By Matthew Barnes
CHARLOTTE – The Park Road Shopping Center was one of the first major retail centers built in Charlotte in the 1950s. One of its longtime staples has been the Charlotte Café, owned and operated by Jimmy Roupas and his family.
The institution is where you can find authentic scratch-made dishes, such as skillet-fried chicken, patty melts, beef tips, as well as an alluring wide selection of vegetables including okra, candied yams and broccoli with hollandaise.
Initially a deli, the Charlotte Café has been one of the most reliable food establishments in the neighborhood for more than two decades.
Built-up grease caught fire one night in December 2015 and forced the café to close down for more than a year. The changing climate and neighborhood posed additional challenges as new eateries both opened and closed nearby.
The situation seemed dire enough at one point to consider bankruptcy, but Jimmy ultimately recanted when working with Edens, a developer who acquired the shopping center in 2011.
During this period, change was evident as the whole space was gutted and refined, employees found work elsewhere and Jimmy and his wife made crucial decisions in moving forward.
Considering most of his employees returned, and having his daughter keep his loyal clientele informed through Facebook, it’s obvious there is still a need for a place like the Charlotte Café that offers traditional food in a comfortable setting. The restaurant offers affordable home-cooked meals that include a $5.99 breakfast special.
Roupas has been involved in nearly a dozen-plus restaurants from standing on crates making pizzas as a pre-teen to learning the ropes catering to bar mitzvahs. Of the most important lessons he’s learned is “to love the families, to cherish them, because there’s nothing better in the world.”
Jimmy Roupas tried to secure a spot in the Park Road Shopping Center for nearly a year before his persistence finally paid off. It seems that not even a fire and closure is setting him back as he looks to rebuild and move forward in the future.