JCSU alum opens Members Only Tasting Room & Social in Plaza Midwood

Kimberly Wilkinson now owns two bars in two of Charlotte's hottest neighborhoods.
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Members Only Tasting Room & Social recently opened its doors in Plaza Midwood, a new social spot offering a selection of beer and wine, specialty cocktails and an upscale food truck.

Wine lovers will be familiar with the space. The Central Avenue site is the former location of Cork & Crate wine bar, which closed in October. Members Only is the latest business venture for 34-year-old Kimberly Wilkinson, who also owns Juice Box juice bar in NoDa.

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Entrepreneurial dreams

Creating a business plan can be a complicated step for aspiring business owners, but Wilkinson got hands-on experience as a business marketing student at Johnson C. Smith University.

She planned to graduate college and backpack around the world while owning a business. Weeks shy from graduation, Wilkinson found out she was pregnant. As a college graduate and new mom, her backpacking dreams were put on hold, but her entrepreneurial dreams were still alive.

Her senior exit project included researching successful small businesses in Charlotte, which armed her with knowledge of what could work for her own business.

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She tossed around the idea of opening a daycare center, knowing one day she would need childcare for her daughter.

“People would ask, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I would say, I don’t know. I just want to work for myself,” she remembered. “Since I was having a baby, I wanted to open a daycare.”

But it was 2009, and obtaining resources would be an uphill battle amid a recession. While at home in NoDa, she noticed open retail spaces across the street. She enjoyed shopping and had an idea for a clothing boutique. One property owner was open to her vision but required a business plan.

Wilkinson was ready. Her college project had provided the blueprint she needed to create a business plan for a clothing store, Vivian B, named after her grandmother. However, the store’s early success was short-lived.

“I was going broke, but I had a great space and I didn’t want to shut down,” she said.

Rather than lose her prime location, Wilkinson transformed Vivian B’s into a juice bar. Juice Box opened in 2016 serving juices, smoothies, mineral shots and CBD-infused products.

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Kimberly Wilkinson outside of her Juice Box juice bar in NoDa. Photo via Instagram

“Neighborhood chill spot”

Juice Box became a popular neighborhood spot, which allowed Wilkinson to pursue an opportunity to open a premier cocktail bar. When Cork & Crate closed last fall, Wilkinson jumped on it.

Members Only held its grand opening on Jan. 26. Inside, guests can sip on specialty cocktails like The Members Only, a glass of Luc Belaire sparkling wine topped with cotton candy. Outside, the food truck “Grub” — described as “Ruth’s Chris on wheels” — will serve steak and lobster but also traditional bar food like flatbread pizza and chicken wings.

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The Members Only, Luc Belaire sparkling wine topped with cotton candy, $15

During the day, people can stop in for a cup of coffee and a place to work.

Members Only stays true to its name by requiring one of two membership levels. A $10 annual fee gets you inside. A $200 gold-level annual membership provides additional access to invite-only events. The schedule is lined up for the next three months with events like comedy shows and casino nights.

“I want this to be a neighborhood chill spot but always great enough for a date night and to play games,” Wilkinson said.

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A peek inside Members Only

On opening night, Wilkinson’s daughter, boyfriend, family and friends were there to witness her latest achievement.

As a business owner in two of Charlotte’s hottest neighborhoods, Wilkinson says people should pursue their passions and work with others to further grow their dreams.

“My mother always told me that people who work together get more accomplished when they work together.”

Members Only Tasting Room & Social is located at 2413 Central Ave. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to late night.

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