Some children want to become doctors, lawyers or professional athletes when they grow up. But Cory Duran, owner of The People’s Market in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood, always aspired to be an entrepreneur.
It came naturally to him.
Duran, who secured his first job at the age of 12, worked his way through middle and high school by completing tasks in his community: mowing lawns, cleaning gutters, and emptying trash cans at neighborhood gas stations.
After he graduated college, the Charlotte native entered corporate America, but ultimately found his way back to entrepreneurship with the purchase of a GNC franchise.
“I’ve always had the itch for entrepreneurship,” Duran says. “After a few failed ventures on the restaurant, bar, and club scene, I decided to take a break and go back to the corporate world. I learned very quickly that I couldn’t do it, so I had to figure out what was next.”
Duran’s break from the service and nightlife industries afforded him an opportunity to clear his head, write a book and to bounce around to venues across Charlotte, where he collected ideas for his next venture. He knew he wanted to build something that represented his personality; it had to more than a just restaurant or bar.
When Duran finished writing his book “Random Thoughts from a Random Guy,” The People’s Market was born.
Initially a staple of Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood, The People’s Market opened on the corner of East Boulevard and Scott Avenue in November 2017. The café, cocktail bar, kitchen, and market became a popular gathering space for artists, innovators and more.
It became the home of many first dates, after-hour drinks with colleagues, and thousands of creative community ideas, until it shuttered in 2020.
In August 2022, Duran reopened The People’s Market at 1609 Elizabeth Avenue in Charlotte’s first streetcar neighborhood, along the community’s famous trolley tracks.
“It was the people who really inspired me to bring the market back. I would get messages about it all the time,” Duran says.
Today, The People’s Market is thriving. It’s the place Duran originally envisioned – where tattoo artists break bread and find common ground with medical doctors.
It’s a place for everyone.
The People’s Market is where people from diverse backgrounds, with different vocations and lived experiences, can live, work and play over a chai tea latte or espresso, craft cocktail, or sit down with colleagues to enjoy popular items on the menu: the breakfast burrito; an array of pizzas; and the chicken avocado wrap.
When asked his favorite dish, Duran told QCity Metro he likes anything from the breakfast menu – it’s his favorite meal of the day.
The People’s Market is painted with vibrant yellow accents to highlight its welcoming atmosphere. It’s the kind of place to sit down at table and plug in to work, read, or people-watch for hours.
Inside, the market features a unique Star Wars inspired “We the People” mural and additional wall art that pays homage to the neighborhood that gave it a second chance – Elizabeth.
It’s also a place that represents Duran well.
“My close friends tell me that every time they come here, they feel like they’re walking into my head,” he said, laughing.
While Duran recognizes entrepreneurship as a path that can sometimes be lonely, he revels in its rewards.
“[Entreprenuers] spend a lot of time in solitude, trying to navigate today’s challenges, tomorrow’s triumphs, and trying to forecast the future,” he says. “But, on the upside, I have the opportunity to meet new people every day, and I have the freedom and flexibility to be a business owner, and that’s tops in my book.”
Just shy of its one-year anniversary on Elizabeth Avenue, the company announced plans to expand the market. The second location will open next spring in Lower South End.
The new market will be a 5,000-square-foot space that serves serving scratch-made breakfast options, sandwiches, wraps, pizzas, salads, burgers and more. It will also feature a full bar.
“We definitely want to grow,” Duran says. “Our company is also venturing off into other projects, but for The People’s Market, the plan is definitely growth.”
Duran’s desire for all who visit The People’s Market? To pay the positive vibes forward.
“I hope people will take some of the feel-good energy we’re putting out into the atmosphere, package it up, and carry a little bit of joy into the world,” he said.