Island Grocery with Caribbean food closing in Charlotte

After 20 years in East Charlotte, a Caribbean restaurant and grocery store closes, but searches for a new home.

Island groceries and grills at 5861 Albemarle Road announced the closure on Facebook.

“With sadness to leave you at this time, but with joy knowing that we have pleased so many customers over the past 20 years. Please stop by to share your stories and your farewells. Thank you always and a love”, has said Island Grocery on its Facebook page.

On Tuesday, Island Grocery and Grill owner Caroline Coke told The Charlotte Observer that the store would close by the end of the week, possibly as early as Wednesday.

Island Grocery began as a market selling seasonings and sauces, cheese, snacks and teas, and health and beauty products.

Later adding a restaurant, the store serves authentic hot and spicy Caribbean barbecue-style dishes and Jamaican patties, as well as baked goods like rum and bubble cakes. It is known for its specialties such as cow’s foot soup, ackee and cod, yam, banana and dumplings.

Longer-term lease negotiations with the landlord of The Colonnade mall have failed, Coke said. “It leaves us in a very bad spot with hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory,” she said.

The 1.3-acre property is owned by Sitaras Properties Inc., according to Mecklenburg County property records. Sitaras officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

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Caroline and Abigail Coke tend to a customer in this file photo at Island Grocery and Grill on Albemarle Road in Charlotte. The store is closing this week but is looking for a new home. Alex Casson Archive photo by CharlotteFive

“Home Away From Home”

Coke, who was born in Jamaica and raised in New Jersey, wanted to create “a home away from home”, she said CharlotteFive in May.

Hundreds of customers walk through the door every day, Coke said Tuesday. “It brings you home, it’s a comfort and it’s all going to be lost,” she said.

The store has five full-time employees. “It’s been a lot of sleepless nights,” Coke said of the store closing.

Coke said some of the market’s products will be available on the store website. But after filling up for the holidays, she will have to suffer a big loss, especially on non-perishable food.

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Beef pot pie and jerk chicken pot pie are a must at Island Grocery and Grill in Charlotte. The 20-year-old West Indian store is closing. Alex Casson Archive photo by CharlotteFive

Community reaction to the closure

While Charlotte has seen more Caribbean restaurants and kitchens open, like Crav’n Caribbean inside The City Kitch on Thrift Road, it’s the only West Indian market.

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Island Grocery and Grill, the only Caribbean market in Charlotte, is closing this week, owner Caroline Coke said. Alex Casson Archive photo by CharlotteFive

The closure of Island Grocery and Grill leaves a void in the Charlotte community, her fans said on social media.

“What???? Who else sells Caribbean groceries in CLT??? Mackie Trini Col asked on the company’s Facebook page.

“I’m going to miss coming there so much. No other place like all of you here in Charlotte,” Suzette Bird wrote.

“Charlotte’s best Caribbean cuisine and Caribbean deli!” I will really miss this place,” Tawanna Maxwell posted on Facebook. “A hidden gem!”

This story was originally published November 2, 2022 5:47 a.m.

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Catherine Muccigrosso is a retail journalist for The Charlotte Observer. An award-winning journalist, she has worked for several newspapers and McClatchy for over a decade.

Michael M. Tomlin