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Are Restaurant Incubators The Answer To The Dining Desert?

1600 West Trade St.

Griffin Brothers Cos. proposed opening Food and Music, a restaurant incubator and music venue at 1600 West Trade St. in Charlotte’s Historic West End, last week.

If approved by Duke Endowment, the current owners of the building, FAM will be the first restaurant incubator in Charlotte and one of the few across the United States. 

The 18K SF building will be retrofitted to accommodate a community center, food hall and music venue. GBC entrepreneur apprentice Austin Helms is spearheading the project.

“Proving a concept like this is going to take a lot of effort,” Helms said. “It’s a huge opportunity, but you have to have a catalyst or it won’t change the real estate around it. You have to have that unique piece of real estate in order to create opportunities for restaurants to go in the other buildings or people to come into the corridor.”

At FAM, four chefs (or chefpreneurs), will be given 160 SF rent-free for one year. Chefs will be expected to cook and serve six days a week and participate in business seminars on the seventh day. Helms’ goal will be to recruit and retain talent in the West End by helping these chefs gain a following that will catapult them into owning their own restaurant in the area.

Historic West End Partners President J'Tanya Adams said FAM will do what restaurants such as Rhino Market, The Burger Co. and Pinky’s West Side Grill did for the FreeMoreWest neighborhood.

“We are a dining desert,” she said. “We are not able to support or sustain our corridor’s economy because our dollars are leaving the community to support other areas. We need to keep our stakeholders’ dollars here.”

Several businesses want to come to the West End corridor, but there are not enough amenities to support the employees.

“Businesses want a place for the employees to grab a quick bite,” Adams said.

The proposal requests that Duke Endowment gift the property to Johnson C. Smith University and then allow GBC to lease the property for 10 years with an option to purchase.

GBC specializes in waste processing, recycling, real estate and hospitality. It has plans to build Mosaic Village Phase 2, a 60K to 80K SF mixed-use property with retail, office and co-working space across the street from FAM. It is searching for an anchor tenant.