The Market at 7th Street: The name is new, but the mission is unchanged

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Coffee, burgers, wines, vegan cuisine and more — all can be found at The Market at 7th Street, where change is in the air as The Market celebrates its 10th anniversary this fall. 

The Market separates itself from other food halls because it’s also a non-profit, run by Charlotte Center City Partners with financial support from corporate sponsors.

In addition to being a popular meeting spot, The Market’s main mission is to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with space and guidance to make their small-business ideas a reality.

Executive Director Chris Clouden describes it as a “safe and supportive” environment where start-ups can grow and thrive. 

So what’s changing?

For starters, The Market has a slightly new name. No longer is it called The 7th Street Public Market. And with its new name with come a new logo, a new tag line and new colors. The fresh branding will be rolled out in phases over the coming months.

Clouden said the new name is meant to better reflect The Market’s role as Charlotte’s original culinary and retail incubator.

“Charlotte has always been a city of industry and ingenuity,” he said. “The Market at 7th Street puts that ingenuity on display for all to share in.”

The Market’s vendor list includes emerging chefs, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, artisans and makers.

Other changes will include:

  • More events, such as live music, cheese & wine pairings, book signings and pop-ups from chefs and entrepreneurs
  • An upgraded patio with heaters and additional lighting 
  • New street signage
  • Enhanced WiFi to invite more remote workers.

Ultimately, Clouden said, the goal is to attract more visitors, which would mean more business for tenants who rent space there.

Behind the food stalls

On a recent Saturday, a small group of students from Charlotte Lab School set up tables outside The Market along 7th Street, hoping to get a real-world lesson in entrepreneurship.

Some sold foods items. Others sold craft products. All were there to learn some of the basics of running a small business.

Deikeya Greer, a 7th-grade science teacher at the school, knows firsthand the importance of learning business basics; the vegan nail polish she makes is sold inside the market. She said she thought it would be a good idea for her students to be grounded in business. So she worked with officials at The Market to arrange the Saturday excursion.

In addition to selling her vegan nail polish inside the market, 7th-grade teacher Deikeya Greer is using the market to give some of her her students a lesson in entrepreneurship. (QCity Metro)

“It teaches them about customer service. It teaches them people skills, so they can talk to anybody at any time about anything, because they’re talking about their businesses to total strangers,” she said.

Nzinga Wilson, a 7th-grader at the school, was there to sell her vegan lip gloss, which she makes under the name Nzinga’s Closet.

James Brown, another 7th-grader, was there to sell wooden, spoon-shaped markers that gardeners can use to identify their plants.

“It originally started as me wanting markers for my own personal garden,” he said, “but when I joined this class at Charlotte Lab School, I figured out I could probably sell these.”

Nzinga Wilson, a 7th-grader at Charlotte Lab School, makes and sells vegan lip gloss under the name Nzinga’s Closet. Being in business, she said, has taught her to appreciate beauty products made for her own skin color. (QCity Metro)
James Brown, a 7th-grader at Charlotte Lab School, makes wooden, spoon-shaped markers that gardeners can use to mark their plants. (QCity Metro)

Brown said the experience has taught him how to price his products, how to create an attractive display and how to work efficiently while making his markers.

As an adult entrepreneur with ties to The Market, Greer said The Market has helped her get her vegan nail polish in front potential customers.

“You know, nine times out of ten, small business owners don’t have the funds for advertising, or for major advertising,” she said. “So to be here, right next to the Blue Line, right in the middle of Uptown, gives us access to an audience that we normally wouldn’t have. So it’s a great opportunity, and the vendor fees are ideal.”

Inside the market, Jennifer Coble said she was far too busy that day to talk with any reporter. She was hustling with coworkers to serve the hungry shoppers who had formed a line in front of SC Cafe.

Jennifer Coble, executive director of the Friendship Community Development Corporation, said the nonprofit opened SC Cafe, a cafe inside The Market at 7th Street, after the pandemic put a dent in the organization’s catering business. (QCity Metro)

One of The Market’s newest tenants, the cafe has been serving meals there since August. The restaurant is an offshoot of Sweet Creations catering service, which is owned by the nonprofit Friendship Community Development Corporation, the missionary arm of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

Coble, the CDC’s executive director, said Sweet Creations opened the cafe after the pandemic put a dent in its catering business, which employs women who are experiencing homelessness. It also generates revenue for other outreach efforts by the church.

“I will say that, being in the market and being a part of that community, it has been a great fit for us because it is a community, and that’s what we do. It’s community development,” Coble said.

Clouden said The Market is more than just landlords; His team also offers practical guidance around certain topics, such as contractor services, banking, accounting, human resources and employment law.

With  restaurants and food service businesses still struggling to find workers, The Market recently hosted a small jobs fair for its vendors, Coble said.

But one of the things she likes most about the market, she said, are her neighbors — her fellow vendors who have been eager to help when help was needed.

“We kind of help each other collectively, whether it’s partnering and trying to do specials together or promotions together, but really trying to lift one another up,” she said, “because if one vendor does good, if you bring people in, then maybe they’ll come over and buy something from us, and vice versa.

At Geno D’s Pizza which specializes in Jersey Shore-style pizza, owner Gena DiPaolo said he welcomes the “steady business and word of mouth” that brings in a flow of customers to her space at The Market. DiPaolo opened Geno D’s with her father and hopes to build on his legacy of making authentic pizza.

Janelle Doyle, owner of It’s Poppin! Gourmet Kettle Korn, and has been at The Market since 2017. She credits The Market and its team for helping her business grow. Doyle took a leap of faith and quit her corporate job to launch the business, which makes and sells more than 60 flavors of gourmet kettle corn. 

The Market can accommodate up to 14 vendors, and currently, eleven of those spaces are filled.

Clouden said his team will soon begin reviewing applications for the 3 available spaces. Prospective entrepreneurs should be prepared to offer a business plan and make a presentation, which should include a tasting.

“The community wants more variety and more ethnic options,” he said, referencing the findings of a recent customer survey.

The Vendors:

Assorted Table – showcases a comprehensive fine wine selection with prices ranging from $5 to over $1,000. 

CLT Find – retail shop that supports over 80 makers and sells souvenirs, gifts, treats and accessories.

Geno D’s Pizza – Jersey Shore style pizza which Geno D has spent 35 years perfecting

Good Earth Essentials – a zero waste beauty and lifestyle refill shop for daily needs

It’s Poppin! Gourmet Kettle Korn – flavors like fried chicken, cookies and cream and Hot Wings are local favorites.

Momo Station – intensely flavored dumplings with a special hand-crafted sauce over them.

Not Just Coffee – for coffee lovers

Orrman’s Cheese Shop – offers a robust selection of local and regional cheeses and some artisan products

Rico’s Acai – a healthy snack or meal replacement is an acai bowl covered in fruit, toppings and protein butters.

SC Cafe – a southern cafe where proceeds go toward workforce development for single homeless women

Viva Raw – cold pressed juices and raw snacks to make good health choices easier

Hours – Tuesday through Saturday 9am – 7pm; Sunday 9am – 5pm

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