Common Market South End Is Reopening, And It’s Such A Common Market Story
The new store is only 1,153 steps away from the old one, and will have a bigger patio
Graham Worth, second from left, joins Chuck Barger (pictured second from right) and Blake Barnes (not pictured) as a partner in The Common Market.
BEFORE LOCKING THE DOORS at the Common Market for the final time at the shop’s Camden Avenue location in late July, owner Chuck Barger made sure the place was spotless. He wanted to leave some respect in the brick building—one he lovingly calls the ugliest building in South End. The shop had hosted a staff party to finish off the remaining inventory, and it was time to say goodbye—the culmination of more than a year of mourning the news that Common Market was running out of time.
Barger and co-owner Blake Barnes were standing in the parking lot, looking at the building they’d renovated themselves and readied to open at the bottom of the recession. Nobody wanted to say goodbye first. Barnes likens it to a new couple saying goodnight after a first date.
Eventually, “We were all like, 'OK, let’s go,' ” Barnes recalls. They awkwardly walked away, then pulled out of the parking lot.
“I had this tremendous sense of relief from having finished something,” Barger says of that last day, “because when you run this kind of business, you never really finish anything. You’re open every day, it’s more of the same. It’s all good same, it’s a good same, but I got this done, and we’re gonna start it over again and make it better.”
And after some downtime, starting over is in motion. The new Common Market in South End will reopen at 235 W. Tremont Ave. in (hopefully) the first half of next year. And how they got there is a common Common Market story.
Graham Worth, who has a background in finance and real estate, was having coffee with a friend at Common Market in South End. He was looking be part of a local business endeavor, and his friend, a regular at the store, volunteered to introduce Worth to Barger. That connection led to what Worth, Barnes, and Barger joke was a speed-dating style introduction. Now, Worth has joined Barnes and Barger as they expand. He’s helped them negotiate their new location, a warehouse that’s currently still occupied. Construction will begin in January. Worth will play a big role in seeing the new store through. When it opens, he’ll continue to manage the business side.
“Chuck said to me at some point, ‘We love doing it, but it’s also very taxing,’” Worth says. “He’ll be (in the new store) without having to deal with busted pipes.”
The new Common Market will have a much larger patio, with 4,000 square feet that includes balconies and some smaller areas where people can just "be," Barger says. Inside will be about the same size as the old store, and will have a lot of familiarities.
All of the old kitsch in the old store was boxed up and will move to the new one, as will the old tables. The storefront will be behind the patio, maintaining that neighborhood secret feel that defines Common Market. The rest will be up to the customers.
“It’s gonna be as much as the same as you can make it be,” Barger says. “We create a store that is 80 percent what it is, and 20 percent of it is what that neighborhood wants and the community around it.”
“The new location will undoubtedly be different,” Worth adds. “We’re not trying to replicate it. That’s impossible. We’re more trying to renew the sense of what we brought to the neighborhood before.”
Barnes, who spends most of his time at the Plaza Midwood Common Market, says each store has its own fiercely loyal neighbors. The two stores opened as the same concept, but the South End store has morphed to fit the transient, apartment-dwelling customers, versus the homeowners that live in Plaza Midwood. They sell more kombucha and cigarettes at the Plaza location; energy drinks and Diet Coke are better sellers in South End.
“The customers told us what to do,” Barnes says. And they expect the same to happen on Tremont Avenue.
The new store—just a few steps from the Charlotte magazine offices, we should add—might be a little shinier at first; Barnes says the move gave them a chance to clean all of the higher-hanging objects in the store. There may be a few new additions to the kitsch collection, as well. Barger has a growing collection in his basement of items that might find a home in the new Common Market: a kids’ drum set, captain’s mirror, and wagon wheel lighted signs, among other things.
And it’s only 1,153 steps away from the Camden spot, as counted during a customer contest to see who could come up with the best guess of the distance. Ben Woodward, if you read this, you have a gift card waiting for you at tonight’s event, which takes place at 5:30 at the Charlotte Art League.
As for when the store will open, that depends mostly on construction and permitting schedules. Barger isn’t hedging on a set season: “It will get cold, it will get warm, and we will open.”
Also by Kristen Wile: