Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Chicken Coop (2007)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Originally Published April 2007 

Note: The article below was originally published here on the Gateway in April of 2007.  Price's Chicken Coop in Charlotte closed for good on June 19, 2021, creating great sadness here at the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. We acknowledged that earlier in this post:  Darkness Falls on Old Charlotte: The Sad Demise of the Chicken Coop.  I am re-publishing this story to share my good memories of the day I first discovered "the Coop" and its loose connections to Mid-Atlantic Wrestling.

Riding around Charlotte with George South is like being on a guided bus tour of famous wrestling-related landmarks for Jim Crockett Promotions. And not just the more obvious significant sites like the Park Center, the original Coliseum, or the location of the Crockett offices on Briarbend Drive. The smallest details, the places and things that might seem insignificant to others, are the things that are often the most special to George.

“Now ladies and gentlemen, over on your right is Little Hardware, where Klondike Bill would purchase the special colored duct tape used on Crockett’s rings.”

You think I’m joking.

Actually, it’s not quite like that, but you get my point. Everywhere we go, George can relate where we are to Mid-Atlantic wrestling. That’s one of the things I love about George South. Everything in life has some connection to wrestling (as it should, you know, when you’ve got the sickness like we do.)

So off we go. We’re on a tight schedule, we’ve only got an hour or so before we go pick up the Sotos and El Reyo when they get out of school. Just enough time to make my first visit to another Crockett landmark, Charlotte’s world famous Chicken Coop.

Price’s Chicken Coop has been written up in national magazines and featured on television all over the country. It fits the description of hole-in-the-wall. The Chicken Coop has to look just like it did 30 years ago, which is pretty amazing given it’s smack in the middle of Charlotte’s trendy fast growing up-scale South End district, just south of the downtown financial center, blocks from the Panther’s NFL stadium and the new NBA basketball arena. But the yuppie, hipsters, movers and shakers haven’t changed this special place, a step back in time, and the best fried chicken I think I've ever had. That covers some territory for me. I’m already a fried chicken or two over my limit for a lifetime.

This is starting to sound like a restaurant review, so I’ll stop here. I'll leave it at this: my first bite of Price’s Chicken Coop chicken and I was taken back 30 years ago to my grandmother Nana’s kitchen at her cabin on Lake Summit, in North Carolina. She pan-fried the chicken, of course. That was the best fried chicken I’d ever had, until now. I’m not going to say Mr. Price does it better than Nana, but let’s just say Nana and Mr. Price would have gotten along pretty well.

So what does all this have to do with Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling?

“You ain’t seen nothing until you see Tully Blanchard in a three piece suit, diamond rings and shades, digging into a box of chicken from the Chicken Coop,” George tells me.

Beginning in the early-to-mid 1980s, after the main TV tapings had moved from the studio to the arenas, Crockett would tape the local promos for each town at a small make-shift studio at the Briarbend Drive office during the day on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays, rushing to get done so everyone can head out to whatever town they were running that night. It was a non-stop taping marathon that lasted sometimes as many as eight hours, and during that time, the wrestlers couldn’t leave.

My first box of chicken at "the Coop."
“The guys would have me run down to the Chicken Coop and pick up these huge boxes of chicken,” George told me. “The dinners all came with sides and fixin’s , but the boys just wanted the chicken. I’d bring it back, and they’d all dig in. Sometimes, Jackie Crockett would drag things out so they’d be waiting for a break to get to that chicken. There it is, this big box of fried chicken and every big name in this business is all digging in at the same time.”

But what about George? Surely he didn't get left out.

“You got that right! I’d sneak a piece on the way back to the office, and I’d always have to shake the box up to level it out so there wouldn’t be this big hole where I had pulled out a piece of chicken.”

Of course, if the chicken cost $20, George made ten times that in tips form the boys. 

“Tully would tip me $20 bucks, and Arn and Flair would be looking out of the corner of their eye, and they’d have to tip me $25 just to out-do each other. I made more in tips on Tuesday promo tapings than I ever made wrestling.” 

Price’s chicken is take-out only. So there we are, George and I sitting in his car, Journey on the radio, 70 degrees, sunny blue skies, prettiest day of the year so far. We’re slamming down the fried chicken, hush puppies and sweet tea as fast as we can. We ran out of napkins, I had to wipe my fingers on a Texaco road map. Best fried chicken I’ve ever had in my life. 

And of course, we had to drive by the old Crockett office location and reminisce. Those days are gone forever, I guess we should just let ’em go.


I’m going to get out my old 1985 wrestling tapes, maybe I’ll spot a small greasy spot on Tully Blanchard’s tie while he’s cutting one of those promos. I’ll know then that George has just made a run to the Coop. 


A Charlotte light-rail train approaches (far left) on the tracks across the street from
Price's Chicken Coop (far right) just minutes before closing time on an early November evening.

From the old Gateway site archives.
Originally published in April of 2007 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.