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A coffee shop in west Charlotte preserves Black history and culture

Guests gather in the lounging area in Archive CLT on Dec. 21, 2022.
Elvis Menayese
/
WFAE
Guests gather in the lounging area found in Archive CLT on Dec. 21, 2022.

Archive CLT is a Black-owned coffee shop in west Charlotte that opened a few months ago to preserve Black history and culture. In addition to the coffee, patrons can grab sandwiches, pastries, and a variety of hot teas. The store also has an array of ephemera items, vintage posters, books, and photography to connect and inspire the community.

Archive CLT founder and owner Cheryse Terry grew up in west Charlotte. Before opening her shop, Terry sold Black ephemera online. When a spot opened along the strip of businesses on the corner of Beatties Ford Road and Lasalle Street, she decided to invest in this location.

The area falls under one of the six key Corridors of Opportunity designated in Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles’ Racial Equity Initiative. Before opening her shop, Terry crowdfunded around $40,000 in 40 days, and from those funds, she invested in her community.

Archive CLT founder Cheryse Terry is seated in her shop and surrounded by various vintage magazine covers and concert posters on Dec. 21, 2022.
Elvis Menayese
/
WFAE
Archive CLT founder Cheryse Terry is seated in her shop and surrounded by various vintage magazine covers and concert posters on Dec. 21, 2022.

“I owe a lot to this area, and I felt like it was something that we needed,” Terry said. “Black people needed especially a community hub where you could come meet and just be a regular person, but also be able to have access to exclusive and rare publications and just vintage Black memorabilia.”

Initially, Archive CLT was supposed to be a vintage bookstore. After conversations with her broker, Terry decided to go a different route and turn the spot into a coffee shop to create more revenue and be an intergenerational community place to unite Black people.

As you walk into the shop, your ears are met with upbeat music, and your eyes are immediately drawn to the numerous portraits of influential Black figures on the wall on your right.

“Such as Nikki Giovanni as a writer, her words, and the healing of her poetry. Gordon Parks being a multifaceted artist and filmmaker, and Angela Davis as an activist,” Terry said. “I just wanted to make sure that we were represented always through sports, politics and literature.”

Brittani Taylor sat near portraits in Archive CLT that show influential Black figures on Dec. 21, 2022.
Elvis Menayese
/
WFAE
Brittani Taylor sat near portraits in Archive CLT that show influential Black figures on Dec. 21, 2022.

Seated near the portraits was Brittani Taylor, who lives in north Charlotte and commutes about 10 minutes to Archive CLT. She said the portraits offer customers an opportunity to appreciate the accomplishments of the African Americans on display.

“I feel like they don’t try and teach our history in school. So, it was really nice to see that Black iconic figures really represented for us, and we can actually bring it to light,” Taylor said. “And that we can actually do our own research on them and see why they were really important in our history too.”
Opposite the portraits are shelves with bright green plants that overhang a collection of books that include comics, vintage JET magazines, and children’s books that are surrounded by a few dolls and toys. Within the books is a seating area for visitors. Nearby is 25-year-old Brandon Smith, who was working on his laptop. He said the books expose young readers to Black writers who create relatable content.

Plants overhang shelves that include a selection of comics, vintage JET, hip-hop magazines, and children’s books found with Archive CLT.
Elvis Menayese
/
WFAE
Plants overhang shelves that include a selection of comics, vintage JET, hip-hop magazines, and children’s books found at Archive CLT.

“I’ve seen high school kids walk into the store, and I wonder how many other high school kids get the same opportunity to see Black literature by Black artists … or Black authors. It’s very rare to find that in an everyday bookstore, even in some libraries,” Smith said.

The store is also a perfect location for students to benefit from the rich history inside. Located not too far from Archive CLT is West Charlotte High School. About 77% of the student population is Black, according to the2021-2022 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools diversity report.

Found within the Archive CLT restroom are advertisements that represent Black culture.
Elvis Menayese
Found within the Archive CLT restroom are advertisements that represent Black culture.

Archive CLT offers resources for all ages. There are a lot of familiar faces on the walls and books with well-known stories. But one surprising element of the shop was found in the restroom. Inside, walls are plastered from floor to ceiling with mostly Black vintage advertisements, including some from the 1970s.

“Just to show us that we’ve been around, we’ve been fly, we’ve been having things,” Terry said. “It just shows a long range. I’ve got Muhammad Ali, I got some Champale wine advertisements, Stephen B[urrows], that was a Black designer from back then.”

Terry says it’s vital that Black people’s history is preserved and continued through future generations. The Archive CLT coffee shop is open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with plenty of parking for guests.

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Elvis Menayese is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race and equity for WFAE. He previously was a member of the Queens University News Service. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health.