New Name, Old Place: Optimist Hall

This former mill was built in 1892 as Tompkins Hall, but just one block away from the Parkwood Station of the Light Rail, this redevelopment is being reborn as Optimist Hall. 

The project brings together an exciting collection of food hall, retail, restaurants and office space; made possible by the unique design and topography of the building. Optimist Hall is on a downward slope. It’s creating a wholly original landscape that allows for different levels and individual nooks for a variety of businesses. 

During the modernization construction, developers found a house under the parking lot, and thousands of spindle spools with thread still on them from the mill. The discovered spindles will be used as decor.

Duke Energy moves into the space soon, but check out the lineup opening March 1, 2019: 

The Dumpling Lady—the first brick-and-mortar location for the popular area food truck. 


Archer Paper Goods—the first North Carolina location of a popular Atlanta and Dallas paper goods store. 


Billy Sunday—Chicago-based cocktail lounge offering classic drinks, vintage spirits and new creations. 


Pet Wants—Featuring fresh, slow-cooked and natural ingredients for your pets. 


Bao + Broth Ramen + Bun Shop – An Asian-inspired food stall. 


Fonta Flora Brewery – Brewery and tasting room, featuring a large outdoor patio.


Aix Rotisserie – French Rotisserie from the owners of Aix En Provence.


Undercurrent Coffee – A full service coffee and espresso bar.


Honeysuckle Gelato –Handmade gelato, gelato sandwiches and sorbet.


Papi Queso – A “grilled cheese streatery” food truck opening it’s first brick-and-morter.  


AVA – A Tampa-based Italian food and Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant.


Suárez Bakery & Barra – Pastries, house-made breads and doughnuts, along with a Cuban menu.


Zukku Sushi – Featuring sushi rolls, sushi burritos and poke bowls.


With all these new places to explore and a bright future ahead, the new moniker fits the future for this once forgotten mill. 

Where to “Marie Kondo” Your Stuff

The good news is you were super inspired after watching Netflix’s “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”. The bad news is your garage or basement is piled with things that no longer bring you joy. No one told you how overwhelming getting rid of stuff can be, even after you know you want to get rid of it. Never fear. Here is your guide to selling and donating. 


Unless you’re doing a garage or yard sale, divide your “get rid of” pile between donations and items to sell, only pulling out the truly valuable items that are in excellent condition to sell. The easiest things to sell are furniture and designer brands and jewelry, but smaller things can add up. Be prepared to create a profile, manage the sale and eventually ship the items or arrange pick-up. Do your homework to price your items accurately and make sure you have your jewelry appraised prior to a sale. 

TheRealReal—designer wardrobe consignment/sales. 

Poshmarkwardrobe consignment. 

ThredUP-basic wardrobe consignment

Vestiaire Collective—designer wardrobe. 

LePrix–designer clothes.

Amazon’s Trade-In programupgrade your amazon devices

Second Spinelectronics

Discogs—electronics, records


Delgatto / I Do Now I Don’t—jewelry 

WP Diamonds—jewelry 



Apartment Therapy Bazaar—furniture 


Facebook Marketplace—furniture or odds & ends. 

eBay—furniture, electronics, jewelry, wardrobe. 


Powells Books –books

Replacements Ltd—china & flatware


And just remember to follow safety precautions if you are meeting a buyer in person! This includes meeting in a public area and taking a friend.


Goodwill Industries of Southern Piedmont—wardrobe and household items.

Salvation Army—wardrobe, household items, toiletries, linens, diapers. 

The Free Storeclothing, tents, sleeping bags, furniture, and any general household items.

National Kidney Foundation of North Carolinahousehold and clothing items 

Dress for Successbusiness attire (suits and blouses) in sizes 0-4 and sizes 24 and larger suits and blouses, maternity business attire, accessories and scarves, shoes, especially in larger sizes, knee-high’s and pantyhose of all sizes in unopened packages and purses in conservative colors.

Charlotte Catholic Social ServicesThe refugee resettlement department accepts donations in the form of household items and furniture.

Appalachian Prison Book Project–paperback books

Queer Appalachia Coat Drive: Gently used, clean winter coats can be donated to poor and vulnerable LGTBQ+ folks in rural Appalachia via:

Queer Appalachia

POB 844

Bluefield, WV 24701

Whether you get a couple bucks in return or the warm glow of having helped someone in need, you will walk away with that particular sense of relief of having unburdened yourself of belongings. 

New Growth in Charlotte

Noticed the new apartment builds going up all over Charlotte? Well, get ready to see a lot more. According to a study by the National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Apartment Association, Charlotte is expected to need at least 72,000 more apartments by 2030, making Charlotte one of the fastest growing apartment markets in the United States. 


What’s leading to this increase in demand? Not only are new buyers and renters entering the marketing, but increasingly the older generations are choosing apartments over single-family homes, exchanging home ownership for the convenience of renting. This demand is spread across culture and class, increasing the need for all kinds of apartments at all price points. 


This trend isn’t just occurring in Charlotte. Nationwide, increased demands for apartments are expected to rise. The western U.S. and states like Texas, Florida and North Carolina are expected to have the greatest need for apartments.


At first glance, this growth seems like a positive thing—it certainly is for investors and real estate markets, and can have positive impacts on the economy through the construction and increased business activity. But adding a 53% increase to current apartment stock puts heavy demands on the rest of the city’s infrastructure—including traffic, roads and public transportation, and is also a risk to neighborhoods vulnerable to gentrification. Displacing at-risk families can have ripple effects through generations. 


The need is there, but the best way to meet the demand is still to be seen. How will Charlotte take on this demand? I’ll keep you updated on my blog here.

Neighborhood Drama

Imagine stopping by a relative’s house and finding strangers have moved in, with an elaborate plot to acquire the house legally. That’s exactly what happened to a Davidson area family and their historic $2,000,000 home.

According to the police, a couple who claim allegiance to the “Moorish Nation” used a hide-a-key to illegally enter the home, and proceeded to move in. They unloaded a 26 foot U-Haul and parked their car in the garage. After moving into the house, they filed a quit claim deed with the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds claiming they had legal cause and ownership of the property.

When a member of the Knox family found the couple at the home, they called the Davidson police, confronting 30-year old Turmaine Thorne and 35-year-old Taqiyah Barber who reasserted their claim on the house. After obtaining permission from the owners, the police entered the home and arrested the couple for trespassing.

The investigation is still ongoing, and if history is any indication this might only be the first chapter.

In 2016, a self-described Moorish National Group was arrested for squatting in an $800,000 home in Piper Glen. The tumultuous back and forth between the squatters and the neighborhood included the squatters claiming they were leasing the home from a Hungarian entertainer and, in another incident, claimed they were housing a diplomat. After the neighbors, HOA, and realtors complained, and the group was evicted more than once, the squatters were finally arrested. This follows a pattern of members targeting expensive homes that are vulnerable to squatters. Vacant, foreclosed, up for sale—the members move in and then file court actions to hold their ground as long as possible.

The Moorish Nation began as a national and religious organization under the leadership of Noble Drew Ali in New Jersey in 1913. The modern-day group calls for potential members to join to become a “True American Citizen”. Some radical offshoots reject federal, state and local laws as well as property rights, encouraging squatters rights. Since its inception, the group has often been divided by charismatic leaders.

It seems insane that anyone would think to steal a home, but apparently it’s not impossible.

Stay tuned with neighborhood drama and other news on my blog here!

Cheap (But Not Skimpy) Date Spots


Whether you’re looking for an easy, low pressure date spot for meeting someone for the first time or you just want to go on a date that won’t break the bank after you pay the babysitter and get yourself a drink, Charlotte has a wide variety of free to low-cost cultural offerings. Don’t miss the last one on this list—it’s a bonus for Saturday nights with the kids to get you through the aftermath of a fun night out.  


The Charlotte Folk Society  

926 Elizabeth Ave 

Charlotte, NC 28204 

 Celebrating almost thirty years of folk music, this organization has more than just string-bands. They offer monthly events on the second Friday of every month. The events include food trucks, bluegrass, and acoustic music and the main event – a concert in the sanctuary – at 7:30 p.m.  


Free but a $10 per person donation is suggested. 


McColl Center for Art & Innovation 

721 N Tryon St  

Charlotte, NC 28202 

(Located at W 10th St and N Church St)  

Located in a historic, neo-Gothic church in Uptown Charlotte, the Center houses nine artist studios and over 5,000 square feet of gallery space. Admission is always free, but donations are accepted. Even Parking is free! 


Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.  

Friday & Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  


The Light Factory 

1817 Central Ave 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

If photography is what interests you, let Charlotte’s only space dedicated to the photographic arts into your life. The art on these walls is always changing, cycling through signature events like their Annual, and curated exhibitions guaranteeing there is never a dull visit.  


There no admission for the gallery.  

Wednesday through Saturdays from 12 noon to 6 p.m. 


Charlotte Lit 

1817 Central Ave 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

The Charlotte Center for the Literary Arts is in the SAME building as The Light Factory, but caters to the written word rather than photography.  


There is a fee for the wide variety of workshops, but the quarterly poetry and art poster series is free and the community conversations are just one of the many engaging formats this organization offers. Check it out!  


South End Gallery Crawl  

South End is home to the largest concentration of art galleries in Charlotte and this twist on a Pub crawl offers you the chance to tour the following:  


Hodges Taylor Art Consultancy 

118 E Kingston Ave 

Suite 16 

Charlotte, NC 28203 


Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art 

1520 S Tryon St  

Charlotte, NC 28203 


Hidell Brooks Gallery 

1910 South Blvd 

Suite 130  

Charlotte, NC 28203 

The first Friday of each month 

Admission is free. 


Mint Museum 

500 S Tryon St 

Charlotte, NC 28202  

The innovative program, “ArtBreak,” at Levine Center for the Arts is a guided 30-minute tour of either The Mint Museum Uptown, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, or the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture, designed to give you a break during your lunch hour. It’s held at noon on the third Thursday of each month.  


Admission is free to both the Uptown and Randolph Rd locations. 


ImaginOn / The Joe & Joan Martin Center  

300 E 7th St 

Charlotte, NC 28202 

This collaborative effort between the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte is a 102,000-square-foot space that is a dedicated library space for kids 11 years old and under, four multi-use classrooms, a teen-only library, a multi-media production studio, and an interactive exhibit space. 



Monday to Thursday 9:00am – 8:00pm 

Friday to Saturday 9:00am – 5:00pm 

Sunday 1:00pm – 5:00pm 


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Tour Charlotte’s Street Murals

Do it for the gram.  


Or for the culture.  


If you haven’t seen them yet, check out The Talking Walls festival — 17 mural artists painting 16 new murals around Center City Charlotte—debuted this past fall in Charlotte.  


Southern Tiger Collective’s Alex DeLarge and IMEK Studio’s Kevin Taylor, with the help of committee members Rob Reilly and Queens University professor Mike Wirth, put together the initiative that allowed for ten local artists and seven national/international artists to come together in the name of Charlotte’s public art. 


One of the sponsors was the Hyatt House, who came into Charlotte’s art scene in a heartbreaking way. After glass windows were broken during protests in the wake of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, Hyatt House invited artists to paint on the plywood temporarily boarding up the space. Those plywood pieces have become works of art. 


Each artist was given $1,000 + supplies (including paint and lifts) + food. They also received creative control — all of the art was the artist’s choice.  


The Talking Walls murals can only be experienced, not seen, so drive around and see for yourself: 

7th Sin Tattoo 

927 Central Ave 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Artist: JEKS 

Based in: Greensboro 


Abari Game Bar 

1721 N Davidson St 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Artist: Gus Cutty 

Based in: Asheville 



3217 The Plaza 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Artist: Ramiro Davaro-Comas 

Based in: Brooklyn, New York 


Hal Marshall Building 

700 N Tryon St 

Charlotte, NC 28202 

Artist: Sebastian Coolidge 

Based in: St. Petersburg, Florida 


Hal Marshall Annex 

618 N College St 

Charlotte, NC 28202 

Artist: Nick Napoletano 

Based in: Charlotte 


Ink Floyd 

1101 E. 36th St 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Artist: Trasher 

Based in: Mexico City, Mexico 



408 E Trade St 

Charlotte, NC 28202 

Artist: Hoxxoh 

Based in: Miami 


Mecklenburg Valve 

2407 Central Ave 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Artist: Denton Burrows 

Based in: New York City 


Moo & Brew 

1300 Central Ave 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Artist: MDMN 

Based in: Phoenix 


Pizza Peel 

1600 Central Ave 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Artist: Darion Fleming 

Based in: Charlotte 


Pure Intentions 

2215 N Tryon St 

Charlotte, NC 28204 

Artist: Arko and Owl 

Based in: Charlotte 


Salon 1226 

1226 Central Ave 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Artist: Garden of Journey 

Based in: Charlotte 


Spirit Square 

345 N College St 

Charlotte, NC 28202 

Artist: Dammit Wesley 

Based in: Charlotte 


Spoke Easy 

1530 Elizabeth Ave 

Charlotte, NC 28204 

Artist: OBSO 

Based in: Charlotte 


Tip Top Market 

2902 The Plaza 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Artist: Scott Nurkin 

Based in: Chapel Hill 


Tire Maxx 

2609 The Plaza 

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Artist: Pucho 

Based in: Miami 


Tryon Street Alley 

200 South Tryon St 

Charlotte, NC 28202 

Artist: McMonster 

Based in: Portland

Treats and Sweets


It’s the season for indulgence and special treats — I won’t tell your trainer if you don’t! Whether you need to fill out a dessert table for your holiday dinner, or just bring a treat to a party, the holiday season is the time of year when everyone needs a signature bakery to frequent. If you need suggestions, here are four great Charlotte favorites.  


Anderson’s Catering 

1617 Elizabeth Ave 

Charlotte, NC 28204 

THE place to order pies for yourself, your friends, or clients. The best part is they ship their famous Pecan ($25) and Chocolate Pecan Pies ($27) anywhere in the US.  


Amelie’s French Bakery 

Multiple Locations 

 This indulgent French bakery offers everything you dream of, from Chocolate Croissants to Iced Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread. There is nothing here that won’t be a hit.  


La Piccola Gabbia 

224 E 7th St 

Charlotte, NC 28202 

Impress the seasoned world traveler in your life this holiday season with a gift of authentic European treats. The recently opened storefront inside the 7th Street Market is known for their Biscotti, Chocolate Cherry Cake, and Cannelé de Bordeaux.  


Nova’s Bakery 

Multiple Locations 

If you want a sure-hit, look no further than Nova’s New York style cheesecake. It comes by the slice ($2.55) or whole ($23.55 for 10-inch). This bakery offers a wide selection of other treats as well!


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Holiday Woes Catered Away


What’s your favorite part of the holiday season? Is it trying to calculate how many days you need to thaw a twenty-pound bird? How about waking up at 4am to start the meal or All. Those. Dishes!  

This season, give yourself the gift of an easier time. Catering sounds expensive and complex, but there is a huge range of options in Charlotte (at all price points) to feed your family and friends without breaking your holiday spirit or leaving the comfort of your home.  

Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen 

4001 Yancey Rd 

Suite C 

Charlotte, NC 28217 

The turkey is covered, but those sides . . . you’re pretty sure you don’t even have enough space in your oven to get everything warm all at once.  Enter Alyssa’s Kitchen. Their sides serve 6-8 people, perfect for your holiday get-together.  


City Barbeque 

(Multiple locations in Charlotte.) 

Nothing is better than a barbeque holiday. City Barbeque smokes all their meats in-house, and offers a huge selection of great sides. Don’t forget their Green Beans with Bacon and Corn Pudding! 


Copain Gatherings 

(Pickup location at Rooster’s South Park) 

6601 Morrison Blvd 

Charlotte, NC 28211 

 Chef Jim Noble and Noble Food & Pursuits has your holiday meal covered. The menu includes appetizers, side dishes, entrees, and pies.  



(Multiple locations in Charlotte.)  

I know what you’re thinking. But Hello Seasoned Fried Turkeys ($39.99)! Combine this with sides like biscuits, mashed potatoes, green beans, mac and cheese along with desserts (Bo Berry Biscuits are my fav!) and who is going to complain? Don’t forget to call ahead for large orders, though.  


Fresh Market 

(Multiple locations in Charlotte.)  

The Fresh Market has been a life saver on many special occasions for me. Pick up pre-made dinner boxes for the whole crew (3-14 people). You have to call ahead for availability but they will offer full meals for most holidays . . . and Valentine’s Day!  


Harper’s Pineville  

11059 Carolina Place Pkwy 

Pineville, NC 28134 

Here’s another great barbeque option. What? We live in the south. The takeout menu includes a variety of traditional holiday fare, including turkeys ($50), sides ($8-$20), and pies ($15).  


La Belle Helene 

300 S. Tryon St 

Charlotte, NC 28202 

The complete foodie holiday dinner can be found at La Belle Helene. They offer a rôtisserie Joyce Farms Heritage black turkey, brioche dinner rolls, haricot verts amondine, pommes purée, cranberry & orange chutney, brussels sprouts aux lardons, cornbread & sage stuffing, along with pumpkin Charlotte and pecan caramel tarts. Hungry yet?

Defining a Buzzword

Buzzwords are everywhere. If you’re aware, in the last several years you’ve probably seen mention of one when talking about neighborhood development or real estate in Charlotte:  Gentrification.  


The concept can seem confusing—who’s complaining about a new Panera bread in their neighborhood? The reality is complex and deeply rooted in history, but worth a moment to quickly visit.  


In Charlotte, the wealthiest zip code in the city is 28207 (includes Eastover and Myers Park). Here, the median household income is $130,868 according to 2016 Census data. 


About 6 miles away are some of the lowest income neighborhoods in Charlotte: Druid Hills, Tryon Hills, and Brightwalk. The median household income is $28,034 a year on average across these neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are located in zip 28206.  


Don’t think for a second this is just an economic disparity—aside from a property value line, there is also a racial line between the two zip codes. 28206 is made up of nearly 74 percent African-American residents. By contrast, the 28207 zip code has 94 percent Caucasian residents.  


Here is where gentrification comes into play. In Mecklenburg County, the largest median household income increase occurred in the 28203 zip code. If you’re wondering where that is–South End. Think, specifically, of all the new apartments that have gone up recently. The median income in this area increased 39 percent—but it’s not just the income that increases when a neighborhood changes like this. The cost of living (including renting vs. buying costs) goes up along with the increase in average income.  


Current plans for Druid Hills (a neighborhood that was established when older, black neighborhoods were demolished in the 1950’s) involve building more than 1,000 new apartments and 170 new condominiums. Only 115 are being reserved for people making less than 80 percent of the area’s median income. This type of change in a neighborhood demographic is gentrification in a nutshell. NoDa experienced this change but government leaders have worked to welcome people into the neighborhood at multiple income levels with strategic growth. This helped stymie racial segregation and keeps the special, cool feel to NoDa.  


Gentrification isn’t a new concept. After the Great Depression, bank policies reinforced loans for wealthy, white neighborhoods but not for poor, black ones. This happened all throughout the United States. In the 80’s and 90’s, the concept of “urban renewal” was popular and involved tearing down African-American neighborhoods with federal assistance. The neighborhoods were destroyed and families displaced. Now these areas house the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, courthouse, abandoned Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools building, and the county’s jail. 


Neighborhoods will always change. But community organizations like the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership and increased awareness for anyone involved in the development or profit of these neighborhoods can go a long way in preventing the negative impacts as neighborhoods change.  


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

The Novice Guide to Cheap (Real) Art


Your significant other is right. It’s time to let the Scarface poster go. Or even the Starry Night, if you’re fancy like that. You are an adult. With a mortgage, more than one checking account, and your own health insurance. You know the difference between a 401K and a Roth IRA. You need art. Real art. Yes, Michelle Pfeiffer in that dress was art, but that’s not what I mean. Because you’re an adult, you know real art is expensive.  

Here are a few places to look for real art that won’t set you back on your savings plans.  


C3 Lab 

2525 Distribution St  

Charlotte, NC 28203  

Instagram: @c3lab 

C3 Lab is a multi-functional art-centered space. Operating as a gallery and as a co-working space, they host exhibits featuring local, regional, national, and international artists in styles ranging from traditional, contemporary, to hybrid art forms. The gallery’s annual art exhibit is the perfect time to browse and buy.   

This year’s theme centers on “Intersection: Personal styles, careers, and life don’t always function together in harmony, but when you intersect the common thread of the love of art throughout a creative space, with the true spirit of collaboration – an interesting collage emerges to tell a meaningful story.”  


Check it out Friday, December 7, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. 


CPCC Holiday Art Market 

1201 Elizabeth Ave  

Charlotte, NC 28204 

CPCC Art Galleries host an Annual Holiday Art Market in Ross Gallery on CPCC’s Central Campus. Students, faculty, and other local artists will offer a wide variety of ceramics, jewelry, paintings, and photography. There’s even an under $50 section!  


November 5th-December 5th, 2018 

Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  



Currently located at:  

555 S McDowell St  

North Tower 

Charlotte, NC 28204 

Instagram: @artpopstreetgallery 


ArtPop is a street gallery. They feature local artists on billboards, buses, news racks, at airports — and turn the everyday “into opportunities for artistic appreciation and discovery.” Four times a year, the art of the current selection of ArtPoppers are shown, gallery-style, at Le Meridien Hotel Charlotte. Can’t wait for the next showing? Visit the ArtPop website artists’ page. From there, you can find individual artists’ websites for pricing info. 


Lark & Key 

128 E. Park Ave 

Suite B 

Charlotte, NC 28203 

 This lovely South End spot featuring art and craft is a great place for a novice collector to begin. Check out the website’s “Art for $500 and Under” page 

 And don’t forget that art encompasses more than 2-D works. A collection of handmade pottery mugs, vases, or bowls can be an inexpensive way to begin an art collection. 


Ruby’s Gift 

3204 N Davidson St  

Charlotte, NC 28205 

Instagram: @rubysgiftnoda 

This NoDa boutique showcases a variety of textiles, pottery, paintings, photography, and jewelry by local artists. 


Slate Furniture + Art Collective 

1401 Central Ave  

Chartlotte, NC 28205 

Instagram: @slateinteriors 

Perfect if you need to branch away from Scarface and Ikea. The Plaza Midwood furniture and art collective showcases rotating exhibitions of local talent and famous artists.  



Tuesdays – Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21