Willie Rhynes, the Dynamic Charlotte Businessman Died at 89

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An established businessman in Charlotte passed away at the age of 89. On Tuesday, April 30, 2024, Willie James Rhynes, the successful businessman and father of the family behind Mr. Charles Chicken & Fish, passed away at Presbyterian Harris Hospice. The well-known restaurant, which started off as a convenience store named the Big Apple, grew to become what it is today thanks in large part to Rhynes. The native of Charlotte has left a legacy of community service and entrepreneurship that has encouraged his family and others to start their own businesses.

On March 15, 1935, Rhynes was born on Alexander Street in the First Ward area to Lola and Will Rhynes. Later, the family relocated to the Double Oaks area after first settling in the city’s Historic Brooklyn district.

Rhynes attended Charlotte’s first Black school, the Historic 2nd Ward High School, as well as Alexander Street School. Rhnyes made the early decision that he wanted to work for himself. In the 1960s and 1970s, he would go on to run a number of prosperous companies in the Oaklawn, LaSalle, Beatties Ford Road, and Statesville Avenue Corridor. These featured two apparel stores, one record store, a laundromat, three grocery stores, two pool halls, two nightclubs, Star Lounge and Mr. Silks, and three restaurants, Soul Bowl I & II and Crazy Baby. In addition, Rhynes owned a shopping facility on South Tyron Street that would become home to The Big Apple Laundromat and The Big Apple Southside.

In addition, he controlled the land where the Big Apple Statesville, which hosted the Annual Labor Day Party—one of the biggest Black events on the West Side in the 1980s and 1990s—was located, near the intersection of Statesville Avenue and Badger Court. The Big Apple gave way to the restaurant chain currently known as Mr. Charles’ Chicken & Fish, which has several locations in Charlotte and most recently moved to Uptown. The Rhynes family benefited from the restaurant’s well-known name thanks to the kind donation of Mr. Charles, a family friend who leased the original Statesville Avenue building to them for free.

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