Charlotte resident passes away at 89, leaving a legacy of entrepreneurship – QCity Metro

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Willie James Rhynes, the patriarch of the family behind Mr. Charles Chicken & Fish and successful business owner, died on Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at Presbyterian Harris Hospice.

Rhynes was instrumental in helping the well-known restaurant, which began as a convenience store called the Big Apple, grow to what it is today.

The Charlotte native leaves behind a legacy of entrepreneurship and community ties that have inspired his family and others to open businesses.

Rhynes was born to Lola and Will Rhynes on March 15, 1935, on Alexander Street in the First Ward neighborhood. The family later moved to the city’s Historic Brooklyn neighborhood and then to the Double Oaks neighborhood.

Rhynes attended Alexander Street School and the Historic 2nd Ward High School, Charlotte’s first school for Black people.

At a young age, Rhnyes decided he wanted to work for himself and would later own several successful businesses within the Oaklawn, LaSalle, Beatties Ford Road and Statesville Avenue Corridor in the 1960s and 1970s.

These included three restaurants, Soul Bowl I & II and Crazy Baby, two nightclubs, Star Lounge and Mr. Silks, two clothing stores, one record store, a laundromat, three grocery stores and two pool halls.

Rhynes also owned a shopping center on South Tyron Street, which would house The Big Apple Southside and the Big Apple Laundromat.

Additionally, he owned property at the corner of Statesville Avenue and Badger Court that housed the Big Apple Statesville, home to the Annual Labor Day Party, one of the largest Black parties on the West Side during the ‘80s and ‘90s.

The Big Apple made way for what is now known as Mr. Charles’ Chicken & Fish, a multi-location restaurant in Charlotte that recently expanded to Uptown.

The restaurant’s famous name comes from the generosity of Mr. Charles, a family friend who leased the original building on Statesville Avenue to the Rhynes family at no cost.

Funeral services for Rhynes will be held at FBC-West on Saturday, May 4, 2024.

Visitation will start at 11:00 a.m., and a funeral service will begin at 12 p.m.

The burial will be at Oaklawn Cemetery, located at 1615 Oaklawn Avenue, Charlotte.

Following the burial, a repast, catered by the family, will be held in the Family Life Center, located at

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