Frontier Life

Photo by Rimas Zailskas

Photo by Rimas Zailskas

Thinking about his transformative vision for Hendersonville’s historic 7th Avenue district, restaurateur Charlie Star becomes choked up with emotion. “What is starting to happen there,” he says, “is really such a beautiful thing.”

For Star, in fact, it’s a dream come true. After 31 years working in fine dining, with all the pressures of running gourmet establishments, the idealistic Star — who’s been known to wear flowers in his hair, old-hippie-style — is fulfilling a lifelong desire by opening Patty’s Burger Shack, a simple country-style café off 7th Avenue. Doors will open early for breakfast, and by late morning, Patty’s will switch to sandwiches and entrees, complete with side dishes and a drink, for almost crazy-low prices.

Star also promises dancing at night until closing time.

“I’m not in profit mode right now,” he insists. “I am more interested in growing my customer base. But you can provide quality without being expensive. I learned that from my pal Clint Eastwood. He knows how to make a blockbuster movie on a $2-million-dollar budget.”

Star says he and Eastwood became friends in Carmel, California. “When I lived there, Clint ate in [my restaurant, the Carmel Café] every morning. He ran for mayor because the city outlawed eating ice-cream cones on the sidewalk. He wanted to put a stop to that foolishness.”

Star felt the same way when he saw a “No Loitering” sign in the park on 7th Avenue. “That makes no sense, either. Isn’t the whole reason the city created a municipal park so that people could hang out there?”

But Star, who first came to Western North Carolina for health reasons and fell in love with the Hendersonville area, believes that 7th Avenue has a stigma to overcome. “I was part of that whole stereotype. I thought renting there would be suicide. But I went down to 7th Avenue and got to know some of the homeless people. Most of them are really hardworking, clean, and sober. We cleaned up the park, watered the flowers, picked up the trash. They just want a chance to get on their feet, and we should give it to them. I hired some of them to help get the restaurant ready, and they did a great job.

“I like the frontier,” muses Star, “and [in Hendersonville], 7th Avenue is the frontier. Mark my words. Within a year, there will be so much new business activity there. I think it’s the most exciting area in town.”

Patty’s Burger Shack is scheduled to open sometime “after the holidays,” 719 Maple St., Hendersonville.

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