By Kellen Holtzman at Henderson's Daily Dispatch
HENDERSON — One of the enchanting aspects of the modern downtown Henderson business scene is reminiscing about yesteryear. The questions go something like, “What used to be in this building?” and “I remember when this was ...”
Most people familiar with Henderson will have no trouble placing the location of Shanika Ragland’s Southern Charm Event Center at the corner of Garnett and Breckenridge streets. The building has known a number of hosts over a century or so including Charles Stores Co. from 1928 to the 1970s before the Wildflower Cafe came along in the late 1990s.
Most recently, the 200 South Garnett Street digs belonged to Shanika’s husband Anthony Ragland, under the name Citizens Pub and Grill.
“COVID came and that was it,” Shanika said. “So we kind of sat back and were like, ‘What do you think we could do different that could benefit the community?’ ”
The answer was an event center. The name Southern Charm was born a little over a year ago, and since that time, the Raglands have been hard at work remodeling the historic space, breathing new life into a favorite local landmark.
Southern Charm officially opened for business in late July and on Thursday was celebrated by the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce with a ribbon-cutting.
“Doesn’t it just feel good?” said Henderson Councilman Jason Spriggs. “You know when you walk into a place and it feels a certain way? And you walk in here, and it just feels good.”
Southern Charm’s dining tables were decorated Thursday with the colors of black, red and white, contrasting the brick interior wall parallel to Breckenridge.
The Raglands handled the makeover on their own, which required some crash YouTube courses on interior design, and plenty of trial and error.
Eventually, the plans are for Southern Charm to be a “one-stop shop” with an in-house staff, from decorator to DJ. But until December, renters can choose either preferred or outside vendors.
Residing in the Drewry community, both Shanika and Anthony are 2003 Warren County High School graduates and Shanika’s professional background is in mental health and substance counseling. She received a master’s degree in counseling from East Carolina University around the time Anthony served in the U.S. Navy.
“This was not in my plans or dreams to do,” Shanika said of the event center.
But home has a way of drawing you back and when it was time for a fresh idea, an event center was a natural fit for Shanika, who comes from a tight family.
“Even if it’s a baby shower, it turns into a little party,” Shanika said, “so we’re always big on gatherings.”
And that’s really the essence of Southern Charm, which adds to a growing stable of downtown Henderson businesses including Heather Hodge’s Nella Roo’s Boutique, which recently had its own ribbon-cutting.
“I think what we’re doing is a good start with young people coming in as entrepreneurs,” Shanika said of downtown. “It’s a good start to open it up and make it more lively.”
“We love to see young entrepreneurs take an interest in the community,” Vance County Commissioners Chairman Leo Kelly Jr. said. “That way, you have a stake here, so we’re really pleased to see you come and take this venture.”
Downtown Development Director Tracy Madigan and Vance County Economic Development Commission Director McKinley Perkinson each expressed optimism about the future of downtown Henderson at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting, due in part to go-getters like Shanika.
Kelly reminded the audience he was old enough to remember the Charles Stores era of Garnett and Breckenridge, when the department store took up two floors. Back then, residents didn’t need to leave town as often to shop for clothes.
Shanika hopes Southern Charm will have the same effect with events and help keep business local.
“We want people to come here and be able to enjoy this space in our own community,” Shanika said. “So that’s the goal and I feel like we’re on the path to doing that.”
To schedule a Southern Charm viewing, call 984-295-0097 or visit southerncharmeventcenter.com/