May 19, 2023 - Development

Charlotte restaurateurs to save historic Dilworth landmark from land slated for development

Leeper and Wyatt Store Building (ca. 1903): 1923 South

Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

A star couple in Charlotte’s restaurant scene is continuing their streak of saving local landmarks by moving the historic Leeper-Wyatt Building from land slated for an apartment tower.

  • Jeff Tonidandel and Jamie Brown plan to move the 1903 grocery store — a brick building on South Boulevard across from the Steel Yard, with an old Fitness Together overhang — to a nearby parking lot.
  • Tonidandel and Brown own several beloved Charlotte restaurants, including Supperland, Haberdish, Growler’s Pourhouse and Ever Andalo.

Why it matters: The Leeper-Wyatt Building is the “oldest surviving retail brick commercial building in Dilworth’s first business district,” which once thrived along South Boulevard, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. 

  • But a Nashville developer, Southern Land Company, is planning a 300-unit apartment tower at the building’s current address. It expects to break ground by September, the Observer reported.

[Go deeper: Tyber Creek Pub will close, then be reborn in a new development on the same property]

Details: There are no plans yet for the future use of the Leeper-Wyatt Building. For now, the only plans are to transport the top two stories to 1829 Cleveland Avenue, next to Leluia Hall, the couple’s newest restaurant endeavor.

  • That restaurant is also in a historic building: a 1915 church previously home to the two-decade-old upscale restaurant Bonterra.
  • Leluia Hall, a steak and surf restaurant, is currently in the build-out stage.

[Go deeper: Leluia Hall replaces Bonterra in Dilworth]

The intrigue: For more than 50 years, the textile workers of Atherton Mill shopped at the Leeper-Wyatt Building’s grocery store for goods. It was an old-fashioned neighborhood grocer, with a memorable wood smell, a worker who would make small talk about the weather, a counter lined with candy jars and a “screen door with a strong spring,” according to a 1988 report.

Yes, but: In the 50s, as the suburbs boomed and inner neighborhoods declined, the store could no longer compete with the supermarkets, and it shuttered.

  • Since then, the building has lived several lives through various owners, including as a nightclub, an antique store and other fleeting businesses. Today, it’s vacant.

What they’re saying: Tonidandel and Brown will give up parking for their new restaurant to create a new home for the building. In a release, the couple said they thought about “what they want Charlotte to have 20 years from now.”

  • “Do we want to save this parking lot, or do we want to save an early 1900s historic landmark? For us, this was a pretty easy decision,” the couple said.

What’s next: The city must approve a rezoning at the Cleveland Avenue site to allow for the relocation of the building. Should that pass, the building will move later this year.

The bottom line: “Our main goal is to just save the building and secure it in a good spot,” Tonidandel said. “We will come up with a plan once its in place and we can see it in its new home.”

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