116-A N. Davidson St.
Editor’s note: Julie Woodside is co-owner of The Hobbyist. A previous version of this story included an incorrect name.