During this offseason, several Wrightsville Beach businesses are expanding, and while Redix, Ceviche’s Inspired Panamanian Restaurant & Bar and Beach Bagels each have unique reasons for growing, Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce board member Sue Bulluck said the trend indicates the coastal town’s tourism-centric economy is improving.
“Not that it’s happening as a mushrooming experience, but we are slowly coming back,” she said. “The longevity of these folks who are opening second shops is a very good sign.”
Redix in particular is evidence of that longevity. Gordon Reddick opened the Wrightsville Beach location of the outdoor clothing and gear shop in 1969 and in late October he opened a second location at 104 Grace St. in downtown Wilmington. While business is good at the beach, he said the expansion had just as much to do with the evolving downtown Wilmington scene.
“It’s changed dramatically over the years, and there’s a lot of activity, a lot more conventions and a lot of shoppers down there,” he said.
He’s adapted the store to the downtown climate by selling fewer beach items like towels and bathing suits. His customer base is different, too. He doesn’t have a parking lot like he does at the beach, so shop patrons will mainly be walkup traffic. He doesn’t think that will hurt business, though.
“There’s a lot of walking traffic downtown,” he said. “You’ve got tourists, you’ve got a school down there, all sorts of businesses and PPD.”
Beach Bagels is also expanding, but unlike Redix, its second location will be on Oleander Drive, just minutes from the existing location. Owner Tony Di Norcia said the proximity of the shops is deliberate; he hopes the new location will divert some business away from his current location during peak times, like late Sunday morning, so customers don’t have to wait as long for orders.
“We try to get everything ready as quick as possible, but a bagel can only toast as quickly as it toasts, and eggs cook as quick as they can cook, so we get backed up,” he said. “Having this second location will help alleviate some of that stress that is put not only on my crew, but on folks that come in.”
He is also adapting the new shop to fit the different customer base. He might add salads to the menu, he said, because he anticipates employees of the nearby offices and small businesses to come in on their lunch breaks.
He also thinks business at the Oleander location will fluctuate less with the seasons.
“I think it will be less touristy, so we’ll have a more steady cash flow,” he said.
Di Norcia thought renovating and opening the Oleander shop would be relatively easy since it used to be Ken’s Bagels, but it has taken longer than expected. Still, he hopes to open within a few months.
Ceviche’s Inspired Panamanian Restaurant & Bar is also expanding to accommodate its high volume of patrons. Owner Hunter Tiblier bought the building next door and renovations will add 30 or 40 more seats to the restaurant, which currently seats 36.
When Tiblier opened Ceviche’s in September 2014, he wasn’t sure if the locals would embrace the unique restaurant. But he got plenty of traffic from both sides of the drawbridge. Parking is limited, he said, but many of his Wrightsville Beach patrons bike.
“It’s been much better than we ever expected,” he said.
Tiblier said the expansion will create more dining space and a full bar, and will also enlarge the kitchen, giving the chef “a lot more options to do bigger and better things.”
The business currently occupying the building, CoolSweats, moves out in January and Tiblier said he hopes to be open by early March, which will give him time to “work out the kinks” before the tourist season.