CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The city of Charlotte has seen explosive growth, neighborhoods are revitalized to adapt to more people moving here and looking for affordable housing close to the city. But it’s the small businesses and people who make the city special and appealing to those looking to put down roots.
That’s exactly what’s happening on the city's west side, where some business owners who got in early have a front-row seat to the changes.
It’s a constant in every community, a casual and comfortable café. On the west side of Charlotte, it’s Toucan Louie’s.
“We roast our own coffee here,” Marc Kieffer, the owner of Toucan Louie’s said. “That kind of just snowballed into what else can we make from scratch.”
Five years ago, the restaurant on Rozzelle’s Ferry Road was a rundown, abandoned old gas station.
“I would bring my friends over and say, 'Hey this is where I’m going to open a restaurant,' and they’d give me this look like 'Are you crazy?” Kieffer said.
He saw the potential before anyone else.
“The one thing is what they call a food desert. There wasn't any food alternative," Kieffer said. "There are a few fast food places a couple of miles away but really nothing other than that, so I just couldn't quit thinking about the restaurant, and it being a neat little neighborhood place."
Regulars stop in for an omelet or coffee. New homes are being built across the street and more businesses are flocking to the west side.
“You can grow with it,” he said. “So maybe you’re not starting off making a million dollars a year but you’re also not paying a fortune on rent and stuff.”
What didn’t make sense to so many others a few years ago is what’s brought Kieffer success.
“My daughter, when she was little, I used to read her this book called 'Toucan Toucan’t' and it was about these two little toucan birds and what they could accomplish when they work together,” Kieffer said. “So, I called up my wife after that sixth time getting looked at like I was nuts and said we should call the place Toucan's and it will be like the bird toucan, but it will be our private joke about what we can accomplish together.”
The kids wanted the family dog involved in the name and that’s Louie.
“He’s this little mutt we rescued when he was a puppy,” Kieffer said.
He also rescued an old, unique part of Charlotte and gave it new life.
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