After 30 years serving as the co-owner and primary buyer for Island Passage, Plunkett Dodge has left the helm of the boutique women’s clothing and accessories store.
What began as a small rental and homemade T-shirt store on Bald Head Island in 1984 became the Island Passage of today with several Cape Fear locations.
Dodge’s husband, former Wilmington mayor, businessman and restaurateur Harper Peterson started the golf cart, canoe and bicycle rental company on Bald Head Island that became the first Island Passage.
“Then I started making things, designing T-shirts and having them locally silk-screened,” Dodge said. “It started out very low key but then everything we started designing and making was selling.”
The couple later opened the Cross Pointe Plaza location near Wrightsville Beach and two downtown Wilmington locations.
“I was raising four kids, having another one, Harper was city councilman then mayor, and we owned [Water Street Restaurant] downtown so it was a wild ride,” Dodge said.
Throughout the 30 years Peterson and Dodge owned Island Passage, Dodge said it was her commitment to small, unknown brands with potential that kept the unique feel of the locations.
“Every other year I would go to a market I had never been to before or rarely went to just to keep my choices fresh in Wilmington,” she said. “I never bought labels and was never interested in name brands. I ended up being lucky in buying some brands that became popular, but when I first bought them they probably were not.”
Through years of economic growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Dodge said the business grew exponentially, but the Great Recession of the late 2000s forced a different image of the company to emerge with the help of buyers Alison Drake and Kristyn Prentice and financial controller Beth Ogden.
Effective March 20, 2014, that trio is the new ownership team of the two Island Passage locations, Return Passage and Maritime Passage within Canopy Outfitters on Bald Head Island.
Prentice began working for Dodge 14 years ago after relocating to Wilmington and said the style would remain intact.
“We believe deeply in the basis of Island Passage and what it is so we want to continue to grow that and hopefully expand,” Prentice said. “We want our customers to still come to us for what they always have and continue to find new stuff here, too.”
As for Dodge, she and Peterson retained ownership of the original Bald Head Island store, now named Riverside Adventure Company, along with their restaurants Delphina and Delphina Dos.
Although she said Island Passage is in good hands with Prentice, Drake and Ogden, Dodge said she could not help but miss it.
“I don’t regret it, but it had a lot of soul to it and it is hard to pass the soul along,” she said. “I think the reason why Island Passage has been and will continue to be really successful for a long time is because it does have a mighty soul.”