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Charlotte shop owner says his Black-owned businesses got shut out

Black business owner says he's denied leases to move into predominantly White parts of town, coming short of calling it discrimination. He believes it happens often.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Black business owner currently operating in Uptown Charlotte told WCNC Charlotte he's getting shutout from moving into other predominantly White parts of town. 

James Mack, who owns and operates Epic Times Watches and Chains, reached out to WCNC Charlotte after seeing the Black-owned barbershop at SouthPark Mall that almost got its lease canceled early.

RELATED: SouthPark Mall says popular No Grease barbershop will stay through end of lease after all

"It's a number of new developments that's extremely attractive for business and we applied to quite a few of them," Mack said

Slow foot traffic at the Epicenter, where his business is based, has lead Mack into efforts to move to another neighborhood like Dillworth, Southend, or SouthPark -- but he says he's getting the run-around from property owners who won't lease to him.

"It's not a direct 'no'. It's a runaround," he said. "You know it's a, 'We'll call this person, have you call that person, email this person.'"

Last week Simon Properties abruptly informed No Grease Barbershop it was cutting the Black-owned barbershop's temporary lease at SouthPark Mall early -- before eventually changing course amid public backlash.

"That's kind of like the straw that broke the camel's back so-to-speak," Mack explained, "and there needs to be some awareness to this issue." 

Mack believes it happens more often to Black business owners in Charlotte than the public knows. 

WCNC Charlotte reached out to the City of Charlotte about the problem and did not get an initial response before our publication deadline. If we hear back, we will update this story.

In the process of investigating leasing practicing, WCNC Charlotte discovered neither Charlotte's Chamber of Commerce nor the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance tracks the demographics of business lessors and leasees. This lack of data makes it virtually impossible to measure whether Black business owners are getting shut out of predominantly White neighborhoods.

In an email, Chuck McShane, the senior vice president of business analytics and data for the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, told WCNC Charlotte, "Zipcode or neighborhood data on business ownership by race is difficult." 

"I would hate to say that its discriminatory practices going on," Mack explained. "You have to just look at the numbers of African-American businesses in these locations and take it from there." 

Out of 21,000 companies countywide currently employing workers, only 3,011 of those businesses are minority-owned, according to data obtained by The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.

  • 1,256 are Asian-owned
  • 1,097 are Black-owned 
  • 638 are Hispanic-owned
  • 64 are Native American-owned 

Mecklenburg County is currently in the middle of implementing 11 recommendations from a minority business study conducted last October.

Among those recommendations is establishing specific subcontracting goals for minority and women-owned firms.

Mack believes Charlotte has a lot of work to do.

“African Americans need to come out we need to speak about this because this is a citywide problem," he said.

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