Price’s Chicken Coop in South End is a Charlotte institution. Talmadge Price and his brother started it in 1962. He passed away last week, leaving a legacy that isn’t just fried chicken, but a place that has worked itself into the traditions of Charlotteans from all walks of life.
Price’s isn’t fancy. It’s take out only. A counter stretches the width of the room and five or six people with white aprons take orders. They’re fast, even when they’re being friendly.
“Come over and see me my love,” server Ida De Zwaan says to a regular. “What can get I get you?”
It’s busy during lunch time. The line is almost out the door. Above the counter hangs the original menu and in back you see the chicken and fish frying. Looking around, it could as well be a few decades ago. Stephen Price was three when his father Talmadge and uncle Pat opened the chicken coop.
“They originally had a poultry market. Before the advent of the grocery story, you had all your individual markets,” says Price. “Then somebody asked him why he didn’t try cooking chicken because they needed a quick, affordable meal for some manufacturing employees in the neighborhood.”
Back then, many of Charlotte’s restaurants were segregated. But Price’s was open to everyone.
“He was a people person and he really enjoyed the people and the interaction with the customers,” says Price.
He and his cousin took over for his father in the eighties. Price’s still only accepts cash and there are signs telling people not to talk on cell phones.
Peter Stuart has been going to Prices since he was a boy. Now, he’s a vice president at an IT company nearby. He heard about Price’s death and decided it was time to come by.
“My mother makes good fried chicken, so don’t be fooled, but she also knew when was too big of a crowd to handle,” says Stuart. “So we’d always come down to Prices on Saturday mornings and grab our chicken and go have our family events.”
Walter Broome has been working here for 37 years.
“Only thing that’s changed in here is the prices on that board,” laughs Broome.
He says he’s stayed for so long because the family has always been generous and fair and they’ve treated their customers the same way.
“You see everybody from homeless people, to doctors, lawyers, bankers, insurance. You see everybody in here. We wait on everybody, it’s good,” says Broome.
Price’s has gotten acclaim far and wide from Bon Appetit to the Food Network. Alex Waring doesn’t care about that. He dropped by before his shift driving a truck. He says the food’s good, but there’s something else.
“There’s some soul. I mean, it’s love. I mean you can get chicken from anywhere, but it’s a history, a tradition,” says Waring.
That tradition will continue. Stephen Price says business remains strong because of the foundation set by his father and uncle.