Which businesses are we missing in Charlotte? Local women weigh in.

Photo by Jessica Swannie

Local entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Girl Tribe Co. Sarah Baucom recently reached out to the Girl Tribe Community Facebook group with a thoughtful inquiry:

“Curious…what businesses do you feel like we are missing in Charlotte?”

“I asked the question in our groups because I was genuinely curious what others have seen in other cities but have yet to see here in Charlotte,” Baucom said. “As a native, I have seen this city grow so much and I wanted to see if there was a trend that we have yet to see pop up here in the city.”

Sarah Baucom
Photo via Sarah Baucom

The post garnered more than 600 responses from local women sharing their thoughts on what Charlotte lacks. Entertainment, food and kid-friendly activities topped the list.

“The women in the group are extremely engaged and I love hearing their unique perspectives every day. I also thought it would be fun to see someone take off with an idea and start one of these suggested businesses,” Baucom said.

“I would love to see more brick and mortar retail from experimental brands. And I would really love to see more large property managers allowing smaller leases so that small businesses could test out first-floor retail,” Baucom said.

We asked a few of the women who posted responses about which type of businesses they think Charlotte’s missing and why:

(1) Ethnic/family owned restaurants

Fareeda S. Moiyadi
Photo via Fareeda S. Moiyadi

“More ethic family owned / restaurants.” — Fareeda S. Moiyadi

“Living in Charlotte for 8 years now and seeing it rapidly change and grow, one of the things it lacks is more ethnic, family owned restaurants,” Moiyadi said.

“One of the best features of an ethnic family owned restaurant is you get to truly experience the cuisine and culture of the country. It allows patrons to step outside their norm and experience flavors and food that they may not have tried before.”

“As Charlotte continues to grow and more people from other cultures and backgrounds move here, it’s important that we allow more opportunities for family businesses to open. And as consumers, we should support smaller, local restaurants whose livelihood depends on us — and also, embrace diversity in our community.”

(2) Gym options that are ‘normal’

Amber Lynne Kari
Photo via Amber Lynne Kari

“More gym options that are just normal gyms besides the Dowd Y and aren’t trends you have to subscribe to (CrossFit, Orange Theory, MADabolic, etc.). More things like a Lifetime, Planet Fitness, Xsport. Various price and levels in the uptown/south end/immediate areas. It’s either the Y or a fitness trend.” — Amber Lynne Kari

“Fitness is not a one size fits all. Some people need the structure and accountability of the classes offered by subscription-based boutique gyms. But this the majority of the gyms that serve Charlotte,” Kari said. “If you don’t belong to one of these gyms, the only other option is the Y, which is jam packed at all times and doesn’t always allow for an efficient workout because there are no other cost-effective options in the immediate Charlotte area.”

“For someone like me that exercises 6 days a week, I don’t want to be constantly confined by a class schedule or an overcrowded gym. Some like Class Pass as a way to gain variety, but even that has limitations.”

“So with Charlotte’s population exploding and the demographics changing, I would think there would be a desire to cater to every level of fitness and income.”

(3) Kid-centered restaurants

Bucleigh Newton Kernodle
Photo via Bucleigh Newton Kernodle

“A really cool kid-based restaurant like Rainforest Cafe! We need something like that where it’s just sooo different than any other place in Charlotte that kids beg to go to. We have nothing like that!” — Bucleigh Newton Kernodle

“There are restaurants throughout the Charlotte area that are family friendly, but there is nothing here that specifically made for kids that parents enjoy as well. Red Robin is yummy but there isn’t anything that gets kids excited about going there. Chuck E Cheese is not a place parents EVER want to go for dinner, but kids beg to go. We need the best of both worlds to make all ages happy,” Kernodle said.

“I’ve lived in Charlotte my whole life. The only restaurant I remember begging my parents to go to was in the S. Tryon location of Embassy Suites called McGee’s. The wait staff dressed up in different costumes each week,  such as Dorothy Gale or The Mad Hatter and their salad bar was a huge claw-footed bath tub. We actually went to birthday parties there in the late 80s and early 90s! But that was it.”

(4) Gluten free / allergen free bakery

Rachel Deese
Photo via Rachel Deese

“Did no one say a GLUTEN FREE VEGAN ALLERGEN FREE bakery?!?! I think I scrolled all the way through each post and comment. I’m dying over here. There is nowhere for me to eat or get a damn treat in this city… I’m a CLT native and ready to move for this reason alone.” — Rachel Deese

“Charlotte is severely lacking in allergen friendly restaurants and there is no allergen free bakery. As someone with Celiac Disease, I seldom — if ever — get to eat out and unfortunately have come to terms with that, but I hate not having a place to buy a cake or bread or small treats for myself or my son who also has food allergies. I love to bake, but it’s simply impossible to bake a cookie or small treat for each occasion that warrants one,” Deese said.

“As big of a city as Charlotte has become and as many new bars, restaurants and breweries we have popping up I’m still at a loss for a place to find gluten free & vegan baked goods. I’ve visited New York, Philadelphia and Portland, OR, all which have wonderful, established gluten free/vegan bakeries; Babycakes NYC, Sweet Freedom & Petunia’s respectively. If anyone out there wants to help build this business I would be first in line as a creative consultant and taste tester, as well as a recipe contributor.”

(5) Indoor play areas

Kristan Adkins
Photo via Kristan Adkins. Taken by Krista Grantt Photography

“Centrally located indoor play structures for kids.” Kristan Adkins

“Between pollen bombs, endless rain, scorching heat and cold weather, it seems like there are about 4 weeks a year where it is comfortable to play outside for long stretches of time. My kid is super active so we go all over town in search of kid friendly physically based activities on days when it’s not possible to play outside,” Adkins said.

“The activities nearby require memberships and have assigned times or are museum based — a good way to kill time but not energy.”

“There are great activities available but they are far away from center city and often only last an hour. Given our horrific and unpredictable traffic and my son’s mood (toddlers!) sometimes that only leaves 20-30 minutes to play. It would be great if there were centrally located indoors play spaces/play structures without time restrictions.”   

“Types of activities [should include] ball/foam pits, merry go round, climbing structures, bounce house, basketball, tunnels, slides, trampolines, obstacle courses etc.”

(6) Eco-friendly grocery stores

Lindsay Kappius
Courtesy of Lindsay Kappius

“Package free/eco friendly grocery stores! Or just more eco-friendly stores in general!” — Lindsay Kappius

“I believe we need more eco-friendly stores and grocery stores because without accessibility, being eco-friendly is a challenge. Large grocery stores wrap almost all products in unnecessary and difficult-to-recycle packaging. Without alternatives, consumers are forced to purchase and discard the single-use packaging.”

“Many stores cater to the convenience of consumers’ on-the-go behavior. Plastic bags, plastic utensils, plastic cups, plastic water bottles and plastic straws are all items we mindlessly use daily. When a store offers eco-friendly alternatives, it starts a conversation which slowly creates an impact.”

(7) Wegmans and Wawa

Amanda White
Photo via Amanda White

“WEGMANS AND WAWA! Signed, a very spoiled Yankee.” — Amanda White

“Charlotte needs a Wegmans. It kind of surprises me that there isn’t one here already, given the sheer number of transplants from the North. Wegmans is an experience and a store that’s so different than any other. It taps into a market that Whole Foods priced itself out of. Wegmans provides a large variety of food at their hot bar. It appeals to the masses because I could be craving pizza and sushi and I can get both, in one place, at a decent price,” White said.

“When my husband and I lived in the DC area, we would drive 45 minutes to Wegmans because we were that loyal and impressed. We even met friends there for lunch a few times because we knew, it worked for everyone. I was even newly pregnant at the time so I can fully attest to the even the cleanliness of the restrooms.”

“It’s truly a unique experience that Charlotte is missing.”

Which businesses do you think are missing in Charlotte? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for brevity, clarity and length.


    • Glieberman’s is near the JCC. It’s on a side road off Providence Road, but there’s a sign on Providence for it and other stores in a tucked-away strip mall.

      • Glieberman’s is not a deli and no longer is at the location listed. They’re in the Galleria on Sardis but only as a grocery store at the present time.

  1. There are a good amount of family run ethnic restaurants in Charlotte, its that most white millennial’s and Ballantyne soccer moms are to scared to venture down South Blvd past Tyvola, Independence or Albermarle rd.

  2. It’s not in Charlotte, but the Southern Olive just over the border in SC is an amazing family-run gluten free bakery with many vegan options as well! I second the need for an in-town Gluten Free/Vegan bakery and an Eco-Friendly Grocery, or better yet, a REAL Co-op!!

    Also – for the GF people, Burton’s is amazing for allergy friendly food for all types of allergies.

    • I second Southern Olive and Burtons. But Charlotte could really use a true, full size gluten free bakery. Southern Olive is great, but it is a very small part of their business. And it’s a ways to go for most of us.

  3. You’re very welcome to visit us in our Shop, Artisen Old Fashioned Gelato, which is Allergy Friendly in all ways, we are located in downtown of Matthews.


  4. Regular Gyms in and around Uptown:
    Golds (Uptown)
    Fitness Connection (Morehead)
    Fitness Factory (NODA) (and probably one of the best lifting gyms in the US)
    Charlotte Athletic Club (Uptown)

    There are a ton of ethnic dining options in Charlotte. I live within an easy walk of at least 10 options. Could we use more? Probably. But if you live on the east side, you’ll find more mom and pop places than you will chain restaurants. It’s easier to find shwarma and cevaps than it is to find chicken strips and blooming onions. There is even a whole grocery store on Independence which has a little food court.

  5. Oh good another person acting like having Celiac is the end of the world. My husband has had it for 10+ years and we go out to eat all the time. Get a protein and a side dish of vegetables, mashed potatoes, potato salad, French fries, the list goes on and on. I don’t think a vegan GF allergen free bakery would appeal to the masses.

    • As a mom to two children with celiac I’ve been dealing with gluten free diets for 20 years – long before GF was trendy – back when I had to mail order food for my kids from Canada. We do eat out weekly and my family finds GF options for those who need it. We also use Southern Olive for baked treats – it’s a great experience to walk into someplace and know all of the bakery items are safe.

      With that said, there are all different levels of gluten sensitivity and those with both Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity (because they are 2 different things) who are exposed to even the smallest trace find themselves violently ill for a week. Not all fries, mashed potatoes or others of the things you are GF and assuming they are or having just slight cross contamination can be a big issue! Perhaps this is the case with the original poster and since we don’t know that, a little compassion or less negativity, might be nice. Celiac seldom exists alone – those with it typically have other autoimmune and inflammatory issues (lupus, RA, etc.) or diabetes (my daughter has POTS for example) and the Mayo Clinic has drawn a definitive connection between Celiac and fatty liver disease which is significant and serious. Following a GF diet is sometimes the “easiest” thing about having Celiac.

      Hopefully for his sake your husband doesn’t find he has another issue coexisting with his Celiac since you don’t come across as at all sympathetic or particularly educated. Since it’s a hereditary disease and any of your husband’s offspring could have it – even if the symptoms aren’t evident it could be because the disease is dormant – if there are children involved here I hope they will have the information and access to the medical care for testing and healthy living.

    • I hardly feel that I portrayed having Celiac Disease as “the end of the world” … Those who have it have varying reactions and some display no symptoms at all even if they are continually being cross contaminated. I personally get very sick and show symptoms very quickly and do indeed become very ill. My son suffers from moderate to severe eczema and it can be incredibly trying & heartbreaking. There are almost no places that have dedicated fryers for French fries so if that’s something your husband eats often, he should be cautious as they most likely fry other gluten containing foods in the same oil. I’m a Charlotte native and I have worked in restaurants that offer gluten free and have witnessed firsthand how unreliable that can be. I’m not alone in this, I think having a gluten free/vegan bakery would be not only beneficial to those who have Celiac but also those who avoid gluten for other health needs. To each their own!

      • I didn’t think you did either which is why I found Sarah’s post insensitive and uniformed. It sounds like you know exactly what to do to keep yourself and your family healthy given your level of sensitivity. As I mentioned, Celiac, as an autoimmune disease seldom exists alone so dealing with it and the ramifications go much further than merely following a diet. Stay healthy!…

  6. I am not sure if it counts as a normal gym, but a Shapes is opening up in Huntersville soon. Would definitely love more vegetarian/vegan restaurants!

  7. I second the comment about Wegman’s! I moved to Charlotte from DC area 9 months ago and agree with everything the commenter said. I’ve been disappointed in the prepared foods that are available at Harris Teeter , Publix, and Fresh Market — they often look good but don’t measure up in taste (or they don’t even look good to begin with). Whole Foods is better, but not great. I recall Wegman’s having a very extensive and very good prepared food section.

    I would also love to see a movie theater dedicated (at least in part) to indie, foreign, and “art” films. I guess that’s what the former theater at Park Road used to be, but in its new incarnation is mostly mass market movies.

    One more suggestion: a really good sewing/craft store – not like JoAnn or Hobby Lobby, but focused on serious needlework and crafters, with extensive selection of high quality fabrics of all kinds and other needlecraft items.

    • Charlotte is a theatre desert and that will never change. City does not have a critical mass of culturally sophisticated, intelligent people nor much to draw these people here en masse. Megaplexes in Mega-store centrered malls on the outskirts of the city is all this city will ever offer.

      Frankly that is what I miss most and will drive me to leave this place for a cultural mecca that has things like 70mm screens and meaningful film festivals.

      • “The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited. “

      • Yep, just a bunch of yokels running around here watchin’ the ‘vengers again…

        Good luck with the cost of living in those those cultural meccas you so desire

      • Stop complaingetting about it and make something happen. That’s what makes Charlotte Charlotte. Newcomers working with locals to make it happen. Otherwise, start packing.

  8. A package free grocery.. . its is called a Farmer’s Market, CLT has plenty
    Ethic Restaurants- Drive outside of your bubble- venture down Central Ave or East Charlotte, there are plenty
    Indoor play structures. . . there are a few bounce gyms and gymbree types. What you meant to say is Free Indoor play structures. Take that up with the city and your tax dollars. By the time you get one your toddler will be driving.
    Kid Centered Restaurant- that is called a theme park- we have one that straddles the NC/SC line.
    A vegan GF Allergy free bakery would be a grand opening and grand closing in the same week. Limited market . Yes it works in NYC, because there are 9 Million people there.
    Wegman’s, its coming. . .

  9. -Sheetz or Wawa
    -More breweries/”local” restaurants/coffee houses in the University area (eliminate the chains)
    -More subscription based work out locations in the University area (spinning, barre, boot camps, etc)

    • There is a Sheetz at the Jake Alexander Blvd exit off 85 in Salisbury. If your in major withdrawal. Rumors that one is coming to Concord as well.

  10. I’m a west coast native! We need in Charlotte:
    – Souplantation
    – In-n-Out Burger
    – Roscoe’s Chicken n Waffles
    – Randy’s Donuts
    – Tommy Burger
    – Rubio’s Fish Taco
    – Alberto’s or Roberto’s Taco Shops
    – Roundtable Pizza (beer-infused crusts!)
    – beaches
    – Coco’s
    – bring back Mimi’s Cafe
    – Birckenstock stores
    – rowing clubs (indoor)

  11. Wawa. More public art and murals. Anything that incorporates water into it. Like in Romeare Park. People love water. It’s calming, kids love it. They become social meccas.
    Something similar to South St. In Philly.
    Cheaper living options throughout the city. Otherwise Charlotte will become one huge J.Crew wearing, nut free, boring city. Diversity is key for Charlotte going forward. Period!

  12. For family and kid entertainment, a candlepin bowling alley that would house a brewery that offered small plates would be cool. Unlike tenpins or duckpins which are bulbous and squat, candlepins are tall slender pins and the bowling balls are not monstrous or heavy, they are the about the size of a softball, a bit heavier than a softball and fit in the palm of your hand, no holes, so a child can handle them. Youtube it.


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