Things to Do

My Charlotte: Tamu Curtis

Oakland, California, native turned Charlotte resident, Tamu Curtis, is the owner of The Cocktailery— a trendy barware retail shop in South End’s Atherton Mill.

Not only does the store sell any and everything you need to bring your home bar to life, Curtis and her all-woman staff also host a series of fun in-person and virtual cocktail-making classes and team building workshops. We caught up with the small business owner to learn more about her brand, her favorite things about Charlotte, and how she got her start in the industry.

Tamu Curtis, owners of The Cocktailery

Welcome to the Cocktailery

Curtis made her way to Charlotte in 2012 to be closer to her parents, who made the move from the West Coast a few years earlier. Using her background in PR and marketing, she decided to leverage her expertise to build a brand she was passionate about. As a result, Curtis’ original brand, Liberate Your Palette, was born.

“I spent a lot of time networking with industry peers, taking classes and researching,” Curtis says. “I was trying to learn as much as possible about the hospitality industry and, later, retail. I was self-determined and motivated, and that is what propelled me to stay on course.”

After years of hosting pop-up cocktail events around Charlotte, Curtis was able to truly learn what Charlotte residents wanted. In late 2021, she opened the doors to her permanent space, The Cocktailery.

“I opened the doors to The Cocktailery because I saw an opportunity to create something nice that was missing in the city. After conducting cocktail classes in Charlotte for the past five years, I’ve come to understand my customer and offer them a destination that was specially designed with them first in mind.”

Curtis wants supporters to understand that giving a small business your full support goes a long way and ultimately has a positive impact on the local economy.

“With any small business, the best way to support is to pay for services and fees as advertised by the business,” she says. “A lot of times people want to negotiate rates with small businesses, something they don’t often think of doing when hiring or shopping with a large company. Some upsides of supporting small businesses is direct access you get to them and that by supporting them, purchasing something or simply sharing a social media post you are supporting your community. Small businesses add a great deal to the economy by way of job creation and dollars that flow back into the community.”

How Tamu Curtis Does Charlotte

Myers Park - Photography by Cody Hughes

Although having her mother, father and brother live within 10-minutes of her is a plus, Curtis says that Charlotte truly does feel like home. The city’s small town sensibilities are reminiscent of her life back on the West Coast.

“Oakland was very much like this. You know your neighbors, you go to school and grow up with the same kids, your government and city officials are easy to reach. So this feels familiar to me.”

Additionally, she says Charlotte is innovative, vibrant, fun and offers a lot of lifestyle options for its growing and diverse population.

When she’s not working in her shop, you may catch her shopping or dining in South End, people watching at Camp North End or Optimist Hall, or taking a casual drive through Myers Park and Elizabeth to see the tree-lined streets and beautiful vintage homes.

Romare Bearden Park - Photography by Cody Hughes

“These are some of the things I fell in love with about Charlotte before I even moved here,” she says about the area’s long-standing neighborhoods.

When she’s hosting friends or family from out of town, she always recommends Charlotte’s outdoor spaces including Romare Bearden Park, McGill Rose Garden in Optimist Park, as well as the miles of greenways across the city.

“My must-see is The U.S. National Whitewater Center for a full day of outdoor activity from whitewater rafting, ziplining, canoeing, rock climbing, hiking, etc. You can enjoy food and beverages on the grass and have a picnic. They even have live music concerts in the spring and summer. You can honestly spend a whole weekend there and never get bored.”