Consumer Culture Critics’ Pick Winners: Best in the Nest 2021
The best in Charlotte's consumer culture as chosen by Nerve critics
So what if you’re only adding to existing supply chain problems, shop ‘til you drop.
Best New Place:
Twigs & Figs
If you’re someone who likes to get your hands dirty, you’re going to want to check out Twigs & Figs in Ballantyne. Charlotte’s newest plant paradise has a little something for everyone — and it doesn’t stop at plants. Want to create some cool moss art or a terrarium for your home? They’ve got you covered.
Looking to pick up a book, watering can, or some other type of plant-cessory? Done. Not only does Twigs & Figs have a vast selection of plants at comparable prices, the staff is knowledgeable, kind, creative and insightful, which comes at no surprise once you’ve met the owner, Treena Chaudhuri. She is as vibrant as the plants she carries.
The only thing better than a cool new plant shop is the opportunity to support a local woman-owned business in the process.
What makes Twigs & Figs Charlotte’s Best New Place? They’re not just focused on growing plants, they’re focused on growing a community — a place where plant newbies and green-thumbed mavens alike can come together and get their hands dirty over a drink.
Best Local Product:
Like many creatives and small-business owners, Kate McFadden found herself needing to expand her brand during the financial uncertainty brought on by COVID-19.
Her pivot? She expanded her online presence from simply being a “green witch” that taught about wellness to include the sale of a lone product: Solitary Magic sex oil.
For McFadden, masturbation is part of a healing meditative process, allowing her to interact with her body and provide space for personal and emotional renewal.
Embodying her sexuality and queerness allows her to embrace where and how she seeks companionship. Because she had always had a rich sex life with herself, this process led to her finding her truth and this is what she wants for others.
McFadden identifies as a self-pleasure activist, among many things, encouraging people to touch, explore, release and heal. In safe and consensual contexts, sex can be a healing experience, and for many in the time of isolation, solo sex has become even more integral to sexual and emotional wellbeing. The oil she created is meant not only as a lubricant but as a conduit for healing through pleasure.
“It’s pleasure and touch and healing outside of all that,” McFadden told Queen City Nerve in May, “especially for queer bodies that aren’t validated and are shamed out of full embodiment.”
Moxie Mercantile, Betty
Hot off the heels of opening her third store in Matthews in May, Moxie Mercantile founder Michelle Castelloe welcomed shoppers in October to Betty — a women’s and children’s clothing, toy and gift store just a block away from the original Moxie location in Plaza Midwood.
Betty opened at 1219 Thomas Ave. in the former City Supply Co. space. It was inspired by and named after Betty Ziegler Mims, the former owner of Bride’s House of Originals, which was housed in Moxie’s flagship Commonwealth location before she sold the building to Castelloe. The Betty logo is actually a version of Betty’s own signature.
“A personal hero in my book, Betty was a retail leader in the city and someone I truly admire, the pure definition of moxie,” Castelloe said.
The new retail shop spans more than 2,500 square feet and includes a patio area for a café-style setting and a chalkboard wall for the kiddos (or anyone feeling creative).
It showcases local vendors like Peterson Made, CB Studio and Twenty Two West, continuing with Moxie’s focus on female and women-owned companies and eco-friendly and sustainable apparel.
Boris + Natasha
Clothing boutique and longtime Plaza Midwood staple Boris + Natasha moved out of its space between popular neighborhood hangouts Thomas Street Tavern and Common Market in January after 22 years there.
In the lead up to that, co-owner Hope Nicholls pointed to the changing neighborhood, citing gentrification and increasing rent as reasons for leaving.
In September, Boris + Natasha’s neighbor, vintage clothing store Stash Pad, followed suit, leaving for a more reasonably priced location on Monroe Road, next to Lupie’s Café.
Thankfully, rather than close their doors for good, Boris + Natasha found a home in a new, smaller spot between Hattie’s Tap & Tavern and Tip Top Daily Market at 2910 The Plaza. Nicholls is loving it so far.
“It’s how the ‘hood used to be: plenty of parking, diverse businesses as neighbors, a bit off the beaten path,” she wrote of the new location.
“Plaza Midwood has not just been discovered by the people, it’s been carpet-bagged by the money men. I plan to work actively to keep this stretch of the Q.C. more affordable and accessible to small businesses.”
Best Book Store:
I’ve Read it in Books
Located inside Tip Top Daily Market on The Plaza, I’ve Read It In Books is Charlotte’s newest progressive bookstore. Featuring all genres, I’ve Read It also makes it a personal mission to stock Black and BIPOC titles, LGBTQIA+ titles, alternative political philosophy, music, local authors, and zines. As if the book selection and knowledgeable staff wasn’t enough, you can also pick up beer and snacks from Tip Top to enjoy while you read your newly acquired book, or check out our Best Record Store, Premium Sound, which shares the same home! A hidden gem in Charlotte’s bookstore community, I’ve Read It In Books has all the charm you’d expect from a bookstore with an innovative modern-day twist.
Best Record Store:
OK, we know, this is getting a little bit ridiculous. How can you have the best record store and the best book store under one roof? Just look at it this way: If your goal is to get through this entire list so as to check out all the coolest businesses in Charlotte, you can kill two birds with one stone here. That being said, we’re not just throwing this in there for that reason; as with I’ve Read It In Books, the selection at Premium Sound is carefully curated, so follow them on Insta for a look at new selections as they roll in. But if you want to just go thumb through some vinyl, you’ll almost certainly find something you like (if you have any taste).
Best Clothing Store:
Reece Boutique was originally launched by Jordan Holt as an online business in 2018. In June 2020, Holt, who was just four years out of Hunter Huss High School when she started the business, was able to open Reece’s first storefront in a SouthPark shopping center on the corner of Sharon and Colony roads.
We gotta hand it to Holt for not only being among Charlotte’s youngest small-business owners, but also having the fearless tenacity to open her first brick-and-mortar during a time when everything was so uncertain.
The boutique offers trendy women’s clothing, jewelry, shoes and accessories at reasonable prices in an Insta-worthy pastel pink paradise of a space. There’s even a couch underneath a neon “Hello Charlotte” sign where you can snap pics with your friends.
Reece has amassed a pretty sizable social media following — almost 12,000 on Instagram — that she calls “Reece Babes.” Items sell out fast both in store and online due to the boutique’s popularity, so if you see something you like, you gotta act quick.
Best Plant Shop:
Shades of Moss
Barry Greene, who goes by Greene Thumbz on social media, calls himself a plant stylist. His shop Shades of Moss is currently a pop up, but had a dedicated store front for most of 2021. Barry’s passion for design, modernity, and civic leadership permeates the unique way he sells plants. You don’t just walk up and buy a snake plant: you get a feel for how greenery impacts your space. Barry is a Black man, and it can’t be ignored that that’s double rare in the plant world. This allows him to present up plant ownership in a language and atmosphere that’s more accessible to other Black men. Shades of Moss is what Charlotte needs more of; different kinds of people doing different kinds of things.
There was once a full-service restaurant adjacent to the Cedar Land grocery store, and while it’s been gone for some years now, the kitchen still exists and remains a popular hangout.
You can get almost anything that your eastern dream palate desires at this store, including plenty of injera options, and while there’s a seat or two for you to sit and eat if need be, your best bet is to order food and shop around for groceries while you wait. That’s unless the owner Mousa gets your ear, in which case you’ll be there for a while, but that’s a pleasure as well.
Best Pet Rescue:
Humane Society of Charlotte
Finding an animal that’s best suited to your lifestyle can be hard, especially when they’re all so cute, but the Humane Society of Charlotte knows how it’s done. Trained adoption experts at the nonprofit, no-kill shelter have been pairing humans with their perfect pets for 43 years. They haven’t lost their touch in that time, as HSC recently surpassed its annual goal of finding new, loving homes for 3,000 animals in 2021.
HSC also assists with behavior counseling, training, education, medical attention and wellness; helps those struggling to afford care for their pets; connects lost and found animals with their owners, and more.
The nonprofit has been headquartered on Toomey Avenue near South End since the early 1990s. In spring 2022, they will move to a brand new building on Berryhill Road off Wilkinson Boulevard, just west of Uptown. The new $15-million, 27,000-square-foot animal resource center will have more room for staff and animals; more medical, surgery and recovery rooms; an adoption center; an education center; a cat cafe; and a community dog park.
Charlotte CBD to Crowntown Cannabis
When we had then-Charlotte CBD owner Michael Sims on our Nooze Hounds podcast back in July, he talked at length about his lobbying efforts to wake up North Carolina legislators and get them on the same track as our neighbors to the north in Virginia.
Since Sims and his team launched Charlotte CBD in 2018, they’ve been intrepid fighters for the right to legally light up, setting themselves up to become a full cannabis dispensary as soon as they’re allowed to do so. Their recent rebranding to Crowntown Cannabis shows that they’re not giving that fight up. As CBD stores proliferate around the area, they’re keeping their eyes on the prize.
Best Retail Pop-up:
Nebel’s Alley Nightmarket
While Esther & Elsa host myriad amazing pop-up events, Nebel’s Alley stands out as a magical night market you have to experience for yourself. Tucked away in a little alley in South End, attendees enter through a canopy of fairy lights where they are transported to what feels like a secret utopia of small businesses — like walking through the wardrobe to Narnia and finding all your favorite local vendors on the other side. The cozy affair features over 30 handmade and food vendors, live music, free caricatures, and lantern-lit walkways, in addition to a few surprises. Added bonus? You can grab a sweet treat from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams on your way out.
Best Vintage Shop:
east 8th vintage
Nestled in the Elizabeth neighborhood on East 8th Street is one of the city’s newest vintage shops, east 8th vintage. Open since Mother’s Day, the store offers everything from Levi’s and Wrangler jeans (broken in just how we like ‘em) to funky sweaters, cool jackets, and bags and accessories to complete your look. There’s also furniture, homewares, records and decor (the old maps are the coolest), so your home can be just as cool as you.
Styles range from Midcentury to Y2K and prices hover between thrift store and antique mall. They also buy, sell, consign and trade, and are always open to donations. If that wasn’t enough, when you play with the owner’s sweet dog, Simon, you get a furry friend for life. The team at east 8th vintage has partnered with dozens of local artists and vintage sellers throughout the year to host sidewalk sales like Rogue Wave in July and a Fall Vintage Market in October.
Best Video Store:
This place wins this topic every year by default, since there are clearly no more video stores but this single one. Of course, we could just get rid of the topic altogether since there’s not much competition, except the VisArt team keeps coming up with fresh reasons that they deserve recognition, including the fact that they somehow this year booked Eddie Pepitone to come perform a couple intimate stand-up gigs in their little store. That was not on our 2021 BINGO card, but we’ll take it.
Oh, and they continue to offer up an amazing selection of movies from the mainstream to the just plain weird, and they hold screenings in their awesome backroom mini-theater. And hell, they’re hilarious on Twitter, too, which never hurts. Long live VisArt.
Best Collaborative Space:
Walk into The Corner and you might think it’s just a small, cool store packed with NYC bodega snacks, hypebeast collectables and tees made by local designers.
But there’s more than meets the eye at this small, unassuming spot in a Huntersville mixed-use community just north of Highland Creek. Open a hidden door and it transforms into a three-story collaborative space.
On any given day you might find an art show, a listening party, or a movie screening. Maybe even a kickback on the back patio. Or you might not even see the group of young artists hatching a master plan within its walls as you stand there, and that’s why it’s unique.
It’s close enough and big enough for creatives to show off when they want, but it’s distant and private enough to host intimate gatherings or plot top secret missions without word spreading through what is still, after all, a small world.
Over the summer, three local entrepreneurs and longtime friends Kendria Holmes (The Talker), Brandi Fox (The Brains) and Sh’niqua Ussery (The Creative) came together to launch a passion project that has since made headlines and garnered attention from across the country.
The project is called Rollin’ CLT, and it’s the first Black woman-owned skating rink in Charlotte. The three women began the business as an outdoor pop-up, but this was no set-it-up-and-take-it-down affair; they built out what could be described more as a skatepark than a skating rink, sometimes clashing with the folks who had originally allowed them to use their parking lots. Rollin’ CLT events have included food trucks, hookah bars, skate rentals, and live DJs, and skaters of all skill levels are welcome.
In 2022, they’re looking to take things to the next level with a brick-and-mortar location, but first, a college tour. Yes, these women are doing big things like that.
Best Fashion Designer:
United Nations studies show that every year a half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean … and around 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment. For Charlotte-based designer Gordon Holliday, this points to one solution: upcycling.
Holliday launched his own company called Roolé, through which he implements and advocates for sustainable practices in fashion, reusing materials from a range of different materials to make clothing.
In July, Holliday used upcycled materials to create kimonos for a Waste Management and Slow Factory design challenge, a contest focused on “waste-led design.” In the lead-up to the project, he told Spectrum News, “My goal, even as a designer, I don’t think I’ll be able to break down the systems that have been built for years, but I think I could be the genesis to the generations that does do that.”
Stormy Michniak is a stylist at Bishops in Midtown who is known for giving clients the vibrant, colorful hair of their dreams. Stormy’s work is showcased on Instagram (@thehairdoer) and it’s
clear there’s no color or combination of colors too wild and crazy. Stormy also does color corrections and dyes wigs, too.
The team at Bishops seems to give this hairdresser free rein to do whatever the client asks for and, to an artist like Stormy, that’s appreciated.
In June, Stormy posted: “I’ve been working [Bishops in Midtown] for a few months, and I cannot express the amount of love and acceptance I have felt from this salon family from day one. I am so excited and grateful to be a part of a team that nurtures my growth and creativity the way y’all do. Here’s to many more.”
This work by Queen City Nerve is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.