Jun 23, 2021 - Business

Zara, Wegmans, Wawa and 9 other retailers Charlotte wants

Wegmans grocery store Morrisville

Wegmans grocery store Morrisville

Charlotte’s landed several big national retailers in recent years, but there’s more left on locals’ wish list.

The latest: We have a three-story RH with a rooftop restaurant, two forthcoming locations of the New York pizzeria Emmy Squared, and North Carolina’s only Gucci store at SouthPark mall, among other notable chains.

  • But we’re still missing popular spots such as Zara, Wegmans, Wawa, Uniqlo, CB2 and Sweetgreen.

The state of play: There are a number of factors that play into expansion decisions, from population density to local competition.

Here are the national chains Axios Charlotte readers said they wanted most — plus what it’ll take to bring them here.

(1) Zara

Of the 25 biggest metro areas in the U.S., only Charlotte and St. Louis are without a Zara. Atlanta has two! No fair.

The latest: Zara did not respond to our requests for comment, but the popular clothing company has focused on its digital presence during the pandemic, closing 1,200 stores within its parent company Inditex.

  • If I had a say over things like this, I’d transform the ghost town that is the Epicentre into a retail hub and make Zara the anchor tenant.

The closest location: Atlanta’s Perimeter Mall at 4400 Ashford Dunwoody Rd., about a 3.5 to 4-hour drive.

What readers are saying:

  • “I’ve prayed for a Zara store to open in Charlotte for 8 years now!” — Pollyanna F.
  • “Zara absolutely! Charlotte needs more mature fast fashion.” — Lynn C.
  • Literally crying for a Zara. We allllll know their website shopping is #impossible.” — Danielle L.

(2) Wegmans

Charlotte is so die-hard about bringing a Wegmans here, there’s a dedicated Facebook group. Some locals drive all the way up to the Triangle to shop at the Wegmans there.

The latest: Wegmans doesn’t have any plans to expand to Charlotte, but grocery expert David Beitz told Axios’ Katie Peralta Soloff in December that he was “shocked” Wegmans hadn’t announced a Charlotte location yet. Fingers crossed!

The closest location: Chapel Hill’s Wegmans is about a two-hour drive. It’s located at 1810 Fordham Blvd.

What readers are saying:

  • “Wegmans please! I want a sub.” — Amelia R.
  • “Big vote for Wegmans.” — Lee G.

[Go deeper: What’s the deal with Wegmans, and is it ever coming to Charlotte?]

Cheese shop wegmans
Cheese shop at the Wegmans store in Morrisville at 3710 Davis Drive. Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios
Wegmans sandwich
A sub sandwich from the Morrisville Wegmans. Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios

(3) Wawa

I grew up within 10 minutes of two Wawas, and I took it for granted. The East Coast convenience store chain (and so much more!) has locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Florida.

The latest: Wawa has already expanded South of the mid-Atlantic region with over 100 stores in Florida, but no word on anything in the Carolinas yet.

The closest location: 3199 S. Crater Rd. in Petersburg, Virginia. It’ll take you about four-plus hours in the car to get there.

A Wawa in Florida. Photo: Jeff Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

(4) Whataburger

Not to be confused with North Carolina’s What-A-Burger, this Texas-based fast food chain has locations throughout Texas, Florida, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida and more.

The latest: A North Carolina Whataburger is probably a longshot given the regional chain What-A-Burger’s presence. The chains are completely different, but you can always pretend at locations in Concord or Kannapolis.

The closest location: Birmingham, Alabama — about six hours away — has two locations.

What readers are saying:

  • Their honey butter chicken biscuit is incomparable.” — Abigail E.

(5) CB2

Crate & Barrel’s hip spin-off is expanding throughout the U.S. with a new location in Houston this month as well as others in Denver, Chicago, Miami.

The latest: Outside of Miami, CB2 doesn’t have a Southeast presence yet.

The closest location: There’s a Crate & Barrel in SouthPark, but the closest CB2 is six hours north in D.C.

(6) True Food Kitchen

The national fast casual chain’s menu includes healthy and seasonal dishes like the avocado toast and quinoa burger.

The latest: True Food Kitchen has at least six new locations coming to Maryland and Florida, but still nothing in the Carolinas.

The closest location: Outside Atlanta in Alpharetta at 2140 Avalon Blvd., about a 3.5 to 4-hour drive.

True Food Kitchen restaurant in Denver. Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

(7) Flying Tiger

Flying Tiger — or just Tiger as it used to be known — is a mix of IKEA and Dollar General. It’s a spot for knick knacks and accessories you actually want. The Copenhagen-based brand sadly has no U.S. stores right now.

The latest: The chances of getting a Flying Tiger is basically zero. The company closed all U.S. stores amid the pandemic.

The closest location: You have to fly to Europe to shop at Flying Tiger now. A nonstop flight to London takes nearly 8 hours.

Flying Tiger Copenhagen in New York City after it announced it would close in 2020. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

(8) Uniqlo

The Japan-based retailer has more than 2,000 stores across the world, with nearly 50 in the U.S.

The latest: Uniqlo originally planned on opening 200 stores in the U.S., meaning there would be a Uniqlo in all major cities, but that growth slowed even before the pandemic.

The closest location: Just outside D.C. at Tysons Corner in Virginia. Exact address is 1961 Chain Bridge Rd. in McLean.

Uniqlo in Beijing, China. Photo: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

(9) Sweetgreen

California-based Sweetgreen had plans to open hundreds more stores before the pandemic hit, telling the New York Times: “We can’t stop now, because this doesn’t work at 100 restaurants. The next stop is 1,000.” Now, Sweetgreen is going public, as Axios’ Dan Primack reported this week.

The latest: Will Charlotte be one of those new stores? Odds are in our favor. The chain already has an Atlanta location, plus locations in Maryland, Virginia, Florida and beyond.

Of note: Axios HQ in D.C. runs on Sweetgreen — there’s literally one on the ground floor of their building.

(10) Club Monaco

The Ralph Lauren-owned retailer has stores across the world — from South Korea to Sweden. It’s headquartered in New York City and has a couple of locations in the Southeast. This May, Ralph Lauren announced it would sell Club Monaco to Regent LP.

The latest: The company had a rough 2020 because of the pandemic so I wouldn’t expect any big expansions to the area, especially amid its sale.

The closest location: About three hours south in Charleston at 258 King St.

(11) Portillo’s

The midwest chain known for its Chicago-style hot dogs has more than 60 locations.

The latest: Portillo’s is most located in and around Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota, but it’s also expanded south to Florida and west to Arizona and California.

The closest location: Nearly eight hours south to Orlando, Florida. You’d be better off shipping Portillo’s.

(12) Slutty Vegan

Charlotte went wild when the Slutty Vegan food truck popped up here, and now we want a permanent location of the plant-based Atlanta favorite.

The latest: Slutty Vegan’s first location outside Atlanta will open in Birmingham, Alabama this year.

The closet location: Four hours south in Atlanta, where there are three locations.

[poll id=”220″]

Honorable mention:

A few more y’all emailed asking for.

  • Everlane – The primarily online retailer has some brick-and-mortar locations in major U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Austin. Still waiting for Charlotte.
  • Buc-ees – The convenience store chain has locations throughout the South. It broke ground in Florence for its first South Carolina store, but shelved plans for a North Carolina location earlier this year.
  • Muji – The Japanese retailer is very minimalist in design, selling household goods, clothing and more. It has a few stores in major U.S. cities, but expansion seems unlikely right now. Muji filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy during the pandemic.

Tell me what you want to see in Charlotte! Email me at [email protected].


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