WilmingtonBiz Magazine - June 2023

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Sankofa founder and nurse trainer Suprena Hickman
Photographer Jamie Hansen took this issue’s cover shot of Suprena Hickman, founder of Sankofa Training & Wellness Institute, which provides health care education and is based in The Murchison Building in downtown Wilmington.


LOGAN BURKE is from St. Louis but moved to Wilmington to get away from the busier paces of life. For this issue, Burke photographed nursing students at Cape Fear Community College (PAGE 32). For the Good Life Wilmington special section, he covered the Wilmington Sharks’ season-opening game (PAGE 80) and took pictures at Cape Fear Spice Merchants (PAGE 106). loganburkephoto.com


NEIL COTIAUX is a freelance journalist who has written for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal since 2013. His work has also appeared in various other publications and digital sites around the Southeast. He received his B.S. in political science from Ithaca College and his J.D. from the University of Richmond. Cotiaux wrote the cover story about the future of the area’s health care workforce on PAGE 32.


MIRIAH HAMRICK is a reporter covering restaurants and hospitality for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal. She edits the Good Life Wilmington weekly newsletter and annual print publication, which starts on PAGE 51. For this year’s Good Life publication, Hamrick talked with Burgaw restaurant owners about the downtown’s growing food options (PAGE 98), profiled Encore Creativity for Older Adults organizers (PAGE 95) and pulled together the rest of the special section.


ALLISON JOYCE is a photojournalist who moved to Wilmington in 2022 after almost 10 years working in Asia for clients such as The Washington Post, Getty Images, TIME, The New York Times, National Geographic, United Nations and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Joyce photographed medical school students and leaders (PAGE 46) as well as registered nurse and trainer Suprena Hickman for a story about workforce training (PAGE 32). AllisonJoyce.com and @allisonsarahjoyce on Instagram

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ant a lesson in organizational management or industrial psychology? Go find Sharon.

Sharon, the women’s bathroom attendant at Live Oak Bank Pavilion, is one concert at a time becoming a local legend for a simple reason: The women’s bathroom line is always shorter than the men’s line.

So that rarely happens, especially not in large-crowd situations like concerts. Surprised and bemused looks passed down the line outside. I wasn’t the only person who noticed.

The why and how unfolds inside. In a projecting and constant stream, Sharon announces the open stalls. “I’ve got 2 over here; 1 over here.”

That’s it? That’s it. Somehow Sharon’s managed to solve a problem that plagues stadiums, concert venues and bars across the nation each weekend.

Zero time wasted guessing if a stall is occupied or not. Seconds shaved from trying to get the people chatting at the front to realize it’s their turn. This is lean methodology in action.

Here’s the wild thing. Given a roadmap to the process, even if it was their first time encountering the Sharon System, people quickly jumped on board. Wherever Sharon directed, people responded.

Here’s the even wilder thing. If Sharon was busy on one side of the room, people filled in the other side, announcing their own “1 open over here.” Seeing the success of the Sharon System firsthand, they adopted it for their own immediate environment.

One such time was when a younger teen concertgoer had trouble with her door. Sharon suspended her rounds and assured her she’d stay to watch the door. Efficiency only works alongside empathy. If you’re 100% on either end, you’ll either end up with disgruntled teammates or unfulfilled goals.

By now, I wouldn’t blame you for rolling your eyes. It’s just a public bathroom, not groundbreaking stuff.

But here’s another reason why businesses should pay attention to the Sharon System.

People who witnessed it and benefitted from it

firsthand were talking. Not just one or two, but I kept hearing comments from impressed – and happy –patrons.

Still think I’m overselling it?

In early June, a thread started on a local Facebook group focused on face-value concert tickets. It was about Sharon and the Sharon System, which by the way no one calls it that, that’s how I intend to describe any efficiency plans going forward.

Posters both praised the method and bemoaned the fact that they didn’t have money for Sharon’s tip jar – Live Oak Bank Pavilion doesn’t take cash, plus the number of people who actually carry around bills has dropped off.

Nearly 60 comments later, people whose pricey beer buzzes and live music endorphins had long since subsided were trying to figure out how to properly tip Sharon via Venmo or another digital method. Someone asked around and confirmed her Cash App to share with the group. People took time out of their days to figure out how to return their appreciation.

If you don’t think there’s something to be learned here about customer service, you would be wrong. And I would suggest a refresher course from Professor Sharon.

SUMMER 2023 9 wilmington bizmagazine.com LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
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A 191-foot yacht built in 2010 and refitted in subsequent years, Skyfall docks at Wrightsville Beach at the behest of Greensboro-based real estate developer and Skyfall owner Roy Carroll, who vacations in the New Hanover County beach town.

Skyfall, valued at more than $33 million, can be rented for a rate that starts at $290,000 per week. The vessel built by Trinity Yachts has more than 3,000 square feet of exterior dock space, and on her sundeck there’s a Jacuzzi, a splash pool and a basketball net. Six staterooms accommodate 12 guests.

“You and the captain set your itinerary. You’re not on a schedule,” said Carroll, who is planning to build a major mixeduse project on Military Cutoff Road in Wilmington. “You get to decide what you want to do, where you want to go and exactly what you want to eat.”

In a 2021 Greater Wilmington Business Journal story, Carroll said, “It is expensive vacationing, but it is the ultimate luxury in vacations.”

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THE N.C. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION’S newest planning document is ambitious but short of funds to address the needs of three of the state’s fastest-growing counties.

In the State Transportation Improvement Program, better known as the STIP, Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties are part of NCDOT’s Division 3, which also includes Duplin, Onslow and Sampson counties. The 10-year plan is usually updated every two years, and projects are scored on a number of factors and prioritized based on those scores.

The STIP identifies projects that will receive funding in its 10-year period, although subsequent updates could reflect new funding. As of now, however, most projects on the docket for Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties have not yet been funded.

One major highway project that secured funding is the Hampstead Bypass. The project is designed to relieve congestion along U.S. 17 through Hampstead and into New Hanover County.

NCDOT has divided the $429 million project into segments. The northern portion – from N.C. 210 to U.S. 17 north of Hampstead – is under construction. The southern portion – starting south of Hampstead and connecting to the northern leg at N.C. 210 – is in the right-of-way acquisition stage, with construction slated to begin in 2026.

In its introduction to the 2024-2033 STIP, NCDOT officials provided one reason for the disparity between approved projects and funded projects.

“Due to rising costs for projects funded in the previously adopted 2020-2029 STIP, little to no funding was projected to be available for new projects in the 2024-2033 STIP timeframe,” the document stated.

“Therefore, in August 2021, a workgroup recommended and the N.C. Board of Transportation approved the current prioritization cycle be halted. The decision was made to develop the 2024-2033 STIP using existing projects from the previously adopted 2020-2029 STIP.

“Projects with current construction schedules in the first three years of the STIP (2024-2027), projects with right of way actively underway, and those with federal grants were funded first; followed by a seniority approach of combined factors such as oldest prioritization cycle and highest scoring projects.”



3m GAL





Sources: Live Oak Bank, Wilmington International Airport, H2GO, NOAA

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In 2021-22, the overall migration rate stood at 8.7% – just modestly higher than the 2020-21 rate of 8.4%, which was the lowest domestic migration rate in three-quarters of a century.

Even during these historic declines, the pandemic has resulted in considerable population shifts with most of the gains occurring in Southern states. Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona have been the biggest gainers.

North Carolina added more than 250,000 people between 2020 and 2022 with 81% percent of that increase due to migration. The gains at the state level were not evenly distributed with New Hanover/Brunswick/ Pender counties accounting for 11% of it even though they only made up 4% of the state’s population in 2020. This population growth has resulted in significant economic stimulus as these new residents buy goods and services and contribute to all aspects of community life.

The two groups of people most responsible for these shifts have been remote workers and retirees. While most communities view the entry of remote workers as a boost to economic activity and talent, there is less enthusiasm and understanding of the role retirees play in local economies.

Brunswick County, for example, now has 33% of its population over

the age of 65. That is more than a 12-percentage point increase in a short span of 10 years. Mentions of these statistics spark concerns about the “graying’’ of the population, a term often used to refer to the aging of an area’s population. While a growing share of the older population is potentially problematic from a labor market standpoint, there are significant advantages to drawing retirees to a community as they can be a significant social and economic engine.

How exactly do retirees contribute to the local economy?

Retirees benefit a community in a variety of ways. Perhaps most importantly from an economic standpoint, they tend to have income streams and savings that are not linked to the health of the local economy and can therefore serve as a buffer to local economic fluctuations. This is particularly important as their incomes tend to not only be stable but come from outside the region and therefore generate additional streams of incomes and jobs.

Additionally, retirees tend to typically be in much better financial health, and they tend to spend more money on goods and services such as housing, food, entertainment, health services and many others.

These expenditures and assets create jobs and stimulate local businesses, which results in added tax revenues that support public expenditures and services. Furthermore, there is much literature that shows the significant impact of volunteerism by older individuals. As of 2022, the value of volunteering by seniors has been estimated to be $77 billion at the national level.

What does this mean for local economic development?

The reality is that no two communities have the same demographics, industrial structure or amenities. Some communities choose to focus their efforts on recruitment/ retention of companies; others prefer to focus on quality of life and attracting entrepreneurs; and some cater to retirees.

Understanding the contributions retirees can make to a local economy is important given the significant shifts in population that have been occurring over the past few years.

The migration toward the south of the country is not showing any signs of slowdown, and it is important to understand both the opportunities and challenges that come from a growing population.

The concerns about the aging population, while warranted, miss the opportunity presented by older individuals who can serve as economic engines in their newfound homes.

Mouhcine Guettabi is a regional economist with UNCW’s Swain Center and an associate professor of economics at UNCW’s Cameron School of Business.

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This proposed settlement would not cover utilities in the Lower Cape Fear River basin, including Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), “unless such utilities decide to participate,” according to a news release from the companies.

As an organization, CFPUA has been asked why it has not elected to participate. We want our community to understand the problem we face together.

Our community learned of Chemours’ pollution in the Cape Fear River, our primary drinking water source, in 2017 and began a five-year, $46 million odyssey to remove this contamination from our drinking

water supply.

This herculean effort concluded in October 2022 with the startup of our new Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) facility at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant.

These GAC filters are very effective at removing Chemours’ PFAS, but this removal requires ongoing financial expenditures.

The operational cost of this facility alone is estimated at between $3 million and $5 million per year, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in future financial burdens imposed by our upstream polluting neighbor on all our customers.

Millions of dollars more will be spent addressing groundwater contamination impacting our Richardson Water Treatment Plant in northern New Hanover County, which is equipped with reverse-osmosis treatment, and the Monterey Heights groundwater system in our southern county service area, which is slated to be supplied by water treated at Sweeney in 2025 at a cost of $11 million.

Millions of dollars more in costs

could be imposed as federal regulations consider wastewater treatment discharges and biosolids contamination from PFAS nationwide.

CFPUA has not been provided with the terms of the PFAS manufacturers’ agreement, and we do not know what compensation CFPUA could expect if it were to participate.

Media reports estimate there are more than 4,500 pending cases against PFAS manufacturers from all plaintiffs.

To comply with proposed national standards for certain PFAS in drinking water, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) estimates costs to address PFAS contamination nationwide may exceed $3.8 billion annually and require an estimated 5,000 water systems to develop new water sources or install and operate advanced treatment like CFPUA’s.

AWWA reports that another 2,500 water systems in states with existing standards would need to adjust existing PFAS treatment systems.

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) suggests that “(w)hile over a billion dollars is real money, it is a virtual drop in the bucket of potential utility costs to monitor, remove and dispose of these contaminants in accordance with anticipated federal regulations.”

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The information currently available suggests that the proposed settlement, when divided among thousands of other utilities with similar needs, would be insufficient to meet the needs of our community.

Here is what we do know:

We are certain our utility’s financial losses and future financial commitments to address our upstream neighbor’s pollution are substantial, and any settlement must substantially address these damages.

We know recent rate increases were required to address our neighbor’s pollution.

We know the three PFAS manufacturers who have contributed to the Cape Fear River pollution, DuPont and its spinoff companies Corteva and Chemours, have capital reserves outside of this settlement dedicated to resolving claims from PFAS pollution that are sufficient to make our community whole.

Finally, we know we have a strong case to pursue against these polluters here in the federal Eastern District Court of North Carolina and in the Court of Chancery in Delaware, where we have filed lawsuits.

So, until our neighbor Chemours chooses to live up to its stated corporate values and steps forward on behalf of the three responsible parties to make things right with their neighbors – our customers – we must continue litigation on our customers’ behalf.

One may hope this proposed settlement is a bellwether of reconciliation and restitution to come, but the battle continues until our issues are resolved.

Kenneth Waldrop is the executive director of Cape Fear Public Utility Authority.






“They should include A CARWASH and self storage. Especially since those are all you see at every intersection in town.” – JACOB SHACKELFORD

“ CLEAN RESTROOMS would be a good and novel start.” – MICHAEL GARDNER

“Gas pumps that don't make you watch ads while you pump and that do PRINT RECEIPTS ” – HANNAH ROUSE

“ BEER and cheap gas” –MARK MARONEY






DOWNTOWN’S NEWEST FINE DINING restaurant soon to open within historic mansion

DEMOLITION OF former restaurant building underway at Mayfaire

Next steps revealed for local entrepreneur’s $1M RESTAURANT COMPETITION

ANTHROPOLOGIE coming to Mayfaire Town Center

At Mayfaire, NEW TENANTS coming soon

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6.3% 12.5%
16 W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE 7200SQFT OF EVENT SPACE | MUSICAL PERFORMANCES | WEDDINGS | GALAS | SPEAKING EVENTS 910.352.1822 theArtWorks.co 200 Willard St, Wilmington, NC 28401 Destination AN ARTS + CULTURE


University of North Carolina Wilmington this month named the leaders of the school’s newly formed colleges.

Stephanie Caulder will serve as the founding dean of the College of Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts (CHSSA), and Ronald Vetter will be the founding dean of the College of Science and Engineering (CSE).

The two colleges, formed from the splitting of the former College of Arts & Sciences, take effect July 1, which is when Caulder and Vetter officially start in their new roles.

Sixteen of the university’s departments and units will fall under CHSSA, and nine departments and units will be part of CSE.

“The two new colleges will

each have a strategic focus: one for social sciences, humanities and the arts, and the other for computing, engineering and science,” university officials said.

Vetter, who has been a UNCW faculty member for 28 years, is a professor in the computer science department. He has more than two decades of administrative and leadership experience, officials said. He previously served as UNCW’s associate provost for research and dean of the graduate school from 2013 to 2018.

Caulder, who was born in Wilmington, has nearly 25 years of administrative experience, including most recently as the dean of Radford University’s College of Visual & Performing Arts in Virginia.


A Wilmington-based startup has successfully completed its latest capital raise, netting $2.8 million – more than it anticipated.

Ohanafy is a craft beverage management software launched last year to help give breweries the tools necessary to keep tabs on their inventory and other systems. The oversubscribed investment round was led by Cape Fear Ventures and other friends and family of the startup, according to a recent press release.

The funds will be used to allow Ohanafy to gain market share, attract talent and invest in product innovation.



-3.7% New Hanover County

Source: myFutureNC, Carolina Demography

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PHOTO C/O UNCW Post-COVID K-12 student enrollment drop in district schools (2021-22 vs. 2019-20)



The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina’s mission, she said, is to “Nourish people. Build solutions. Empower communities.”

The organization recently moved to a new facility on Greenfield Street. Bolstered by a $1 million donation from nCino for the project, the 5,000-square-foot building is almost three times larger than the food bank’s former facility.

Below is an excerpt from a recent Q&A with Gaglione. To read more, go to WilmingtonBizMagazine.com.


true. More than we expected it would be. Ultimately, the new infrastructure and facility will support community resiliency. We are excited to have the space to truly be a Food Bank for the community and connect with our neighbors.

The new facility will not only allow us to distribute more food but will offer a market where the local community can access fresh food, and we will operate a commercial kitchen to produce meals for our community, respond to disasters like Hurricane Florence and train workers for the hospitality industry we rely on so much in this area. There will be an urban learning farm on-site, expanded opportunities for volunteers and more strategic and targeted nutrition education.”

WHAT PROMPTED BUILDING A NEW, LARGER BUILDING? “When you shop at your local grocery store, you have learned that the food that is best for you is located at the outer edges of the store. Our Food Bank’s solution to having healthier foods is adding more space for refrigeration and freezer

capacity. With added cooler space we can have more produce, meat and dairy items available to those helping fight hunger and ultimately to our friends and neighbors.

The design and construction of the building also needed to factor in severe weather so we can still operate following a storm. Including the commercial kitchen in the new space will allow the Food Bank to produce highly nutritious frozen meals to distribute in response to disasters. The kitchen will be able to produce 5,000 meals per day if we need to respond to a disaster like Hurricane Florence.”

HOW HAVE THE NEEDS CHANGED OVER THE PAST FIVE OR 10 YEARS FOR THE SERVICES THE FOOD BANK OFFERS? “The Food Bank’s mission has expanded over the years beyond nourishing people. While feeding people is a huge part of what we do and will continue to be, the Food Bank is working to build solutions to ultimately end hunger. Hurricane Florence and the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need in our community even further. To do that work, we need to make a shift in how we operate.

With many, many partners, the Food Bank has committed itself to look at the root causes of food insecurity and build sustainable solutions. This requires a focus on our community’s health and was the reason the Food Bank created a division called Community Health & Engagement. To truly be solutions focused in our region, we need to commit to expanding on the work of empowering communities.”


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the Food Bank expands, so can our work in nutrition education. Our partners, like Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and Catholic Charities, have found recipes, classes and cooking demonstrations make a real impact on health and well-being. The commercial kitchen we have today will play a key role in furthering these efforts. Giving someone a rutabaga and telling them how to bake or stew it is one thing. Showing a person how to chop rutabaga, season it and cook it on a stovetop is a whole other level of being involved in a person’s ability to prepare fresh and healthy foods for their family.

The kitchen will also allow the Food Bank to work with individuals that want to invest in a future in culinary arts. A workforce development program that the Food Bank will partner on with Cape Fear Community College will not just offer training but also a stipend to support living expenses and the tools they need to continue their career in a restaurant, hotel or catering kitchen. A trained culinary workforce in our community is vitally important to the local economy that is dependent on vibrant tourism. Being positioned to build a person’s skill set to acquire meaningful work and a living wage in Wilmington is solutions focused.

Another major goal of the Food Bank is to help our agencies expand their capacity. After the extensive damage of Hurricane Florence, we knew we had to support them to become more resilient as well. With that in mind, our team has offered their assistance in securing funds to do that. Our Network Engagement team works with our partner agencies to identify projects we can help them complete – things like new equipment or facility improvements – that will allow them to build their own capacity to serve more and be more resilient following natural disasters. In other words, building resiliency includes building the capacity of our partners in hunger relief too.”




As a coastal city, it’s no surprise that Wilmington is brimming with anglers eager to hit the water this summer. As such, the area is home to a number of fishing shops. From bait to hooks, these shops carry essential items for every fishing trip. But along with the popularity of beaches and boating comes a market for branding the coastal lifestyle – something these locally based companies are tapping.


In September 2004, Phillip David, a lawyer by trade, bought Intracoastal Angler, a long-standing fishing supply and lifestyle shop based out of Wilmington. The David family was initially drawn to take over the business when it went up for sale because fishing is a huge part of their lifestyle. David’s son, Jackson, recalls how his dad would put him in their bass boat as a kid, and from there they’d go bass fishing at Sutton Lake.

“It was such a big part of our life and our family that it was an easy decision for my dad, for my mom and I,” Jackson David said. “It was something we wanted to be a part of in more of a way than just going out on the weekend and doing our fishing stuff.”

Today, almost 20 years later, Phillip and Jackson run the shop together and serve as co-owners. Jackson David graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington six years ago with a degree in communications. He loves fishing and spending time with his family, so joining his father at their family-run business was a no-brainer.

Currently, Jackson David oversees much of the shop’s online sales, while he and Phillip David oversee a lot of the marketing efforts. Additionally, they help their two managers with day-to-day operations. The shop has nine employees, in addition to the Davids, who they credit as being essential to the shop’s success.

As for their products, the shop tries to sell anything and everything for the outdoor/fishing lifestyle, which can include shoes, hats, sunglasses, rods, reels and fishing tackle.

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Intracoastal Angler owner Phillip David, his son Jackson (center) and employees of the shop

Intracoastal Angler's housebranded gear has become one of the local fishing supply shop's biggest sellers.

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“We carry a little bit of everything,” Jackson David said. “We’ve got over 20,000 SKUs of items in the shop. We carry hooks, obviously. We carry different kinds of bait for all aspects of fishing, anything from fishing in the freshwater creeks for brim and bass all the way through catching 1,000-pound swordfish or anything of the sort. And then we carry all the essential necessities to go with that, gas and nets. Pretty much, anything fishingrelated, we stock it or stock some sort of it.”

A recent bestseller at the shop has been its apparel brand, which has been especially popular among its younger shoppers.

“Our apparel brand is such a big thing that’s been taking off that we’ve really put a lot of focus and emphasis on that too,” Jackson David said. “We stock probably 30 different brands of outdoor apparel that go well with the fishing stuff, including our own private label, which is really becoming a big hit around town.”

Intracoastal Angler T-shirts are being spotted on fishing fans and nonanglers, alike, as well as across age demographics – from older patrons to trendy teens.

Jackson David credits the reason behind the apparel being such a big hit to area residents wanting to be part of a family-owned, local brand.

“That’s really the spirit of what our business is, a family-owned, original brand from Wilmington,” he said, “and that’s something that I think everyone wants to be a part of, and we’re really thankful that it’s that way.”


With its surfing rooster logo, Beach & Barn has grown into a brand that includes casual polos, hats, tees, flannels, fleece and kidswear.

But the Wilmington-based company’s roots are in a very different field from apparel.

Rusty Meador founded Beach & Barn as a carpentry and renovation company. He had been working in construction management and real estate development locally since 2001 when he was “thoroughly humbled” by the housing and mortgage crisis.

“I had two small kids, a lot of fear and a vague vision for the brand I wanted to build,” he recalled. “I wanted to start an apparel company, but I had no idea how to do that.”

For Meador, carpentry, design and fixing things had always been a hobby, so he began there – starting Beach & Barn in 2009. But as he built up the carpentry business, he kept an eye on branding that would eventually transfer successfully to apparel.

Today, Beach & Barn is thriving and operating under the same name and logo as the initial business, just selling apparel instead of carpentry services.

Currently, Beach & Barn is sold in more than 120 retail stores, primarily in the Southeast. Local retail stores that carry the line include Redix, Dragonflies, Island Tackle & Hardware, Farmers Supply Co., 50

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TONY MCEWEN Carolinas Director American Flood Coalition Apparel company Beach & Barn recently moved into the Soda Pop District’s Bottle Works Building.

South Surf Shop in Surf City, Ocean Outfitters in Southport and Strands Outfitters in Oak Island. Co-owner Watson Barnes joined in 2016 and was instrumental in the business’s initial capital raise and making the full transition into apparel, Meador said.

In 2019, the company held a $230,000 friends-and-family raise, largely made up of investors that Meador’s local partner had long relationships with.

“Our apparel and distribution model is capital and inventory intensive, so that support was critical,” Meador said.

Beach & Barn recently moved into space in the renovated Bottle Works building, home to the former CocaCola bottling facility, in the Soda Pop District.

The company’s distribution center includes a small retail space in the front, and Meador said they are considering how to use that spot.

“The neighborhood has exceeded our expectations in terms of growth and attracting fun new restaurants and businesses, so we can’t wait to see how

that develops,” he said. “Until then, our primary goal is growing the footprint of our dealer network and spreading the word about our great brand and this great town.”


About 15 years ago, Margaret Eubank’s husband introduced her to fishing, and she’s been hooked ever since. She started to notice, however, a gap in female angler apparel as she browsed around shops.

After having the idea for nearly 10 years, she decided to finally take the leap a couple of years ago and start working toward starting her own apparel company for female anglers. In 2021, she officially launched Clearly Hooked Apparel to the world.

“The concept, it’s been something I want to do for probably 10 years,” she said. “There are just more and more women that are participating in the sport of fishing, but you continue to go into a tackle shop these days, and you kind of feel like they’re underrepresented or there’s not nearly

as many options when it comes to jackets and sweatshirts or just apparel in general.”

Her debut collection included a rain jacket, sweatshirt and highwaisted leggings. Looking ahead, Eubank has received requests to add a youth collection, so she hopes to add merchandise focused on junior anglers in the future.

For now, Clearly Hooked Apparel is available at stores in and around the Cape Fear region and on her online store. In the future, she hopes to expand to more stores and connect with more female anglers.

“It’s always scary to start something new,” Eubank said. “I think I was driven and motivated by fellow women that had an idea and took that leap and were successful.”

Editor’s note: The section about Margaret Eubank is an excerpt from the current issue of WILMA magazine, a sister publication to WilmingtonBiz Magazine. To read the full article, go to WILMAmag.com.

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Margaret Eubank started Clearly Hooked Apparel with female anglers in mind.
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Paul Baron takes top entrepreneur nods

The Wall Printer, a Wilmingtonbased company founded by Paul Baron, took home the 2023 Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year Award at a ceremony in May.

The annual Coastal Entrepreneur Awards recognized 11 organizations as category winners this year out of nearly 200 nominations, a CEA record. The Wall Printer captured the overall prize, which included possession for a year of a life-sized surfboard trophy by Kids Making It.

Baron joked about his age when accepting The Wall Printer’s category award, Manufacturing & Distribution, the honor that put his company in the running for Entrepreneur of the Year.

“It only took me 71 years to become recognized as an overnight success,” he said to laughs from the participants gathered for the breakfast event at UNCW’s Burney Center.

Although Baron retired about five years ago from a career as an international business consultant, he couldn’t stifle his entrepreneurial instincts. While involved in several endeavors, he learned about the process of vertical printing, which can be done by a specialized machine on a wide variety of upright surfaces and can reproduce existing artwork or create signs.

Baron wanted to own the product, but the German manufacturer of the first printer he encountered would not agree to a deal. So he looked worldwide and found five companies that make vertical printers.

“The best one was a Chinese company founded about 15 years ago,” he said.

After a courtship process with the Chinese company in 2019, Baron forged a manufacturing relationship with it and co-owns with that company three patents related to the product.

The generic term for what the machine does is vertical printing, Baron said, adding that his is the only vertical wall printer sold by a U.S.-based business.

“Wall Printer is our name for an inkjet printer on steroids,” he said. “Our Wall Printer will print vertically on any wall – indoors or outdoors, metal, glass, tile, concrete – not even necessarily smooth. It prints up and down and puts out any digital image reliably and quickly. We don’t take food off the tables of artists but allow them to create their artwork or signage on an up to 50-foot mural on the outside of a building.”

Images are converted to a digital format and loaded onto a USB drive, which is then inserted into the printer. The printing machine’s software takes that image and creates a faithful reproduction using the correct proportions, Baron said.

The Wall Printer company maintains a simple model: It sells its patented vertical printers to entrepreneurs who want to start their own vertical printing businesses.

“The Wall Printer is not a franchise system,” Baron said. “Our customers create their own businesses and their own brands. They get their equipment from us, and we give them a lot of support. We don’t take royalties. This is all about entrepreneurship: creating opportunities for others. It’s their own hopes and dreams, delivering wall art. It’s about cooperation, not competition.”

Baron said The Wall Printer got its first customers in 2020 with the goal of having at least 120 in its fourth year. Included in a customer’s purchase from The Wall Printer is an exclusive territory to ensure that there is no unwanted geographic overlap. Baron’s company now has

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Every time The Wall Printer sells one of its vertical wall printers in North and South America, a new business is born.


120 customers, spread throughout Canada, the U.S., Mexico, South America and the Caribbean.

Baron describes his relationship with the Chinese equipment manufacturer as strong. The company has now expanded with a floor printer: a full-color digital machine that uses UV technology to enable it to print any digital image on any floor surface, smooth or uneven. It’s early days yet, but The Wall Printer has sold about 10 of these machines to people who want to put logos or other markings on floors, swimming pools or other horizontal surfaces.

Heather McWhorter, director of UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), also said that in addition to being a business owner, Baron is a CIE mentor.

“Since I met Paul, he has always supported entrepreneurs,” she said.

Baron said he can’t take all the credit for The Wall Printer, which has 15 employees.

“The journey of an entrepreneur usually starts as a solo endeavor – it’s an idea, something you’re passionate about,” he said. “So while it may start that way, no successful business … can be achieved without a team, and I’ve been blessed with that.”

Editor’s Note: The annual Coastal Entrepreneur Awards is a joint program between the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This year, judges picked industry category winners, and from them, one overall winner. Read more about this year’s Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year winner, Paul Baron. Read about all the category winners at WilmingtonBiz.com.

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A November 2022 survey conducted by the N.C. Nurses Association tells the story.

In a survey of 315 respondents, 79.1% of the association’s members said their workplace suffered from a “severe” or “moderate” shortage of nurses. Nearly 60% said that shortage had forced them to work longer hours or take different assignments. Nearly 50% said they have witnessed violence on the job, with more than a quarter saying they were the victim.

And on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ready to leave the profession, just over 50% said they felt they were halfway to

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Should nurses turn their back on a noble calling? Or should they stick it out and hope for the best?

Suprena Hickman, a registered nurse and owner of Sankofa Training & Wellness Institute, worked at New Hanover Regional Medical Center after coming to Wilmington 20 years ago. She opened her certified nurse assistant training program in The Murchison Building in December and calls CNA a “must” for anyone

planning on entering nursing school. Her focus is on increasing diversity among the local nursing workforce. Hickman’s hopes come at a time of restlessness in the profession, sparked by fatigue and a felt lack of appreciation “because now, after the pandemic, nurses are realizing ‘Hey, we got options, we can do other things.’ And they’re starting businesses; they’re leaving the field,” Hickman said.

According to research conducted

by the N.C. Board of Nursing and The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hospitals, medical practices, assisted living centers and other in-state facilities face a shortfall of 12,500 registered nurses by 2033.

“Most regions of the state are projected to face RN (Registered Nurse) shortages except for the Southeast region; all regions will face LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse)

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Above: Suprena Hickman and CNA students at Sankofa Training & Wellness Institute Left: CFCC nursing students in the college's nursing simulation lab

shortages,” the research paper warned.

Registered nurses, who have more advanced training, can engage in broader and more complex kinds of patient care than licensed practical nurses, who engage in more basic care and generally are supervised by an RN or a doctor. Certified nurse associates often consider their position a steppingstone to further education and advancement.

But already, a shortage of nurses has led to longer wait times in emergency rooms and delays in elective surgeries, along with the possibility of reduced quality of care, especially as the demand for medical services by aging baby boomers grows.


With realization that the nursing shortage will take years to overcome, an increasing number of leaders in the public and private sectors have reached out to one another to collaborate more closely or create partnerships to stop the exodus of much-needed talent and to attract fresh faces to the field.

In Southeastern North Carolina, Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center and Cape Fear Community College have each launched an ambitious program to help train, place and retain new or advancing nurses.

Just a year ago, Novant Health NHRMC was in danger of losing Medicare funding after regulators cited deficiencies in the level of nursing services, emergency services, quality assessment and performance improvement, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. Novant put forth a plan of corrective action, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found the hospital to be in compliance.

While hospital officials cobbled together their plan of action, they also went live with a new, yearlong residency program designed to recruit

and retain quality nursing staff. That program, months in the making, attracted 117 participants.

“This program is valuable because it provides an opportunity to nurture all new graduate nurses as they complete rotations throughout the hospital to gain clinical skills and help identify where they would like to work,” said Amy Akers, the hospital’s chief nurse executive, adding that “in some cases, nurses were able to pick their final home after two rotations, and in other cases, nurses continue to complete a third or fourth rotation. … We’ve seen very high retention rates for our nurse residents.”

Akers said the hospital has heard from both local and out-of-state candidates who are interested in the next residency class, “so we’re very optimistic this will continue to be a strong nursing recruitment and retention tool.”

Novant Health NHRMC has now “substantially closed the gap” in staffing by utilizing both permanent and more costly traveler nurses and has “seen improvement in staffing levels over the last six months,” Akers said in late May. Hospital officials declined to provide specific numbers.

Other recruitment programs at Novant Health NHRMC include partnerships with colleges and high schools to drum up interest in the profession as well as providing upfront scholarship money for nursing trainees, including support for CNA students at Sankofa Training.

At Cape Fear Community College, where about 130 students enroll in nursing programs in the fall and about 60 in the spring, officials have announced a goal of recruiting 200 new nursing students per year going forward.

That goal may be made easier thanks to a total of $1 million in scholarship money donated by individual and corporate donors. The money is earmarked for students who demonstrate financial need and will provide an additional 52 nursing scholarships on campus, bringing the


number of recipients to about 130 per year.

“By providing financial support, we are enabling students to pursue a career in nursing and helping to address the critical shortage of health care professionals in the region,” said CFCC President Jim Morton in an April 28 press release.

But there is an even more significant development looming.

Last fall, New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners approved the use of nearly $12 million to purchase the five-story former Bank of America building at 319 N. Third St. in downtown Wilmington. When the deal closed in April, the county ended up paying about $11.4 million for the property.

A lease agreement for CFCC space in the building will cost the college just $1 annually.

From now through fiscal year 2027, renovations are slated to take place to convert current office space into classrooms, additional

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laboratories and a simulation section to support the college’s growth plans.

Mary Ellen Naylor, CFCC’s dean of health sciences, said the nursing and allied health programs were already “bursting at the seams” at Union Station and the L Building on the downtown campus when the college started zeroing in on enrollment growth several years ago.

Naylor said that in addition to a projected $14.8 million needed for renovations, 12 more full-time and 15 more part-time faculty members will be hired.

“Our goal is to have some initial space ready for classes in January of 2024,” Naylor said, while citing Novant Health in particular as a major supporter of the college’s ambitious plans.

“So it is certainly the financial assistance from Novant in supporting our students with scholarships. It is Novant identifying employees that they have, that can come into our programs and then go back to Novant. It is providing clinical sites and for students to get those clinical experiences that they need. It’s job placement,” Naylor explained.

“As the students graduate, over 90% of our students, our graduates, stay here in our local community,”

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she emphasized.

As for the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the number of new nurses obtaining a bachelor’s degree dropped from 271 in fall 2021 to a low of 200 in summer 2022, but bounced back to 263 last fall as the pandemic began to recede.


Back at Sankofa, Hickman is continuing her classes to qualify students as CNAs. Initial training can be accomplished in 19 days over six weeks, followed by a state board examination that can be taken online

and a live demonstration before a proctor of five skills out of 23 taught.

Novant Health is covering tuition for the students on condition that they earn their certification and accept employment with them.

In addition to training future nurses, Hickman serves as a health and wellness coach to a wide range of clients, from blue-collar workers to executives. Many of those clients, including nurses, are on “the brink of breaking,” said Hickman, who has personally experienced burnout and works with each client to peel away the layers of individual, family and professional issues that beset

them, putting them on the road to positive plans that can guide them throughout their lives.

“The fact is, shortages of specialized clinical workers, including nurses, is a nationwide challenge we will have to contend with for the foreseeable future,” said CFCC’s Naylor.

With fresh funding, more robust training, some new facilities and accelerated hiring – and maybe with a little help from a coach or counselor at times – it looks like the current prescription for troubled times in health care just might be what the doctor ordered.

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A registered nurse works with a nurse resident at Novant Health NHRMC. photo c/o Novant Health




Dosher Memorial Hospital has a lot to celebrate this summer. June marks both its 93rd anniversary and the groundbreaking for its new emergency department as well as the implementation of a threeyear expansion – the first phase of a longer growth plan.

No one is better suited to head up the festivities than Lynda Stanley, Dosher Memorial’s chief executive officer and president.

“I wanted to make Dosher a great place to work … and to make sure our community is receiving the health care it needs and deserves,” said Stanley, who has held leadership positions at the hospital for 37 years.

Stanley’s interest in medicine was sparked by her family members, who owned a family care home. When she realized her path was not that of a doctor or nurse, however, Stanley earned a degree in medical technology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After graduating, she took a position at Candler Hospital in Savannah, Georgia, then came to Dosher Memorial in 1986 to manage the hospital’s laboratory.

At the urging of Dosher Memorial’s then-CEO, Arthur Pittman, Stanley obtained a master’s degree in health care administration. And there she found her calling.

“I saw the impact a health care administrator could make on patients, patient families and entire communities,” Stanley said. “When I think about the ability to leave our community better than how I found it, that explains why I was drawn to this field.”

Stanley has made just such an impact at Dosher Memorial, the small, nonprofit public hospital located in Southport, and its community. The facility is a critical access community hospital

licensed for 25 inpatient beds and 64 skilled nursing center beds.

As its CEO, Stanley ensures the hospital’s daily operations, departments and patient care meet the highest of standards.

Before taking on the head role, Stanley previously was asked to serve as president of the hospital’s foundation. Though it was a new role for her, it was a good fit. While building development, Stanley had the opportunity to talk with residents who were unaffiliated with the hospital. Such informal information gathering, in addition to reviewing county health assessments, gave hospital staff unique insights into the community’s health needs and led to innovative programs such as the Brunswick Wellness Coalition. The coalition offers educational and other programs to reduce the county’s chronic health problems.

As Dosher Memorial’s president and CEO, Stanley has overseen new advancements in the hospital’s service lines, especially in technology. Patients in its emergency department are treated with technologies such as neurosurgery and telehealth, and robotic surgeries are an option for orthopedics patients.

Under Stanley’s stewardship, the hospital also turned around a decade-long deficit, a feat that has been central to its growing capabilities.

“These positive operating margins have allowed us to invest in new technology, equipment and talented providers so that we can continue to provide the best possible health care for the community while continuing to expand our service lines,” she said. Dosher Memorial’s medical care has not gone unnoticed. The hospital recently received a four-star rating on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems’ patient surveys. In November the hospital was also recognized for excellence in hip and knee orthopedic surgery.

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L h
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ynda S tan LE y and d o S h ER
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Lynda Stanley was part of last year’s WilmingtonBiz 100 as an Influencer. This year’s group will be announced in late September and highlighted in the December issue of WilmingtonBiz Magazine.

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Now Stanley is heading up Dosher Memorial’s seven-year master facilities plan, intended to ensure the hospital can continue to provide quality medical care as the county experiences explosive population growth.

“We need to grow with our community,” Stanley said. “When you see that our county’s population has doubled in the past 20 years and that it remains one of the fastestgrowing counties in the state, we know that infrastructure must keep pace with the number of people.”

The plan’s first phase, scheduled to be completed in three years, includes upgrades and renovations for the hospital’s emergency department, laboratory, pharmacy and central sterile space.

The new, 8,000-square-foot emergency department will include more treatment spaces and vertical chairs, intended to streamline wait times for patients with less severe injuries or illnesses, according to Stanley. The emergency department will house its own X-ray, lab draw station and registration desk.

The plan also calls for the construction of two provider pods in Oak Island and the addition of three provider workspaces at Dosher Medical Plaza on Long Beach Road so residents can easily access local primary care.

The price tag on Phase 1 of the master facilities plan comes to $15.4 million, and it is funded by a hospital tax paid by the residents of Smithville Township, according to Stanley.

“We have been saving these tax dollars for eight years, which are being reinvested in local health care,” she said.

Through her work at Dosher Memorial, Stanley has gained a comprehensive understanding of the hospital and its community.

“When you know your people and know your families,” she said, “you understand how to make the health care experience personal for them.”

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rom expanding spaces to training more workers, the local health care industry continues to grow and adopt new technology aimed at better patient care. Meanwhile, challenges remain, particularly in meeting the demand for care in the growing region.


At the end of May, Novant Health officials held a campus groundbreaking event for a longdiscussed hospital in the northern part of New Hanover County. The Scotts Hill Medical Center will be a 200,000-squarefoot community hospital with a surgical focus, according to a news release. Officials expect to start site work on the 66-bed hospital this summer, with construction projected to take about two and a half years.

The new community hospital was envisioned before Novant Health bought NHRMC in 2021. The property off U.S. 17 already includes an emergency department, which will connect to the new hospital, and an outpatient surgery center. Work at the campus also has started on a separate 60,000-square-foot medical office building intended to house outpatient care services and serve as a hub for Novant Health Cancer Institute so that nearby patients can access infusion treatments and radiation therapy without having to drive to the hospital’s main South 17th Street campus.


As the future of artificial intelligence becomes a discussion across industries, the technology also is playing an increasing role in health care.

An AI example is with the type of imaging that depends on large amounts of data, particularly with MRIs.

In March, Wilmington Health Radiology began using AIR Recon DL software to improve image resolution and clarity without increasing scan time.

GE Healthcare launched AIR Recon DL, “a deep-learning image reconstruction technology, (that) makes full use of all the raw data coming off the MRI scanner,” according to the company.

Wilmington Health has scanned more than 1,000 patients with it for multiple areas –including patients’ brains, bodies, vascular systems and hearts.

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“Along with enhancing workflow and the patient experience,” said Matt Janik, a cardiologist with Wilmington Health, “the Artist Lift Technology is the most cost-effective way to gain the benefits of a nextgeneration MRI system.” 1 2



Dosher Memorial Hospital, a critical access community hospital in Southport, is leveling up in size and fundraising.

The hospital has 25 licensed acute (inpatient) beds and 64 licensed skilled nursing center beds. Dosher officials in May announced that they are entering the first phase of the hospital’s seven-year master facility plan.

The initial phase is expected to take about three years to complete and will include renovations and expansions to the hospital and medical clinics. Some of the construction projects are a new 8,000-square-foot emergency department, three additional provider workspaces at Dosher Medical Plaza and an expansion of the hospital’s pharmacy.

The new emergency department will increase the current treatment spaces from 10 to 14 and include the addition of six to eight vertical care chairs, to streamline wait times and care for patients of lower acuity.

The hospital’s foundation also recently announced that it is creating an endowment investment fund to support the hospital through a steady source of income.




The N.C. Healthcare Foundation granted Novant Health Pender Medical Center $50,000 to support rural health services.

Funding from the foundation, the N.C. Healthcare Association’s charitable nonprofit affiliate, came from the foundation’s Rural Hospital Leadership and Workforce Development grant.

“The grant will fund more than a dozen training programs, workshops and certifications for team members at Pender Medical Center and Novant Health Home Care,” according to a news release.

One of those programs is SANE (Sexual Assault Nursing Examiner) training, “which educates nurses on performing examinations, collecting and preserving evidence and testifying in legal proceedings. Rural areas often have limited availability of nurses with SANE training or certification,” the release stated.

The foundation’s grant will pay for six nurses at Pender Medical Center, a critical access hospital in Burgaw, to receive the SANE training.

The money also will fund the National Rural Health Association’s Rural Health Nurse certification that offers educational opportunities for nurses in community hospitals.



As the old adage says, sleep is the best medicine. But a published study this year found that less than a third of American adults get restorative sleep each night.

Meanwhile, the use of apps to track personal sleep habits and duration has ballooned. So more sleep-deprived people are aware that they’re not getting enough quality snooze time.

Several local business owners and health providers have started operations in the past year to attempt to address the issue.

Pallavi Saraf, for example, opened the Wilmington-based practice Magnolia Sleep Solutions in February to focus on improving sleep through the diagnosis and treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

Saraf, who holds a doctorate in dental medicine and integrative physiology degree, became interested in the connection between her dental patients’ issues with teeth clenching and grinding to sleep quality.

She said that people with sleep apnea don’t realize they have apnea or how it can affect their overall health including cardiovascular, immune, endocrine and mental health issues.

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Physician Pipeline Creating a

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BY BETH A. KLAHRE | PHOTOS BY ALLISON JOYCE Medical student Joanmarie Lewandowski works with a patient at Novant Health NHRMC






New Hanover Regional Medical Center, which in 2021 became part of Novant Health, has routinely hosted UNC medical students fulfilling their clinical rotations in their third and fourth years of medical school in the region.

Over roughly the same number of years, NHRMC has hosted training programs for medical school graduates, called residency programs, affiliated with UNC. The oldest program, general surgery, has been training future surgeons in the local region for over 50 years. The other programs – internal medicine, OB/GYN and family medicine residency programs – have been training future specialists for decades.

As the need for more physicians continues to be a national issue, especially in fast-growing areas such as Southeastern North Carolina, health care leaders are turning to the education programs to help recruit more doctors to the area.

Those programs have expanded in scope locally in recent years.

In March 2016, UNC School of Medicine opened a branch campus in Wilmington at NHRMC. Medical students who typically stayed for about four weeks for a clinical rotation became able to train in Wilmington for an entire year. In its first year, the branch campus hosted three third-year medical students. Those students completed their last two years of medical school in Wilmington before moving on to complete their residency programs.

Then, in 2021 as part of the NHRMC sale to Winston-Salem-based Novant Health, UNC significantly expanded its program, enhancing both medical education at the UNC Wilmington campus and clinical services and research at NHRMC.

At the time, the med students and residents were one part of the negotiations among the players interested in buying the

county-owned hospital. Among the other interested parties jockeying for NHRMC, Duke Health brought its medical academic credentials as a university-owned system to the table; Charlotte-based Atrium was in the midst of its partnership with Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Novant Health, which at the time did not have an academic partner, forged an agreement with UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine, pledging “to enhance medical education and clinical services” at NHRMC if Novant became the chosen buyer. Novant officials pointed out that the tie-in would expand the already long-time presence of UNC School of Medicine in New Hanover County.

“We have grown substantially since we first started. Currently, we are hosting 21 third-year medical students and 10 fourth-year medical students at our branch campus,” said Joseph Pino, associate dean and campus director for the UNC School of Medicine Wilmington campus and senior vice president of medical education for Novant Health.

Before the transition to this role, Pino served as vice president of graduate medical education at NHRMC.

“Our longer-term goal is to have 30 third-year students with nearly as many students staying for their fourth year of medical school by the year 2025,” Pino said about the local program.

Training to become a physician is long: four years of undergraduate school followed by four years of medical school, plus three to five years and sometimes up to seven years or more of postgraduate training. Through the growing academic partnership, medical leaders hope to retain the UNC graduates in residency programs and have them stay as practicing physicians in the region.

Pino noted that the United States needs more physicians and health care providers. Data reported by the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2021 identified a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034. That includes both primary care physicians and specialists.

Pino said it’s significant that medical students are now able to attend the Wilmington branch campus for their final

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years of medical school.

“It is important because they call Wilmington home. The students become invested in the community. They support the community through their training to care for patients, they do volunteer work and more,” he said.

Rebecca Purvis is a Novant Health

OB/GYN resident who spent her last two years of medical school at UNC School of Medicine’s Wilmington campus. Although she is moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, for three years for a maternal-fetal medicine fellowship, she and her husband are planning to return to the Wilmington area.

“This place feels like home. I loved the people, the nurses, the residents, the faculty and the patient population,” she said. “I knew I would receive excellent training as a resident, and I knew this is where I belonged. I definitely think one of the biggest attributes that attracts med students to study here is the location near the beach. And in regards to the hospital, there are less students and learners overall, so there are many more ways to get hands-on experience in smaller group learning environments.”

Pino said having doctors who choose to return to Wilmington is key for the local health care landscape.

“They know the culture of the community and will plant roots for many years to come,” he said. “We are creating a pipeline of future doctors.”

Students and resident physicians work alongside the hospital’s medical staff. Working together in the care of patients, the team engages in dialogue, asking questions and finding answers to how best to diagnose and treat patients.

“I was able to form close relationships to the attendings and residents who I worked with, which allowed me to feel comfortable asking questions while also gaining hands-on experience,” Purvis said.

The partnership between Novant Health and UNC has driven additional growth beyond the increased number of medical students at the Wilmington branch campus. Within the past two years, clinical research and pediatric subspecialty clinical

care has also expanded.

Novant Health is also developing a psychiatry residency program. Access to behavioral health care is challenging. Developing the pipeline of future behavioral health physicians has been a focus.

“With the growth of our community and the challenges from the pandemic, the demand for mental health care has increased,” Pino said. “We have received accreditation and approval to begin a psychiatry residency program with plans to recruit our first class of psychiatry resident physicians in July 2024. This program will be unique. We will be working with Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune to train both civilian and military psychiatry resident physicians. By doing so, we will increase the number of new psychiatrists serving our civilian and military populations.”

In addition to creating the psychiatry residency program, Novant Health is also in the process of creating a rural track for its family medicine residency program.

North Carolina has many concentrated populations with large rural areas in between metro areas with limited access to health care. Novant Health is partnering with UNC and Black River Health Services in Pender County to create this rural residency track.

“Our goal is to train family medicine resident physicians in rural Pender County,” Pino said. “There is good data to support that when physicians train in a rural area, they tend to practice in the rural area. It’s important to bring medical access closer to home serving rural North Carolina.”

The quality of care has impacts beyond the health system’s facilities. It also plays a key role in recruiting beyond just the medical field.

“With the growth of our region, we have seen a growing number of businesses and retirees in our area. Access to health care is important to both,” Pino said. “With our expanding branch campus and the creation of new physician training programs, we will expand the number of health care providers and access to care in our region.”

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JOSEPH PINO , associate dean and campus director for the UNC School of Medicine Wilmington campus and senior vice president of medical education for Novant Health
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“Liberty Senior Living is excited to once again sponsor ‘The Good Life’ – A Guide to Retirement Living in Coastal North Carolina. For almost 150 years, Liberty Healthcare Management, a Wilmington-based, familyowned organization, has been helping older adults manage their healthcare and residential needs. Our portfolio of communities throughout the Southeastern United States continues to grow as we expand our service offerings, which include communities for active adult living, independent living, assisted living, memory support and skilled nursing care. We have proudly served the Wilmington area for over 30 years and now have three communities to select from: Brightmore of Wilmington, Carolina Bay at Autumn Hall and our newest Active Adult Community, Inspire Brunswick Forest. We invite you to visit LibertySeniorLiving.com where you can learn more about all of our premier communities, which have been designed for active seniors who have high expectations for living life to the fullest and on their own terms. We look forward to welcoming you!”

Summer 2023 55 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
JUNE 2023 • ISSUE 2• $4.95
Want the Good Life all year long? Stay tuned in to GoodLifeWilmington.com for regular updates and sign up for free, weekly Good Life emails!

from the editor T Great place for a

Good Life

percentage of population growth in the country from 2021 to 2022, is preparing to welcome a wave of older adults moving to the area in “Brunswick Boom,” page 60.

It was my second time visiting Wilmington in six months, and after extolling the city’s virtues to anyone back home who would listen, I brought a friend along for this trip to the Port City. We strolled the downtown streets, popping into local shops and eating far more than three square meals a day. We chatted with locals who invited us along to a friend’s exhibition at an art gallery. We dipped our toes into the sand and stared out at the point on the horizon where the ocean meets the sky. Within a year, we had both relocated to the area, as did three other friends who traveled with me to Wilmington in 2013.

A decade later, we’re all still here. Why? Because this place offers all the makings of a truly good life, whether you’re a 23-year-old fresh out of college or an older adult ready to make the most of your golden years.

My friends and I were not alone in our move to the Cape Fear region. The population of Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties grew by more than 60,000 people from 2010 to 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. If you’re one of the tens of thousands of people moving (or considering a move) to the area, this issue of Good Life Wilmington can help you make some of the key decisions: Where should you live? How can you get involved in the community? Where can you shop, eat and play?

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find if you flip through these pages:

• Homes + Communities: Discover how Brunswick County, which boasted the sixth-highest

• Health + Wellness: Ready to get fit for your new life at the beach? Carolina Beach’s Sandy Sneakers (“Moving in the Right Circles,” page 68) is a local offshoot of the SilverSneakers program, and members cite benefits beyond better balance and increased endurance.

• Lifestyles + Connections: Whether you’re a history buff, art enthusiast or gardening guru, the area offers a plethora of volunteering opportunities for those looking to stay active and meet new people (“Helping Hands,” page 89).

• Food + Drink: Big things are happening northeast of Wilmington in Burgaw (“Burgaw’s Restaurant Renaissance,” page 98), where a local entrepreneur is hosting a nationwide competition to find the right owner for the third restaurant he plans to bring to the small town in a quest to spark its revival.

And there’s plenty more where that came from on the Good Life Wilmington website (goodlifewilmington.com); the publication is primarily online to make it easier for people in our community and beyond to find information they need. See a topic you want to see covered? Share your ideas with newsroom@ wilmingtonbiz.com.

Cheers to the good life!

Good Life Wilmington, Greater Wilmington Business Journal, WILMA magazine


Summer 2023 57 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com wilmington
his time 10 years ago, I was one of the many visitors drawn to Southeastern North Carolina each summer.


Photographer T.J. Drechsel met Mary Jaye McGowan at her Wrightsville Beach home to hit the water. McGowan, who enjoys water sports, stays active by stand-up paddleboarding and recently dominated her age group in the Carolina Cup. She shares her tips on staying active in the Wilmington area on page 87.

Summer 2023 59 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com wilmington CONTENTS SUMMER 2023 Homes + Communities 60 Groundwork for Growth 64 Making Moves Health + Wellness 68 Fellowship Through Fitness 76 21st-Century Caregiving 78 Mary Rudyk: Minding Memory Loss Lifestyles + Connections 80 Sports Report for New Fans 89 Helping Hands 95 Music as Medicine Food + Drink 98 Burgaw’s New Bites 106 Spices to Savor
the Cover

BOOM Brunswick

From Leland to Shallotte, Brunswick towns ready for influx of older adults

60 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Homes + Communities
in photos c/o Brunswick Forest

Even the most casual observer driving along U.S. 17 in Brunswick County can’t help noticing the volume and extent of new housing developments that are springing up along the corridor. A visitor to Shallotte will surely note the installation of water and sewer infrastructure in several key locations and the new streets under construction. Between Sunset Beach and Calabash, developers are turning previously vacant swaths into new neighborhoods.

Brunswick County is the fastestgrowing county in North Carolina and one of the 10 fastest-growing counties in the nation. Older adults are driving that growth. Statistics from North Carolina’s State Data Center show that the county’s older adult population more than doubled over a decade: from 24,001 in 2010 to 47,027 in 2020. The older adult population now accounts for 34.4% of the total population of Brunswick County.

Leland’s Brunswick Forest, the largest community development in the county, has benefited from this influx of older adults. It’s preparing to open a new 88-home neighborhood, Osprey Landing, according to Beth Burgee, the community’s marketing director. People who buy the lots will choose their builders from a list of approved providers, she said, adding that Osprey Landing will have a “coastal cottage” architectural style, which has proved popular in other neighborhoods such as Egret Cove.

“Lot prices start in the high $100,000s and each lot has either a water or a nature view,” Burgee said. “Each house has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a bonus room, and can be customized. Each will have a front porch and a screened back porch, which most people call a lanai.”

With its three fitness centers, pickleball and tennis courts, Cape Fear National Golf Course, nearly 100 miles of walking trails, four swimming pools and two community centers,

Brunswick Forest has proved a magnet for the predominant demographic moving into the county: active older adults. Mike and Tee Leffin are examples.

“Both Mike and I are very active,” Tee Leffin said, adding that Brunswick Forest’s amenities won them over when they scouted the Wilmington area several years ago. Not only are they avid pickleball players, but they also utilize the community’s fitness facilities and hope that exercise and wellness amenities will expand as Brunswick Forest’s population grows.

“We give kudos to the fitness and wellness center instructors,” she continued. “We both take full advantage of exercise classes.”

Being active and involved, of course, is an excellent way to make new friends. That has been the Leffins’ experience since moving from Madison, Wisconsin, into their Shelmore neighborhood in 2016.

“When we moved down here, we met so many new people and were so busy, our (adult) kids called this BFU – Brunswick Forest University,” Tee Leffin said with a laugh. “We also gained the ‘freshman 15.’ We have amazing friends, more and more people from all over.”

Steve and Barbara Bucci moved to Brunswick Forest from New Jersey in 2011, building their home in the Evangeline neighborhood the following year.

“We moved to this area primarily

Summer 2023 61 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Homes + Communities

Homes + Communities

When Tee and Mike Leffin moved to Brunswick Forest in 2016, they stayed so busy with new friends that their adult children began referring to their new neighborhood as Brunswick Forest University, or BFU.

62 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
Photo by Tarah Hoobler

for its access to the ocean; we moved to North Carolina because my sister lives in Raleigh,” Barbara Bucci said. “The amount of house and size of lot were more affordable here than in the Raleigh area.”

Easy access across the river to Wilmington and its medical community, its cultural life, its colleges and its Episcopal churches was another draw, the Buccis said.

“Another factor was (lower) property taxes, which allowed us to travel every year except during the pandemic,” Steve Bucci added.

In the 11 years they have lived in Brunswick Forest, the couple has seen Leland grow up around them.

“With all the people coming in, it felt inevitable that stuff was going to grow,” Steve Bucci said. “Now we’re getting a Lowe’s (Home Improvement) and more restaurants, although we go primarily to Wilmington for restaurants. People complain about the traffic, but moving from New Jersey and having a daughter in California, traffic doesn’t bother us. We have access to the Wilson Center and the amenities of the colleges, as well as Opera Wilmington.”

Like the Leffins, the Buccis appreciate how easy it has been to make new friends. They are also active users of the fitness facilities Brunswick Forest offers.

A very different kind of community further south is preparing for significant growth.

Shallotte, whose town limits lie mainly south of U.S. 17 and along the Shallotte River, is a municipality of about 5,000. Now, with approval or nearapproval of housing developments that would add another 2,000 units to the town’s housing stock, and discussions underway on proposals for another 600 or so, Mayor Walt Eccard said Shallotte wants to get out in front of a population explosion by creating adequate infrastructure and amenities.

“Our focus has been on several things: As we grow, we have concerns for green space and recreation areas for all our citizens, so we’re extending Mulberry Park to the river and adding another 10 acres. It’s all passive use: letting people enjoy the river and have

a good recreational space,” he said, noting also that the town is extending its riverwalk as well. While much of Shallotte’s population is “graying,” as Eccard puts it, the town wants to be an attractive place for young families as well.

“We also want to be a destination for more than shopping at our box stores,” he continued. “One of our goals is to convert transient traffic into traffic that spends more time here. So, we have a concert series every week in the summer and children’s programs this summer as well, for people who come down for a week at the beach and want other things to do, who want to spend a little more time in Shallotte. Currently, between the park and the riverfront, we have about 18 acres; when Mulberry Park is completed we will have over 25 acres. It’s a healthy investment in green space. We hope people will see there’s more to do in Shallotte than just shop.”

Eccard said a third goal is to preserve the character of the town and improve the appearance of Main Street, a landlocked state road that runs through the town center. Officials are working with the N.C. Department of Transportation on a traffic signalization project to try and relieve congestion and make the street more pedestrianfriendly.

The challenge, said Eccard, is that growth frequently takes place before revenues from growth flow into local coffers to support it. And from a planning point of view, he added, it’s never clear if all of the proposed developments will happen, especially in today’s climate of higher interest rates and tighter credit requirements. All the same, Shallotte is installing water and sewer, laying streets for new developments and thinking ahead to the needs for fire and police services.

The majority of Brunswick County beach towns are planning new housing developments. Whether those are single-family, multifamily or cluster developments depends on each municipality’s regulations, said Wes MacLeod, local government services director for the Cape Fear Council of Governments.

While there is not an official effort to

Homes + Communities

lure older adults to the county’s coastal towns, many of those housing units will be marketed toward retirees or people looking toward retirement, MacLeod said, noting that the median age of Sunset Beach and Calabash residents is in the upper 60s.

“I do think it is obviously things that are more tailored toward the retiree population, and that’s a lot of the folks that are moving to Brunswick County beach towns and along the coast,” he said.

Retiree housing preferences are driving changes in the types of housing being built across the county. Brunswick’s planning director Kirstie Dixon said that the county is successfully working with developers to encourage more planned developments. The result, she said, means more clustered housing that preserves open space, wildlife habitat and wetlands while avoiding building in floodplains.

As more senior citizens move to Brunswick County, Dixon said, “We’re definitely seeing a trend toward more townhomes and cluster developments. We’re also seeing more build-to-rent developments, with homes that could eventually be sold.”

Brunswick County Housing Snapshot

average sales price

total sales volume

$774,680,000 $699,690,000

Summer 2023 63 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
Source: Brunswick County Association of Realtors
A look at where the market stood earlier this year Jan - Apr 2023 Jan - Apr 2022 2,036 2,123 new listings $440,060 $440,865

Homes + Communities

64 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
Erin Keller, owner of Turn Key Lifestyle


Move managers help older adults tackle

For some, just the thought of moving sends our heart racing. For older adults, who have years of possessions tied to memories, downsizing may be even more emotional and overwhelming. Fortunately, there are experts at the ready. Carolina Move Managers and Turn Key Lifestyle in Wilmington, for example, help people relocate with compassion and dignity, reducing stress and saving time and money.

What’s a Move Manager?

A move manager is a professional moving organizer. They can handle all aspects of moving from assisting with decisions on downsizing, planning furniture placement, packing belongings, handling logistics and supervising the moving company to unpacking and placing everything in a new home.

Jane Roberts is owner of Carolina Move Managers. “I had a friend whose family helped set up our new home when I had a 3-month-old and a 2-yearold. From then on, whenever friends moved, I helped them when I could. When we moved to Wilmington, several older ladies at our church were thinking about moving and wondered who could help. They weren’t alone. Their friends needed help, too,” Roberts recalled.

Seeing the prospects for a business, Roberts joined the National Association of Senior Move Managers. She trained as a senior move manager in 2008 and obtained her certification in 2009.

Erin Keller, owner of Turn Key Lifestyle, grew up in a threegeneration military family. Always ready to move at a moment’s notice, she has made 18 moves in five states and two countries. “My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents became

masters of moving. They lived lean, surrounding themselves with intentional items that were functional, beautiful and sentimental,” she said.

Keller, who is also a certified senior move manager, launched her business in Montana in 2012. “Moving is a dynamic industry. We’ve learned how to pivot, be flexible and above all be compassionate,” she said.

Getting Started

According to Roberts, most folks just don’t know where to start. “Older adults are both excited and nervous, often moving for the first time without a spouse,” she said. “They need to be told how to start, and what to do next, and next and next.”

Roberts starts by visiting her clients’ homes. “We prepare for the move. We discuss what furniture goes to the new home. We measure everything – closets, cabinets and drawers – and develop to-scale floor plans of the new home,” Roberts said. “We become intentional about taking only what the new home will accommodate.”

In addition to retirees, Keller works with busy professionals. “Knowing someone is taking care of space planning, downsizing, packing and unpacking is a huge relief,” she said.

Downsizing is often a major

Summer 2023 65 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Homes + Communities
Photos by Madeline Gray & Terah Hoobler
one of life’s great transitions

By evening, the home is ready to welcome its new residents, and there isn’t a box in sight. The beds are made, the kitchen and baths are organized, the l iving room is decorated, and art is hung. It’s home right away.

priority for older adults in the midst of a move. “Americans, if they have means, likely have too much stuff,” said Roberts. Many of her clients have been in their homes for over 50 years. “They simply have no idea what to do with all of their possessions,” she said.

Consignment is an option for furniture in good shape and not dated. An estate sale is another. So is donation. Plenty of charitable agencies will pick up and tax writeoffs are often part of the solution. “We figure this out together,” Roberts said.

Keller poses essential questions to her clients: Will you use this in your new home? Where are these items going to live? These questions prompt decisions and encourage clients to let go. “Another powerful motivator to editing is reminding folks that the more there is to move, the more the move will cost,” Keller


Removing Stress & Saving Time

Move managers unpack and set up everything in a new home. “By evening, the home is ready to welcome its new residents, and there isn’t a box in sight. The beds are made, the kitchen and baths are organized, the living room is decorated, and art is hung. It’s home right away,” Roberts said.

Carolina Move Managers offers a choice of as few or as many of their services as a budget allows. “Hiring a move manager is a wonderful gift to yourself or a beloved parent,” Roberts said. “I hear that I don’t charge enough more often than I hear I have charged too much,” she added.

Roberts described the gratitude her clients express as a reward in and of itself. “Seeing my clients’

66 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Homes + Communities
“ “
Roberts, owner of Carolina Move Managers (shown above)

faces as they walk in the door of their new home and breathe a sigh – and sometimes cry – of relief is my most cherished moment,” Roberts said. “And what a privilege to become friends along the way.”

Keller advises that most people should not move on their own. “Moving is one of the top five life stressors. We’ve worked with lots of exhausted folks who call us after a move to finish unpacking and purge items that don’t fit in their new home. Hiring someone experienced in juggling logistics relieves that stress,” she said.

Keller also acknowledged that moving is time-consuming, a burden that move managers can help alleviate for clients. “A clear space plan results in a more efficient move. When furniture comes off the truck, we already know it will fit. There will not be multiple attempts at placement which adds unnecessary time. Our busy clients can focus their time and energy elsewhere,” she said.

George and Deborah Elam used Turn Key Lifestyle last June when they moved from Lansdowne Estates to Trinity Landing in Wilmington. They moved from a 2,400-square-foot, single-family home to a 1,560-squarefoot retirement community villa.

“We had accumulated a lifetime of sentimental stuff and we needed compassionate help to downsize. Understanding our emotions was imperative,” Deborah Elam said. “Making a move, especially later in life, is extremely stressful. Turn Key Lifestyle was exceptional and helped us avoid the hassles of moving.”

Like Roberts, Keller listed the relationships she forms with clients as a perk of the profession. “Getting to know so many wonderful people is the heart of our business. Our clients mean the world to us. We treasure them and love being a part of their move journey,” she said.

Roberts had this final piece of advice: “It will never be easier than it is right now. Waiting only makes the process more difficult. Do it while you can make your own decisions without being in a crisis.”

Summer 2023 67 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
Homes + Communities


in the right CIRCLES

Carolina Beach’s Sandy Sneakers provides fitness & friendship

Stroll along Carolina Beach Lake in the morning, and you’re apt to happen upon a lively group of older adults having a rollickin’ good time – and they are having all that fun exercising.

The group is the Sandy Sneakers, and they have held free exercise classes for seniors for three years. However, Sandy Sneakers is much more than a fitness group. It’s a community that welcomes and embraces each newcomer as one of their own.

“Sandy Sneakers keeps us moving and healthy,” said Jana Delengowski, a Sandy Sneakers member of two years. “At the same time, we make good friends. It’s something I really enjoy.”

Sandy Sneakers got its start during COVID. When the SilverSneakers classes at Assertive Athletics & Fitness fell victim to the pandemic, two members of the class, MJ Shalanski and Shannon Rowe, decided to keep the program going. They contacted the SilverSneakers class

68 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
Health + Wellness

members, made a database of the program’s exercises, changed the name to reflect the group’s new status and started holding classes outside twice a week.

The program is so successful it now holds four classes a week instead of two. Also, though the participants enjoy exercising outdoors, they now have an indoor option, the community center at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, when the weather is too hot or rainy.

Sandy Sneakers classes are still based on those developed by SilverSneakers, a national exercise program designed specifically for older adults. Consequently, each workout includes all the elements the 50+ group needs to maintain fitness. The members do lots of lunges and squats for lower body strength, use exercise bands to improve upper body strength and perform exercises to improve balance. The classes also include a cardio segment, which is something of a free-for-all. The exercisers do whatever strikes their fancy, whether that be jogging around the lake, marching in place or shaking their booties to the rockin’ tunes playing in the background.

The leaders occasionally add new exercises they think

will benefit their members. For example, they recently incorporated tai chi into the classes.

The women, and some men, work out at their own pace. Newbies can go slowly, while the more advanced can challenge themselves. Those who are injured can modify the exercises.

“Our group is varied in ability, age and physicality,” said Sue Flocco, who joined the group a year ago. “The leaders are good at giving modifications. They’ll tell you, ‘This will make it easier. This will make it harder.’”

Wherever Sandy Sneakers members are in their fitness journey, they find that they are accepted and supported.

“People are so kind,” Rowe said. “There’s no place for any malicious anything. We just try to lift each other up and encourage each other. It’s a very positive experience.”

The Sandy Sneakers exercise program may be informal, but it’s quite effective. Members report substantial gains in their fitness levels. Flocco said she can now easily heft a 20- or 40-bottle case of water into and out of the car; Delengowski thinks nothing of hopping on her bike for a long, strenuous ride; and Cathy McCormick, a two-year member,


Looking for resources to stay fit as you age? Here is a sampling of area offerings to help reap the benefits of physical activity for wellness in body and mind

Nir Family YMCA’s Active Older Adults

Approaching retirement age herself, Active Older Adults was headed up by the YMCA’s Jane Klippel to provide classes and events specifically targeted to the health needs of older adults. Opportunities for physical activity include pickleball lessons and games as well as walking clubs and chair aerobics, while programs designed to promote wellness in mind and spirit include card games, morning coffee chats and a new Adventure Club with outings in the community. ymcasenc.org/programs/ active-older-adults

Healthy Seniors Physical Therapy & Wellness

Opened by husband-and-wife team Christina and Ross Terry in 2020, Healthy Seniors Physical Therapy & Wellness specializes in issues facing patients ages 55 and older, including fall prevention; muscle weakness; hip, knee and shoulder issues; spine injuries and cancer rehabilitation. In addition to physical therapy, the business launched the Silver Fox Wellness Club to help older adults stay healthy with group fitness classes and personal training sessions. healthyseniorspt.com


Opening in The Pointe at Barclay in the summer of 2023, StretchLab is a California-based fitness concept brought to Wilmington by Henry and Ada Gonzalez, who own three StretchLab locations in Raleigh. At an initial session, new members are assigned a “flexologist” who determines their physical needs and designs a customized stretching program for them. Most customers attend one session per week, where stretches are facilitated by StretchLab’s flexologists for maximum impact.


Summer 2023 69 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Health + Wellness


Judy Budd, who described herself as “(78) going on 55,” retired in 2021 from a varied career that included stints in sales and publishing as well as entrepreneurial endeavors.

Career description: “I’ve had a varied career. The best years were my last jobs as associate publisher and sales manager at the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and WILMA magazine (sister publications to Good Life Wilmington). I also owned a print shop, was vice president of operations for a medical products company and was district sales manager, reservations sales manager, administrative services manager and personnel representative for United Airlines along with a few other entrepreneurial endeavors.”

How long have you lived in the Wilmington area? “We moved from California to Wilmington in 2004.”

Why did you choose to retire here? “My husband decided that he wanted to return to the East Coast. My requirements were that I could still work, play golf, shop and not be stuck in the middle of nowhere. He visited Wilmington at the suggestion of one of his sons and he really liked it. We vacationed here the following year, and I fell in love with it also. We went back to California and put our house on the market. It sold right away, and we settled here two months later.”

Any professional work that you still do? “Yes! One of the items on my retirement bucket list was to create a networking directory. Realizing a book would no longer work in this digital world, I worked with Jenna Curry Way to create Connectcapefear.com, a comprehensive resource directory for residents and newcomers to find ways to get involved with our community. This has turned into quite a project as more has been included than just networking. Some weeks I am working almost as many hours as I did prior to my retirement.”

What community activities are you involved in?

“Currently I volunteer with the Willie Stargell Foundation Celebrity Invitational golf tournament and the American Heart Association. I have volunteered at other organizations when the need arises and have sat on several boards before retirement.”

Favorite spots of any kind in the region? “Of course the beach is always on top of the list, especially first thing in the morning or late afternoon. The ocean helps the soul.”

said stairs are no longer a challenge.

Many members also find the program gives them more stamina, so much so that they can stay ahead of the little ones gracing their lives.

“It gives me the energy to run around with my grandson,” said Jane Price, a one-year Sandy Sneakers member. “I was chasing him in his little car. I took him to the museum. I can just keep up with him better.”

Sandy Sneakers has even helped stave off surgeries. Rowe said a number of the members learned they don’t need knee replacement surgery yet. Others, who have had surgery, say the program helps keep the problem area strong.

Getting a good workout is one thing. Finding friends while you do so is another, and it would be hard to find a friendlier group than Sandy Sneakers. Unsuspecting strangers, whether they are walking in the park or enjoying a drink at the American Legion, as well as friends, are recruited. Snowbirds who drop in for the winter are welcomed like longlost relatives.

The newcomers are introduced and invited to join the group’s monthly luncheons and impromptu breakfast meetings. As a result, they soon find people to do things with who share their interests. Outings include going shelling and to the movies, playing trivia, attending local festivals, going out for drinks and more.

“I went, and I just fell in love with how welcoming and lovely these people are,” Price said. “They introduce themselves and make you feel like part of a family from the start.”

Sandy Sneakers friends are there for each other when life goes awry as well as for the good times. Delengowski said that when she had surgery, her fellow exercisers brought her dinner and spent time with her, conversing and playing games, until she could get back to classes.

“If you joined a gym, you aren’t part of a community,” she said. “They don’t say, ‘We miss you,’ and check to see if you are okay.”

It needn’t be a debilitating physical injury to mobilize the Sandy Sneakers either. Rowe says the group works as a safety net if someone is having a tough time emotionally too.

“If you are having a rough day or it’s the anniversary of the death of a loved one, all a Sandy Sneakers member has to do is call one of us, and we do something.”

Not surprisingly, Sandy Sneakers is growing. It has doubled its membership, and one member started a second group in Calabash.

However, no matter how the group evolves, it will continue to fulfill its unique mission: to provide all the benefits of exercise and help older adults enjoy vibrant, connected lives.

“We want to keep people involved,” Rowe said, “and get as many people who need this to join us.”

70 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Health + Wellness
72 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Senior Living Choices offered by Liberty Senior Living INDEPENDENT LIVING | ASSISTED LIVING | MEMORY CARE 2324 S 41st Street Wilmington, NC 28403 INDULGE your palate & your passions © 2023 Brightmore of Wilmington
more about senior living at BrightmoreOfWilmington.com
schedule a visit at 910.507.7384.
On any
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a range of options to fuel your passions, meet new friends and enjoy a lifestyle rich with interesting
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Liberty Healthcare is a Wilmington based, family-owned company that has been helping people manage their healthcare and residential needs for more than 145 years. Principal owners, Sandy and Ronnie McNeill, are proud to call this area home, and are the fifth generation of the McNeill family that has been immersed in the healthcare industry. The company founders, who opened their first pharmacy in 1875, established Liberty’s core values of quality, honesty, and integrity that guide us to this day.

Liberty Healthcare is a Wilmington based, family-owned company that has been helping people manage their healthcare and residential needs for more than 145 years.

Principal owners, Sandy and Ronnie McNeill, are proud to call this area home, and are the fifth generation of the McNeill family that has been immersed in the healthcare industry. The company founders, who opened their first pharmacy in 1875, established Liberty’s core values of quality, honesty, and integrity that guide us to this day.



Liberty Senior Living is the development and operations management company for Liberty’s senior living division. We oversee the development, financing, acquisition and operation of independent living, assisted living memorycare and Life Plan Communities. For more than 30 years, Liberty Senior Living has been offering seniors access to a full continuum of services in luxury communities built in some of the most desirable locations in the Southeast. With two locations here in Wilmington, Carolina Bay at Autumn Hall and Brightmore of Wilmington which includes The Kempton and The Commons on

Liberty Senior Living is the development and operations management company for Liberty’s senior living division. We oversee the development, financing, acquisition and operation of independent living, assisted living memorycare and Life Plan Communities. For more than 30 years, Liberty Senior Living has been offering seniors access to a full continuum of services in luxury communities built in some of the most desirable locations in the Southeast. With two locations here in Wilmington, Carolina Bay at Autumn Hall and Brightmore of Wilmington which includes The Kempton and The Commons on

the Brightmore campus, Liberty Senior Living is posed for growth and a continued commitment to helping seniors live life to their fullest.

the Brightmore campus, Liberty Senior Living is posed for growth and a continued commitment to helping seniors live life to their fullest.



Liberty Senior Living communities have been designed for active seniors. They are filled with fabulous amenities and an abundance of activities for promoting physical, mental, social, educational and spiritual well-being. We have specifically designed and/or acquired communities that are able to offer our residents whole-person wellness, distinctive dining, life enrichment, and top-class amenities and services. With the active senior in mind, Liberty has branched out into the Active Adult division. Our first community, Inspire Coastal Grand, opened in Myrtle Beach, SC in 2021. Inspire Royal Park will open in Matthews, NC in June 2022. Our future location near Brunswick Forest in Leland, NC will open in 2023.

Liberty Senior Living communities have been designed for active seniors. They are filled with fabulous amenities and an abundance of activities for promoting physical, mental, social, educational and spiritual well-being. We have specifically designed and/or acquired communities that are able to offer our residents whole-person wellness, distinctive dining, life enrichment, and top-class amenities and services. With the active senior in mind, Liberty has branched out into the Active Adult division. Our first community, Inspire Coastal Grand, opened in Myrtle Beach, SC in 2021. Inspire Royal Park will open in Matthews, NC in June 2022. Our future location near Brunswick Forest in Leland, NC will open in 2023.

Our community and service offerings combine housing, health care, hospitality, and ancillary services. Our senior living communities offer residents a state-of-the-art home-like setting, assistance with activities of daily living and, in some communities, licensed skilled nursing services. We also provide ancillary services including home

Our community and service offerings combine housing, health care, hospitality, and ancillary services. Our senior living communities offer residents a state-of-the-art home-like setting, assistance with activities of daily living and, in some communities, licensed skilled nursing services. We also provide ancillary services including home


health, hospice, in-patient shortterm rehabilitation, long-term care, and out-patient services to residents in many of our communities as well as seniors living outside of our communities. We offer our residents the opportunity to “age-in-place” by providing a full range of service options as their needs change. With a diverse range of community and service offerings, we are positioned to take advantage of favorable demographic trends over time.


One of our core values at Liberty is whole-person wellness, the integration of a person’s multiple dimensions, including physical, nutritional, spiritual, social and intellectual, into positive beliefs

“At Liberty Senior Living, we offer all sorts of activities. There are classes and cooking demonstrations, outings and social groups, concerts or movies, lifelong learning opportunities, book clubs, women clubs and walking clubs,”

Haley Norris, Regional Wellness and Enrichment Director.

and meaningful activities. We encourage all of our residents to participate in this program. Our goal is to help our residents remain at their highest level of functional abilities, and even to improve their fitness and wellness once they move into one of our communities. Wellness is not just about

physicality. We know that engagement and socialization play a crucial role in the mental health and wellbeing of our residents. Isolation can diminish the immune system and have other negative impacts on physical and emotional health.

Our wellness facilities and equipment are state-of-the-art, and all of our wellness instructors are certified. Energetic instructors conduct both land and water classes, as well as training on the stationary equipment. Classes are tailored to residents’ requests and participation, from yoga to tai chi, water aerobics to line dancing. Residents design their own community program based on their interests, and our wellness instructors are also available for coaching and personal training upon request.



Liberty’s Senior Living communities offer distinctive dining and a remarkable range of culinary choices for residents and their guests. The various venues and menus afford residents a wide range of healthy, dining options. Best of all, our communities offer dining dollars or a declining monthly balance which are including the monthly rent that can be used at the residents’ discretion. This policy allows residents the flexibility to dine out with friends without paying for meals they are not eating at the community.


As a resident of a Liberty Senior Living community, you’ll let go of house and yard upkeep and embrace all the services and amenities we offer to ensure your comfort, convenience and safety.


· fully equipped fitness center complete with a salt water pool and hot tub

· a professionally staffed day spa and salon

· multiple dining venues; several living rooms, libraries and game rooms

· plus an art studio and various meeting spaces

· onsite security and emergency response services, giving both you and your family invaluable peace of mind

· weekly cleaning

· grounds maintenance and landscaping

· concierge services

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new talents & new friends

On any given day, you’ll find a range of options to fuel your passions, meet new friends and enjoy a lifestyle rich with interesting and exciting educational and engaging programs. Learn more about senior living at CarolinaBayAtAutumnHall.com or schedule a visit at 910.541.8538.

On any given day, you’ll find a range of options to fuel your passions, meet new friends and enjoy a lifestyle rich with interesting and exciting educational and engaging programs. Learn more about senior living at CarolinaBayAtAutumnHall.com or schedule a visit at 910.541.8538

Summer 2023 75 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com INDEPENDENT LIVING | ASSISTED LIVING | MEMORY SUPPORT SKILLED NURSING | REHABILITATION 630 Carolina Bay Drive Wilmington, NC 28403
A Life Plan Community offered by Liberty Senior Living INDEPENDENT LIVING | ASSISTED LIVING | MEMORY SUPPORT SKILLED NURSING | REHABILITATION 630 Carolina Bay Drive Wilmington, NC 28403
© 2023 Carolina Bay at Autumn Hall A Life Plan Community offered by Liberty Senior Living

for assistance an APP

On-demand caregiving available in Wilmington

For this on-demand society, Neal Shah has created a service that meets a need in the caregiving sector while providing experience for students working towards careers in health care.

Based out of Research Triangle Park, CareYaya launched in late 2021 to provide an affordable caregiving option through a web-based app. Now, the service has expanded

to the Wilmington area.

CareYaya, like Uber and DoorDash, provides a service at one’s fingertips, connecting those in need of companionship, housekeeping, meal preparation or grooming with personalized caregivers from area colleges and universities.

Those in need of care, either for themselves or for their loved ones, can use the CareYaya interface to request assistance and vetted services from local students studying health


“Caregivers can provide companionship for mom or dad, help with daily tasks, meal prep, help with laundry or mobility, help with getting around, perhaps it is just a walk around the neighborhood. They are matched with our pre-health students; just book the number of hours you need and it is super affordable,” Shah said.

Care through CareYaya costs $15 an hour with no fees or minimum hours. Many

local care agencies charge $30 an hour and require a minimum of 20 hours per week.

When booking a CareYaya caregiver, the user selects the dates and times that are needed, chooses whether they prefer a male or female provider and indicates what services are needed.

“A tech-first solution like CareYaya is preferred by the younger demographic of caregivers,” Shah said.

“When it comes time for these folks to take care of

76 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Homes + Communities
photo c/o CareYaya

Homes + Communities

their aging parents, they want an online solution that’s fast, reliable, has reviews and quality assurance, a robust system of tech-enabled booking, notes-taking and online payments.”

All student caregivers have background checks, go through an onboarding process to ensure emotional empathy and have their status as a student at a current university verified.

After dealing with his own health care challenges caring for ill loved ones, Shah saw the need for quality and affordable caregiving options and decided to build CareYaya to fill the need.

“I became obsessed with fixing this problem for those who can’t afford the help or do not like the quality,” Shah said. “A lot of people in midlife are taking care of an ill spouse or a parent and in this age of Uber, ondemand delivery, why not a high-quality, convenient way to help people?”

By using a network of college students who plan to go into health care, CareYaya gives them relevant experience and a way to give back to the community while making money to fund their education.

“Many of these students were doing food delivery because they couldn’t commit to full-time work, but what a waste of talent,” Shah said. “Now, they can, in a DoorDash, Uber-like way, make use of their skills in a way that works around their schedules.”

“There is a massive shortage of eldercare workers, and this need brings thousands of college students into the workforce,” Shah added.

The app uses GPS technology so caregivers can be tracked to the minute, and users know when they will arrive.

“CareYaya addresses an affordability issue as well as the health equity and health disparity component,” Shah said. “This can serve a lot of people who can’t afford an agency.”

Care services can be booked online at careyaya.org. CareYaya is not a licensed home care agency, as defined by the North Carolina state law.

This story appeared in a recent Good Life Wilmington newsletter. To sign up for the free, weekly email, go to goodlifewilmington.com.

Summer 2023 77 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
78 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Health + Wellness

minding memory loss

A local geriatrician shares insight on how to proceed with

mild cognitive impairment

Sometimes a word is on the tip of your tongue but you can’t find it, or you go into a room only to have forgotten why you went there.

These can be signs of normal aging, but when they occur more frequently or escalate, then it could be mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. By itself, mild cognitive impairment doesn’t cause you to make any major changes in your day-to-day life. You can still drive, enjoy your hobbies and carry on with your social life.

For people diagnosed with this, about 15% will go on to develop dementia (a general term for loss of memory) that is severe enough to interfere with daily living, and in about five to seven years, about one-third will develop Alzheimer’s disease.


Evidence indicates that following a healthy diet can help. The MIND diet, which is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) can be effective in slowing further decline.

Exercise: Both mental and physical, at least five days a week and 30 minutes for each session. There is good evidence that moderate intensity physical exercise helps slow decline.

Cognitive exercise is also important. Find what you like to do and ensure that it is cognitively challenging. Social activities are also important to maintain.

Medication: None to date cure this, but some have been shown to be effective at lessening symptoms like depression, insomnia and appetite changes. New drugs called disease modifiers present an exciting development for patients with MCI or early Alzheimer’s disease.

It is important to seek medical attention if you have MCI because it could be caused by something that could be reversed such as inappropriate medications, or other medical conditions such as thyroid disease or sleep apnea. But more importantly, there are ways to manage MCI and ways to slow cognitive decline.

In the United States, between 5 to 7 million people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The older person is more often affected, as about 42% of those over the age of 85 have some sort of dementia with Alzheimer’s disease being the most prominent.

Research continues into the etiology of this disease and age, family history, environmental factors, genetics and immune system are being evaluated. There is no cure, but there are ways to slow further cognitive decline.


Any skills lost may not be regained, but the following tips may help you and your family:

• Plan a balanced program of physical and cognitive exercise, social activity and good nutrition.

• Plan daily activities that provide structure, meaning and meet goals.

• As the person is less able to function, change activities and routines so they can participate.

• Allow the person to do as much as possible for themselves.

• Give cues to help. For example, label drawers, cabinets and closets to let them know what is in them.

• Keep them safe by removing risks, such as turning off the stove or removing car keys.

As a caregiver, understand your own physical and emotional limits. Take care of yourself and ask for help if you need it.


It is important for all of us to make decisions regarding who we would want to be our power of attorney for finances and health care as well as ensuring our family is aware of what we want done regarding a living will.

This is imperative to do when you have been diagnosed with MCI or early Alzheimer’s disease. This will help your family understand your wishes while you can still make sound decisions.

As mentioned earlier, Alzheimer’s disease cannot be cured, but understanding it and what to expect can help you and your family make the best decisions for treatment.

If you think you may have some memory problems, please see your primary care doctor. They can do a cognitive assessment and listen to your concerns as a starting point.

Summer 2023 79 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Health + Wellness
Mary Rudyk is a geriatric medicine specialist with Senior Health Associates and geriatrician with Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center. She has owned an internal and geriatric medicine practice in New Hanover County for more than 25 years.
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Lifestyles + Connections


teams the

the Cape Fear region has a long, disjointed history with professional sports. Dating back to the early 1900s, minor league baseball teams have come and gone. The earlier parts of this century saw the arrival and departure of professional soccer.

At present, the rapidly growing Cape Fear region is without a professional sports franchise. But that may be about to change – maybe.

In Leland, a project involving a new stadium is proposed to bring a Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team to the area, and in Wilmington, there are hopes for the return of a professional soccer franchise to Legion Stadium. Both projects have had initial interactions with local municipal governments, and, while both have their supporters, both also face hurdles in financing.


Plans for an entertainment district in Leland have been pitched, with the proposed centerpiece

being a 3,500-seat baseball stadium with adjacent shopping, restaurants and office space. A 25-acre site, currently outside of Leland’s town limits off of U.S. 17, is owned by Jackeys Creek Investors LLC. The project, if approved, likely would see Leland annexing the site.

Economic upsides to such projects like job creation and tax-base enhancement are often cited as reasons for municipalities to invest tax dollars and assume debt to finance their construction. In April, Brunswick County officials dealt a blow to the Leland project when they announced that the county will not invest in the project, stating that there would “be no bond issue and no tax increase” to pay for the stadium.

In a news release following Brunswick County’s April announcement, County Commissioners Chairman Randy Thompson said, “We still believe this proposed project has great merit and could potentially provide the desired entertainment, shopping and dining options our residents have asked for over the years. While

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Photos by Logan

Lifestyles + Connections

82 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
Wilmington Sharks general manager John Hunt joins fans at the team’s season opener May 25.

Brunswick County has decided to not take on debt to finance this particular project, our staff continue to work with all parties involved to find other ways to fund this concept.”

Some Leland town officials remain optimistic about the future of the baseball stadium and surrounding development. In an email statement in early June, county spokesperson Jessica Jewell said that the town is awaiting the results of an economic feasibility study regarding the project, which they hope to have later this summer.

The Texas Rangers of Major League Baseball (MLB), via its parent company REV Entertainment, is involved in the Leland project proposing to bring a MiLB team to the region.

The Rangers currently have affiliations with the Hickory Crawdads of the Southern League and the Down East Wood Ducks of the Carolina League. While no formal announcements regarding a potential Leland-based team have been made, the Rangers potentially relocating one of their affiliates to the Cape Fear would be the likely scenario if a deal is reached.

There are currently 120 MiLB teams, and the leagues and teams comprising MiLB act as the primary feeder system for MLB franchises.


The Wilmington Hammerheads ceased operation of its professional soccer team following its 2017 season in the Premier Development League, the fourth tier of professional soccer in the United States.

Now, the group USL One to Wilmington is working to bring soccer back to the Cape Fear region.

“What we are about is trying to figure out, ‘Wilmington is a great place for outdoor events. What can we co-create together where we can have a lot more of those outdoor events?’” said Chris Mumford, managing partner of USL One to Wilmington. “That’s an open question, and I look forward to getting that sorted out.”

Mumford is a professor of practice at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He played soccer at UNC under legendary coach Anson Dorrance, best known for bringing 21 NCAA titles to Chapel Hill with the school’s women’s team, but who coached both the men’s and women’s Tar Heels squads in the 1970s and ’80s.

USL One to Wilmington’s goal is to have a USL One team – U.S. soccer’s third-tier professional league –play at Legion Stadium. The group’s concept includes the construction of a shipping-container food hall on the complex’s grounds to make the venture an economically viable enhancement to the community.

“With the food hall, we’ll buy the shipping containers, and we’ll outfit them to about 90%,” Mumford said. “Then we will identify some local restaurateurs, and hopefully, we can find a couple of grads from the culinary institutes at the community colleges, with the idea that they build up a bit of a following, and then they can rent space from us


Richard and Belinda Morrison, ages 86 and 84 respectively, relocated to Wilmington after Richard Morrison retired from Eli Lilly and Company in 1994, a 30-year career that allowed the couple to live in eight countries. Richard Morrison’s experience managing business in more than 70 countries during his time with Eli Lilly opened the door for his second career in Wilmington, where he taught management and international business full time for the University of Wilmington North Carolina’s Cameron School of Business for 18 years. In addition to boating, a longtime hobby of the couple, the Morrisons are active with their church and enjoy frequent visits from their four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Hometowns: Gowrie, Iowa, and Carthage, Texas

Any professional work that you still do now? “Richard is still on one corporate software board and still involved with UNCW in the international arena.”

How long have you lived in the Wilmington area? “We have been in the Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach area for 36 years.”

Why did you choose to retire here? “We came here to visit friends who were living in Lions Gate in 1986 and we loved the area, so we bought our vacation home shortly after that visit.”

What community activities are you involved in? “We are members of Seapath Yacht Club and The Surf Club, enjoying boating and social activities.”

What do you recommend for others moving here who want to be involved with the community? “We both highly recommend water-associated activities and encourage others to be involved in boating, etc.”

Any restaurant picks? “South Beach Grill for seafood, Roko Italian Cuisine for Italian, The Surf Club for great meals.”

Favorite spots of any kind in the region? “The beach at Wrightsville Beach; Wilson Center and Thalian Hall; restaurants mentioned above; our church, Wrightsville United Methodist Church.”

Summer 2023 83 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
Lifestyles + Connections
Richard & Belinda Morrison

home state teams

Professional teams in North Carolina, with games a short drive from Wilmington or a click away on the TV

Minor League Baseball

DURHAM BULLS AAA affiliate of Tampa Bay Rays – Durham Bulls Athletic Park (2 hours, 15 minutes from Wilmington)

Info: milb.com/durham

CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS AAA affiliate of Chicago White Sox – Truist Field (3 hours, 22 minutes from Wilmington)

Info: milb.com/charlotte-knights


– PNC Arena (2 hours, 2 minutes from Wilmington)

Info: nhl.com/hurricanes

with the idea of building their following, where it’s not a five- or 10-year lease, which is what kills most restaurants where they can test their menu out and pivot along the way.

“The idea,” Mumford added, “is that we always want to have a couple of those that people can come in and give it a go for six months, a year, two years, with the idea that we’re going to provide additional entrepreneurship support with marketing, finances and good old-fashioned blocking and tackling so that then we can move them on and they can start other restaurants and businesses around town.”

While USL One to Wilmington approached the city of Wilmington about improvements to the Legion Stadium grounds, its concept does not include the same reliance on public financing sought for the Leland baseball project.

professional-aspiring collegiate players has graced the diamond at Buck Hardee Field at Legion Stadium each summer since 1997. (Another collegiate-level team, the Brunswick Surfin’ Turfs in the Old North State League, began playing in 2021 and calls Brunswick Community College’s Founders Field home in the summer.)

The Sharks are owned and operated by Kansas-based National Sports Services who acquired the franchise in 2017. National Sports Services also has proposed to local government officials improvements to Legion Stadium, including infrastructure and amenities upgrades to enhance the fan experience.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS – Spectrum Center (3 hours, 20 minutes from Wilmington)

Info: nba.com/hornets

CHARLOTTE FC – Bank of America Stadium (3 hours, 21 minutes from Wilmington)

Info: charlottefootballclub.com



– Bank of America Stadium (3 hours, 21 minutes from Wilmington)

Info: panthers.com

“My sense is that we have to find a municipal partner that wants to invest into a pro soccer team,” Mumford said. “I don’t think that means enormous bond issuances because, that’s not what we’re about, and I don’t know that the market supports that.

“We are committed to finding local investors that are committed to the balance between having more money come in and go out and fully appreciate the impact a pro soccer team and food hall could have on the whole city. So we’re spending time identifying local investors that make sense.”

USL One to Wilmington had hoped to have a team in place for the 2024 season, but deadlines set by U.S. Soccer have pushed a potential inaugural season further into the future.


The region’s most steady baseball presence in recent memory is the Wilmington Sharks of the wooden-bat Coastal Plain League. The team of

“What’s interesting is that the facility is used by us, the New Hanover County High School program and by the American Legion program,” said Matt Perry, president of National Sports Services. “Within that, there’s always a discussion as to what are the priorities with the renovations.

“We’re a private-sector operator of a business that’s growing that needs more capacity for growing crowds, and that’s not necessarily what benefits the high school or the American Legion,” Perry added. “That’s not their priority. So a big part of it is trying to figure out what things benefit all parties and figuring out what things that we need that maybe don’t benefit other programs, and how do we pay for that.”

The impact of the proposed stadium in Leland, as well as USL One to Wilmington’s soccer-andfood hall project, are unknown, but Perry sees the interest in higher-level sports in the region as a feather in the cap to the Sharks’ successes.

“What we’re doing probably signals to others that the market can support fans if done right,” Perry said. “For us, we have a long history there, and we hope we’re there for another 25 years.”

84 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Lifestyles + Connections
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86 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com


Mary Jaye McGowan

Lifestyles + Connections

Originally from Bakersfield, California, this issue’s cover model Mary Jaye McGowan lives in Wrightsville Beach, where the 65-yearold enjoys water sports such as stand-up paddleboarding and water skiing. In fact, McGowan recently took the top prize among stand-up paddleboarders ages 60+ for one of the courses in the Carolina Cup, an annual race held in Wrightsville Beach that draws competitors from all over. McGowan’s favorite pastime is to paddle to nearby Masonboro Island, an uninhabited, undeveloped barrier island south of Wrightsville Beach that’s only accessible by water. On the island, McGowan likes to jog a few miles while hunting for sea glass and shells.

Career description: Accountant/personal executive assistant

How are you preparing for retirement? Lessening work responsibilities, working toward being completely debt-free, finishing desired house remodeling projects

How long have you lived in the Wilmington area? 45 years

What do you recommend for others moving here who want to be involved with the community? Volunteer where you have interest: church, schools, elections

How did you get started with stand-up paddleboarding? Built a home in a new waterfront community where I could easily store and launch a paddleboard. It’s a great way to get exercise and quick, easy access to island exploration.

What else do you do to stay active? Jogging, yoga, weightlifting, walking, water skiing

What advice do you have for other older adults in the area looking to stay active? Just start somewhere! Pick a favorite spot and invite a friend to walk with you. We are so blessed to have access to our beautiful Atlantic beaches. These are fantastic places to walk, and you can shell hunt while doing so. Take lessons at community centers. Try out some exercise classes at local gyms. Try yoga on the Crystal Pier. It’s an incredible way to start off your day as the sun is rising over the ocean.

Favorite way to spend an evening out and about? We enjoy going to concerts, especially at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, with a tailgate dinner prior.

Any restaurant picks? Best consistent food and service: True Blue Butcher and Table. For atmosphere and convenience: The Oceanic.

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photo by T.J. Drechsel
88 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com



helping HANDS

A look at the varied volunteering opportunities across the Wilmington region

deliver posters and season magazines to businesses, restaurants, doctor’s offices, hair salons and real estate offices.

“We could not exist without our volunteers. No one would be able to afford a ticket if we had to pay employees to do all of the jobs that our volunteers do. Without volunteers, Wilmington would not have the Wilson Center,” said Orton.

The volunteers at the Wilson Center range in age from 18 to 99 years old.

They are all extremely valuable helping our theater operations to be top notch,” she said.

New volunteers are trained annually. Applications are accepted year-round and are reviewed in May to fill specific positions as needs change each year. A training session is held every August.

to pursue a passion or talent left on the back burner during the busy mid-life years spent focused on career and family.

Looking for the right opportunity to get involved? Helping Hands is a monthly column on the Good Life Wilmington website (goodlifewilmington.com) that spotlights volunteer opportunities for older adults across the Wilmington area. Here’s a selection of recent columns, including options for history buffs, art enthusiasts and gardening gurus.


According to Kathleen Orton, volunteer coordinator at Cape Fear Community College’s Wilson Center, it’s the 450 active volunteers who really run the place.

Volunteers can be found all over the center from manning the guest services desk to giving tours. On event nights, volunteers collect parking fees, assist guests through security and help them find their seats, serve concessions in private opera boxes and even serve meals to the artists backstage. When not helping with a show, volunteers

“Our senior volunteers understand how to make someone feel welcomed, valued and understood. What more could you want from a host at a theater like the Wilson Center?” Orton said.

Married couple Kathy and Jeff Denlinger began volunteering in November 2017 after retiring from corporate positions in Pennsylvania. They were in the very first group of trained volunteers when the center opened. Kathy Denlinger has volunteered at guest services, sold merchandise and worked in concessions, but her favorite role is her current one: floor captain.

“I am responsible for the ushers and hospitality hosts on one of the three floors. I wear a mic so I can communicate with the other floor captains. My role is to make sure the guest experience goes smoothly before, during and after every show,” she said.

Jeff Denlinger enjoys working in concessions.

“I like the camaraderie, and I enjoy helping guests. I get a kick out of the whole experience,” he said.

Orton has trained thousands of volunteers. She can teach anyone how to do the majority of the jobs in less than three minutes. “We do our best to keep volunteer jobs simple. That doesn’t mean the jobs aren’t important.

“If you can stand on your feet for two hours, walk up and down stairs, read a ticket and smile when the going gets tough,” Orton said, “you will be happy here as a volunteer.”


Battleship North Carolina docks proudly in the Cape Fear River across from downtown Wilmington. Opened to the public in October 1961, it is an authentically restored World War II battleship and the state memorial to 11,000 North Carolinians who gave their lives in World War II.

When Kim Sincox, museum services director for the past 32 years, was just 10 years old, she sported a patriotic dress and stepped onto the battleship for the very first time while on a family vacation. Today, she is responsible for the programs held on the ship and 200

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early 1 in 4 older adults volunteer, according to the most recent statistics on volunteerism from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The benefits are numerous; volunteering allows older adults to stay active, socialize and make a difference in the lives of others. Sometimes, it allows retirees
photo c/o Battl e s h i p htroN aniloraC

Lifestyles + Connections

volunteers who range in age from 18 to 96 years old. Most of them are older adults.

“These retirees enrich our community and are essential to our ship. They come from all walks of life –detectives, secret service agents, sales personnel, teachers, doctors, engineers and military personnel,” Sincox said. “They are incredibly smart, enthusiastic, reliable and willing to do anything.”

Volunteers paint and clean weekly and provide daily guided tours and staff programs for students, families, military personnel and corporate groups. Tour guides and ambassadors attend training classes while program volunteers do their own research in the ship’s archives. Many dabble in several positions.

Nine-year volunteer Chuck Gore, retired naval officer and second-grade teacher, is the teak deck cleaning coordinator. “I love history. I can’t get enough of World War II. I bring this knowledge to the visitors. I also enjoy the camaraderie among the volunteers,” he said.

David Holloway, retired naval officer,

remembers donating nickels and dimes as a school kid to bring the battleship to Wilmington. He also recalls talking with his teenage friends saying, “If I retire and come back to Wilmington, I will paint the battleship.”

Holloway came back to Wilmington after active duty as a navigator, a nursing career and serving in the military reserves. He started volunteering in 2017 as his way of giving back.

Holloway said he enjoys observing the school kids on tours of the ship using the sound-powered phones. When crews were at battle stations, the principal means for rapid and reliable voice communication within the ship was sound-powered phones. As the name implies, the phones are solely energized by the voice of the speaker. They were used for both incoming and outgoing messages to the crew. Hands-on fun for school group tours includes trying out the phones.

“I tell them to remember they have a strong voice because it’s their voice that powers the phone set,” he said.

Lori Spencer is a docent in the ship’s

butcher shop and “cabooses” guided tours. She retired from teaching junior high math for 40 years.

“This is a truly great place to volunteer. I have enjoyed it for eight years. There are lots of volunteer opportunities. Your choice,” Spencer said.


One walk through Airlie Gardens’ 67 acres of formal gardens replete with

90 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
photoc/oNew Hano v e r C o ytnu skraP snedraG&

butterflies, native Carolina wildlife, lakes and the centuries-old Airlie Oak is all it takes to hook many of the volunteers who help keep the site operational.

“Many of our volunteers signed up after they had visited the gardens,” said Janine Powell, director of donor relations. “They fall in love with Airlie and want to help in any way they can.”

There are many ways to volunteer at the gardens. Gift shop volunteers are responsible for selling merchandise, stocking shelves, selling memberships and admissions, and orienting guests. Some volunteers drive accessibility trams for guests who wish to be transported through the garden. Garden ambassadors educate guests about butterflies and pollinators as well as history and horticulture.

Event volunteers assist with concerts and special events including Free Day, Oyster Roast, Family Fun Night and Enchanted Airlie. These volunteers check tickets, greet and guide guests, and assist with parking. Volunteers with an educational background work with curriculum-specific student field trips.

Other volunteers gather in the gardens on Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. to weed, mulch, plant and prune. Some of the volunteer positions require training and some require both background and driving record checks.

With the option to work as much or as little as their time permits, some volunteers stick to a regular weekly schedule while others opt to work one special event each year. Volunteers range in age from college-age to octogenarian, and Airlie offers flexibility for volunteers to choose a role that suits their physical abilities. Many active older adults help with special events and groundskeeping.

“We work to find the right fit for each volunteer,” Powell said. “Some of our volunteers have downsized their homes and miss working in their yards. What better place to fill that void than Airlie? And our oldest volunteer drives the tram.”

Eric Blaesing is one of the volunteer tram drivers. He has been volunteering at Airlie for 13 years and was recently appointed to the board. “It is particularly rewarding to see young families with children running around free and safe

and to see older people enjoying the tranquility of the garden,” he said.

“Driving the tram is peaceful and rewarding to me. I enjoy seeing everyone so happy.”


The Cameron Art Museum (CAM) is a cultural gathering place of exhibitions enriched through dynamic public programs that aim to enhance the community through lifelong learning of the arts. In 2022 CAM reached a

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milestone of 60 years as a museum, celebrating historical relationships and building new ones. Volunteers play a crucial role in the museum’s ability to fulfill its mission, according to volunteer coordinator Nan Pope.

“Volunteers are the bedrock of CAM,” Pope said. “They are an extension of our staff on-site and are ambassadors for CAM as they connect with the community in their daily lives.”

In fact, the museum’s current name is a nod to longtime volunteer Louise Wells Cameron. The museum was established in 1962 in downtown Wilmington where it operated for 40 years as St. John’s Museum of Art. Outgrowing the location and thriving on efforts of both artists and volunteers, CAM relocated to 17th Street and was renamed in Cameron’s honor.

In 2022, there were more than 200 volunteers ranging in age from 16 through 80, the majority being older adults.

“Seniors fill every position here. Our positions are perfect for older adults,” Pope said.

Positions range from public-facing roles such as assisting with sales and stocking the museum shop, greeting visitors and members at Visitor Services, and serving as an usher during special events, concerts, performances, lectures and artist talks. Volunteers assist with CAM’s Connections Program, welcoming Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers for special tours and art activities, and with school classes and camps. Some volunteers perform administrative duties including filing, mailings and making phone calls. Researching information online can be done from a volunteer’s home. Volunteers work as much as three or four hours weekly or as little as a few hours a month.

“The most important qualification to be a volunteer is the desire to serve everyone in our community and to support CAM’s education mission. Many volunteers come to CAM to be part of something, to meet others, and to learn,” Pope said.

Knowledge of art is not required, but it is appreciated. Training is provided for volunteers to obtain any required


Bobbi Fitzsimmons has been a CAM volunteer since April 2018. An artist herself, she said she appreciates the incredible role art has in people’s lives. Fitzsimmons had been caring for her husband who had Alzheimer’s and when he died, she needed something to help her recover.

“CAM is a wonderful, welcoming environment and is a very inclusive, community-oriented organization. I was so thoroughly and warmly welcomed when I first decided to volunteer that I knew I’d landed in the right place,” she said.

Fitzsimmons’ background as an early childhood educator quickly placed her with Art Explorers, a program for young CAM guests. Fitzsimmons has also been a docent, giving tours to fifth graders and adults from nursing homes.

“This allowed me to work with a different age group of children and use some of the understanding I gained caring for my husband,” she said. “Both of these groups are rewarding in their own ways.”

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Imagine a community where all adults have the literacy and language skills they need to succeed. That’s the vision that the Cape Fear Literacy Council (CFLC) has worked to achieve for more than 50 years.

From its earliest days, the organization was powered by volunteers. CFLC has recruited, trained and certified more than 2,000 volunteer tutors who have donated hundreds of thousands of hours to help thousands of adult learners throughout the Cape Fear region.

Heather Caveny, volunteer since 2006, has been teaching English as a second language regularly since 2015. She has taught lawyers and a doctor, successful businessmen and women, engineers and skilled tradesmen, who all immigrated here and were not fluent in English. And she’s taught people who never finished high school in their native countries.

“I love the staff. I love the energy. I love that we’re empowering people. I love that as someone learns to communicate better in English or learns to read, so many new doors are opened to him or her,” Caveny said, adding that English is not necessarily a student’s second language.

“Sometimes it’s a third or fourth or sixth language,” she said.

Nancy Woolley is the CFLC program manager, and Yasmin Tomkinson is the executive director. Both have worked in educational organizations for most of their careers and started with the Literacy Council as volunteer tutors in

the adult literacy program.

“As volunteer tutors, we realized the meaning and importance of this service. We are grateful to work for an organization that focuses on individual learners and ultimately has a ripple effect in learners’ families, their jobs and this entire community,” Woolley said.

Volunteers must be high school graduates, at least 18 years old and complete a tutor certification workshop for instructional positions. Instructional positions include adult literacy tutor, math tutor, English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor, computer tutor, ESL conversation partner and U.S. citizenship preparation interviewer. Noninstructional volunteer positions include mailing support, online bookshop volunteer and receptionist. Time commitment varies and tutoring is offered both face-to-face and online.

Woolley said that CFLC tutoring is a great opportunity for older adults because they often have the time and a flexible schedule to work with adult learners’ busy lives. About 65% of CFLC tutors are aged 60+. Woolley noted that being a tutor is a significant time commitment.

“But those who have it to give actually see their students’ lives change as their ability improves,” she said.

Linda Cooper has been a CFLC volunteer for 10 years. She is a member of the training team, a one-on-one tutor and small-group tutor.

“Every American adult deserves to be taught to read. I believe that many of our CFLC students have been shortchanged by our society and educational systems,” she said.

Cooper is a retired elementary school teacher, which she considers “a bonus” to her role although volunteers do not need an educational background. Training is provided. Cooper has worked with a variety of learners with differing educational needs.

“My volunteer experience at CFLC has enriched my life and taught me so very much about another forgotten culture here in our country,” she said. “It has truly changed my life, made me proud to be a part of such important work and warms my heart!”

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Programs help older adults sing their way to good health

Two choral programs in Wilmington offer more than a creative outlet for older adults. Research shows participation can set the stage for improved health outcomes.

Maryland-based Encore Creativity for Older Adults selected Wilmington as a new location for a family of approximately 30 ensembles for adults ages 55 and older.

The organization has steadily added new cities and towns along the East Coast since its initial launch 16 years ago when a study on the health effects of conductor-led singing programs for older adults spurred the program’s founding.

Commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts, the study, led by renowned geriatric

Summer 2023 95 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Lifestyles + Connections
photo c/o Encore Creativity for Older Adults

Lifestyles + Connections

psychiatrist Gene Cohen, examined the impact of participation in community singing programs for two years.

The results of Cohen’s study were “remarkable,” according to Encore CEO Joshua Vickery.

“The benefits of singing and the benefits of community for the older adults who got that experience were less doctor visits, decrease in medication, social benefits, all sorts of things,” Vickery said.

These findings led former opera singer Jeanne Kelly, who served as conductor of the singing programs Cohen studied, to form Encore Creativity in 2007.

The mental health benefits of socialization for older adults are well known.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labels social isolation as a public health challenge for older adults. Loneliness for Americans ages 50 and older is linked to negative health outcomes, including increased

risk for dementia, heart disease and stroke.

But as Cohen’s study, and many similar ones following it, have shown, the benefits of choral programs go beyond a sense of connection with fellow participants. A 2019 study by Chorus America and Grunwald Associates reported numerous gains in physical health conditions for adults ages 65 and older engaged in community singing groups, with respondents claiming improvements in voice disorders, chronic lung diseases and asthma.

To ensure access for those seeking the health benefits of participation, Encore’s programs don’t require auditions. Vickery emphasized that “anyone and everyone” are welcome to join the two programs in Wilmington: Encore Chorale of Cape Fear, which he described as “a standard choral setting,” and Sentimental Journey Singers of Cape Fear, which is offered to people in the early stages of cognitive change as

96 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
The benefits of singing and the benefits of community for the older adults who got that experience were less doctor visits , decrease in medication, social benefits , all sorts of things.
“ “
Joshua Vikcery, CEO, Encore

well as their caregivers.

Encore’s programs are offered in two rehearsal cycles per year: One session practices from January through April, and the other from September through December, with both seasons culminating in a final performance.

In Wilmington, the first cohort of both programs began rehearsing in January. Participants in the Encore Chorale of Cape Fear work with a professional conductor for 90 minutes per week for 15 weeks in preparation for their culminating concert.

Without any audition or prerequisites for admission, Vickery said members in this type of group generally bring a range of abilities and past musical experiences, including some who have never done anything like it before. It’s the diversity, he added, that makes it work.

“The varying levels of experience help everyone rise to a higher level,” he said.

The cost to join the Encore Chorale

of Cape Fear is $190, which includes access to the music and all other needed resources. Scholarships are available for those who need financial assistance to participate, Vickery said.

The organization’s other offering, Sentimental Journey Singers, is free with funding from community sources. These participants also meet once weekly for 90 minutes, and Vickery said this resource can be a powerful option for those experiencing dementia or other types of cognitive decline.

“The last part of our brain that goes is the part that understands and recognizes music,” he said. “There have been lots of studies quantitatively and qualitatively showing that music does help with brain health in a big way.”

Both programs are tailored to the unique abilities and needs of older adults to ensure an empowering and enriching experience for a group Vickery described as an underserved population in the arts.

“We make sure that we think specifically about the older adult in the venues that we choose, the music that we choose. We make accommodations if someone needs to sit during the concert or have a music stand because they might not be stable enough to hold the music while singing,” Vickery said.

The unique vocal range available to older adults is also considered when selecting music for performances, he added.

Vickery said, “Just like with speaking voices, as we age, our voice timbre and range and all that changes. Those high notes that you might have been able to belt out in your 20s, 30s and 40s, you might not have that as an 80-year-old.”

Registration for the fall 2023 rehearsal season of both the Encore Chorale of Cape Fear and the Sentimental Journey Singers opens in July. For more information about Encore Creativity’s programs, visit encorecreativity.org.

Summer 2023 97 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
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restaurant I renaissance

n some ways, Burgaw’s story sounds like that of a lot of small towns across America. The railroad breathed life into the town square in the 19th century, and by the mid-20th, the construction of highways routed people away from downtown. But Burgaw, unlike other towns facing the same situation, now has a secret weapon spurring its revival: a wealthy advocate willing to think outside the box in a quest to revitalize the Pender County community.

Entrepreneur Richard Johnson moved to Wilmington in 2005, newly retired after selling his job search website HotJobs for more than $400 million in 2002 and watched the Cape Fear region grow over the next decade. He saw good bones in Burgaw, a historic town located about 25 miles northwest of Wilmington and began buying storefronts in downtown Burgaw in 2018.

With skin in the game, Johnson wanted to spur the demographic and economic growth he felt was sure to spread to the town

A local entrepreneur envisions a revival anchored by a vibrant culinary scene

Summer 2023 99 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Food + Drink
Photos Richard Johnson enjoys a slice of Fat Daddy's pizza.

eventually. His focus, so far, has been to plant the seeds for Burgaw’s renaissance with a selection of vibrant eateries and drinkeries to draw people into the town.

“It was crystal clear to me that you have to build community. You have to build a gathering place, and restaurants do that,” Johnson said.

Not a restaurateur himself, Johnson got to work enlisting people with the right experience to operate successful restaurants in his historic storefronts.

First, he tapped Jay Kranchalk to open Fat Daddy’s Pizza, a New Yorkstyle pizzeria serving pies crafted with handmade dough, in 2020. Next up was a brewpub, brought to life by owners Kevin and Emmaline Kozak in South Wright Street’s Burgaw Brewing. When the brewery opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 2023, a line of waiting patrons snaked around the block to try the business’s burgers and wings.

The next – and arguably most exciting – chapter in Johnson’s restaurant renaissance will unfold over the next year. Unsure about what concept would work best for a third restaurant, Johnson set off down an unconventional path to find inspiration: He launched a nationwide competition offering $1 million for a budding entrepreneur to open their dream business in two storefronts at 106 and 108 Courthouse Ave.

The winner in Johnson’s Own Your Own (OYO) competition will be named following a series of challenges judged by a panel of local chefs and restaurant owners: James Beard Award semifinalists Dean Neff, of Seabird, and Keith Rhodes, of Catch, along with Christi Ferretti, of Pine Valley Market, and Myra McDuffie, of MeMa’s Chick’n’ & Ribs. Since applications for the competition opened in December, more than 500 people from 26 states and Canada have thrown their names in the hat.

By Oct. 21, the OYO team will winnow the pool down to 24 finalists, who will gather in tents along Courthouse Avenue for the first challenge: the OYO Town Square Cook Off Competition.

“They will prepare their signature

dish, and we will let the townspeople of Burgaw and the people who come to Burgaw for the (Autumn) Fest, come down (Courthouse Avenue) and vote on their favorite concepts and the personality – the whole package,” Johnson said.

The community’s 12 favorite contestants from the cook-off will progress to the next round, with additional challenges that Johnson hopes will reveal who is best equipped to meet the complex demands inherent in running a successful restaurant, from the granular logistical tasks to the bigpicture creativity needed to chart the business’s course.

“I want to see how they are in budgeting, ordering food, managing time (and) staff – all the components that go in,” Johnson said. “It’s not just whether you can cook a good blueberry muffin.”

If this premise sounds like the basis for a reality TV show, that’s because it could be. Johnson and his team have shopped the idea to TV and streaming networks to determine whether the competition will be picked up as a show. Barring that option, OYO will work with a local production company to create a documentary about the process.

Once the winner is named, they will get to work, using up to $1 million provided by Johnson to renovate the Courthouse Avenue buildings for their new restaurant.

Some prospective contestants have shown up at Burgaw Brewing, according to Kevin Kozak, asking whether the terms of the competition are too good to be true. The Kozaks’ experience opening Burgaw Brewing with Johnson’s help is touted in many of the OYO promotional materials.

Describing a recent encounter, Kevin Kozak said he walked the contestants over to the OYO space to show them the buildings that could house their future restaurant.

“They said, ‘All right, what’s the catch?’ I said there is no catch, and they didn’t really believe me,” he recalled. “Then Emmaline, my wife, jumped in. She said, ‘Yeah, there’s no catch. There’s nothing nefarious about it. Richard has a vision, and it’s part of the vision.’”

The untraditional arrangement with Johnson has worked well for the Kozaks so far. Johnson’s financial support

100 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Food + Drink
It was crystal clear to me that you have to build community . You have to build a gathering place, and restaurants do that .
“ “
Richard Johnson, entrepreneur
Summer 2023 101 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Food + Drink
Richard Johnson and Burgaw Brewing owner Kevin Kozak

enabled a renovation of the brewery’s historic home at 103 S. Wright St., which included newly restored tin ceilings and freshly repaired exposed brick walls, in addition to investments in expensive equipment needed for Kevin Kozak to brew his signature German lagers.

Business at Burgaw Brewing remained robust a few months after the opening, and Kevin Kozak reported feeling pleased with the outcome.

“I couldn’t be happier. I’m excited to come to work every day. I’m excited to go home and code invoices, which blows my mind,” Kevin Kozak said. “I

just see it working, and that’s one of the greatest things.”

While Johnson emphasized that the goal of his multimilliondollar investment into Burgaw’s revitalization is not to make money, he does hope to break even at the end of the day – and to have fun doing it. To that tune, he intends to devise a leasing agreement for the OYO space that will allow him to recoup his investment over time.

“Really, my investment strategy since selling my company and sort of retiring hasn’t been to make money. It’s been to break even and do feelgood projects, social good projects,”

Johnson said.

Johnson now wonders if his efforts in Burgaw could be replicated for other communities in need of revival. The OYO team is currently exploring what that might look like.

“What we’ve done here could end up being a formula for doing other small towns,” Johnson said. “It could be the same formula where you go in, you assess it, you have these empty buildings. You run competitions, you find entrepreneurs. You invest in those entrepreneurs and those buildings, and you create sparks.”

Info: ownyourown.com

102 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Food + Drink
From top left: Tori Coleman pours a beer at Burgaw Brewing; Lillian Rousey, Cindy Ward and Desiree’ Clifford at Fat Daddy's Pizza; Clifford making a pie at Fat Daddy's Pizza; Burgaw Brewing owner Kevin Kozak in the restaurant's outdoor space
Summer 2023 103 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com As retirees, we give to community impact because we can see the difference our dollars make right here in the Cape Fear region where we live. We don’t have the expertise to determine what non-profits are making the most difference, but we know United Way has a rigorous review process, and we can feel good that our dollars are going where they’ll do the most good.
Allen Feezor ” Let’s start a conversation about charitable giving. Call Tommy Taylor, CEO of United Way of the Cape Fear Area to learn about Qualified Charitable Contributions! 910-789-0302 or visiting uwcfa.org/charitable-contributions
Lori and


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(910) 350-1980


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630 Carolina Bay Dr.

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6146 Liberty Hall Dr.

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1200 Porters Neck Rd.

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348 College Rd.

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805 N 4th St.

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Elderhaus, PACE

1380 North College Rd.

Wilmington, NC 28405

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Lower Cape Fear Lifecare

1414 Physicians Dr.

Wilmington, NC 28401 (800) 733-1476


Riverside Dental 2625 Middle Sound Loop Rd.

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901 S Front St.

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James E. Moore Insurance Agency

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Raleigh, NC 27606 (866) 389-5650


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811 Martin St.

Wilmington, NC 28401 (910) 763-4424


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803 College Rd G

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spice life of

New space opens new possibilities for Cape Fear Spice Merchants


ack in 2014, Gary Coleman was 44 years old and had just retired from his job as a regional food specialist. His job took him all over the country, where he’d train state and county food inspectors, giving them food sanitation courses and training on the food code.

Coleman calls Wilmington home, but throughout his travels as a regional food specialist, he noticed it lacked one thing –a place to buy specialty teas and spices.

When retirement came, Coleman knew he wasn’t ready to fully retire quite yet and wanted to pursue a second act and career. So, he opted to open and facilitate his own tea and spice shop, operating under the name Cape Fear Spice Merchants.

“Basically, with leaving the government and still (being) fairly young, I didn’t really want to go into a full retirement at 44,” Coleman said. “With all of the traveling around, what Wilmington didn’t have was a tea and spice shop.”

Today, his quaint shop on Market Street in downtown Wilmington boasts a variety of fresh and vibrant tea blends; hard-to-find spices, including about 120 in-house blends; and an assortment of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Coleman’s shop also features a line of

sauces, including hot sauce, jam, jelly and pickles. Patrons can also buy prepared tea by the cup, which they can sip as they shop or grab to go.

When he was making the blueprint for his shop nearly 10 years ago, Coleman knew he wanted to “provide the best selection of teas and spices and have the freshest products available on the market.”

“We didn’t really have that here in Wilmington beforehand, and then I also discovered a love for California olive oils and vinegars and so we incorporated that into the store,” Coleman said.

Earlier in 2023, Cape Fear Spice Merchants made big moves when it grew into a second adjoining space on South Front Street where Finkelstein’s once resided. Its original location on 20 Market St. continues to operate as it normally has, and the 6 S. Front St. location operates as an extension of its Market Street location.

An interior hallway connects the two spaces, which each offer its own inventory. The new footprint sells flavored oil and vinegar, pasta and kitchen utensils, while his original space is stocked with teas and spice blends. South Front Street also has a display kitchen, where staff can demonstrate inventory to customers.

“What’s next with the store is to be able to expand what we’re doing,” Coleman said. “We were able to open up our olive oils to be able to carry more variety and different flavors we haven’t had in the past, and to be able

Summer 2023 107 GoodLife Wilmingto n .com Food + Drink

Food + Drink

to experiment with what people like as far as going off the traditional flavored olive oils like lemon and the lime and things like that.”

Coleman has even been able to venture into new items infused with bourbon and smoky tomato flavors now that he has more retail space, along with an expanded line of teas, bitters and cocktail mixes.

Coleman hopes the store’s new amenities can help customers adopt a healthier lifestyle without sacrificing the rich flavors of foods and drinks they love. One commonly cited culprit for change among Coleman’s customers is alcohol. “We have teas and the different mixers that we can mix up and help advise people to give them recipes on how to take a tea and make it into a mocktail,” he said.

As for his secret for cooking healthy meals at home, the answer is simple, “The model has been you can flavor your food with spices rather than fats.”

One of the shop’s bestsellers can also help in that department: The bacon-flavored olive oil is just as it sounds, with all the flavor of cured pork without the meat.

“You’re getting the taste of having something cooked in bacon without having the cholesterol involved,” Coleman said.

As for its other bestselling products, Cape Fear Spice Merchants is most known for its teas and spices, particularly the Cape Fear Steak Rub, built from a Worcestershire base with a bit of salt, paprika and different spices. Another popular blend is its

Tuscan blend, which features salt and different spices you’d find in the Tuscany region of Italy. When it comes to teas, the most popular choice is Moonlight Earl Grey, a riff on the traditional Earl Grey that comes off smooth and slightly creamy without having to add cream.

A big focus for Coleman and his team is the small exhibition kitchen in the new space, suitable for visiting chefs or product demonstrations from the Cape Fear Spice Merchants team. So far, the space has featured demonstrations of how to use the shop’s inventory to make easy soups and mocktails, and Coleman also plans to invite a few local chefs who have expressed interest to the exhibition kitchen.

“That’s pretty much what we’ve been doing with the new space,” he said. “Just really being able to feature some products that have been hidden away. We were in a really cramped situation because we’d grown so much, and so this basically just gives us a way to properly display things we have and let people know what we have.”

108 RETIREMENT LIVING IN COASTAL N.C. GoodLife Wilmingto n .com
After nearly 10 years in business at 20 Market St., owner Gary Coleman was able to expand Cape Fear Spice Merchants into an adjacent storefront at 6 S. Front St.
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The state’s Local Government Commission in June voted to give Wilmington city officials the go-ahead to issue $70 million in limited obligation bonds to buy the former PPD headquarters campus at 929 N. Front St.

The state group, which provides guidance and oversight to more than 1,000 local governments across the state in areas including their budgets and bond financing, also granted financing approval related to New Hanover County’s purchase of a downtown Wilmington building intended to expand Cape Fear Community College's nursing programs.

Earlier this year, the county paid nearly $11.4 million for that former Bank of America building at 319 N. Third St., minus 14 parking spaces that were in dispute, to seller River Bend #1 LLC. Refurbishing the five-story, 55,000-square-foot building for use by CFCC to expand its nursing and allied health programs would cost at least another $14 million, according to a previous Greater Wilmington Business Journal story.

Financing for both projects, though approved this month, didn’t come without some pushback from members of the state board – particularly from State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who serves as chair of the Local Government Commission and also is running for the Republican nomination in next year’s gubernatorial race.

With the former PPD headquarters, Folwell’s criticism focused on the project’s cost.

“I guess as I’m talking about this topic, I’m still very uncomfortable with the price,” Folwell, who was the only LGC member to vote against approving the $70 million in bonds, said at the meeting.

Under the plan, the city of Wilmington intends to consolidate its currently scattered offices in about half of the 12-story building, which sits on 12.5 acres, that Thermo Fisher Scientific absorbed when it acquired PPD in 2021.

According to city officials, the cost would be offset by selling the vacated city properties and leasing part of the 12 stories to other tenants.

“We will do everything in our power to make sure we get the maximum amount of return from the sale of those properties,” City Manager Tony Caudle told LGC members. “It is crucial for us to be able to do that. Not that we need the money (to put) back into our fund, not

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that we need the money to be able to make the model work. But we believe that it’s imperative that we get our top dollar for those pieces of property.”

The city earlier this year entered into a purchase contract with Thermo Fisher, and the agreement has a closing date of July 31.

Although the city’s staff had proposed a tax increase to help pay for the campus, that idea was later scratched after council members questioned the need.

In the case of the former Bank of America building, Folwell and another LGC member, Paul Butler, questioned the timing of the county’s request (after the sale had gone through) to approve limited obligation bonds to reimburse the county itself for the purchase of the Third Street building.

“It is not uncommon for us to use our cash liquidity to purchase large assets on the front end with an expectation when we go through the process to go to the bond market and reimburse ourselves. We’ve done this before,” County Manager Chris Coudriet told the treasurer and the rest of the LGC. “If there’s a policy change that we need to explore, we’re certainly fully committed to that, but we had the ability to close on the property to go ahead and give certainty to the community college and community that there would be a chance to expand the nursing school.

“We did not want to bring down permanently our fund balance, and so the expectation of our board was that we would come and ask to be reimbursed, but we did have the ability to pay for it in cash at the time,” Coudriet added. “We do want to return our fund balance to its very solid position.”

The county’s bond counsel, Rebecca Joyner, added, “It is a common practice not just by New Hanover but by the large majority of our local government clients, and it really relates to the timing of capital project expenditures. You wouldn’t want them to have to go back to the

bond market every time there’s an opportunity to purchase something. So sometimes folks purchase something with an anticipation of reimbursing so that they can collectively put projects together and finance them all at once.”

Folwell has questioned New Hanover County’s decisions before in his role as LGC chair and as state treasurer, including other redevelopment plans and the county’s sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health.

Last fall, the LGC halted an earlier plan for Project Grace after failing to approve the financing arrangement the county wanted to have with its previous development firm partner on the project, Zimmer Development Co.

New Hanover County Commissioners in May unanimously supported a reconfigured Project Grace proposal that now could also go before the LGC.

Through the development agreement commissioners approved, the county is working with Wilmington-based firm Cape Fear Development to create new buildings on a county-owned downtown block bordered by Chestnut, Grace, Second and North Third streets.

“Cape Fear Development has reviewed design plans that were purchased by the county (from Zimmer for $2.5 million) to determine value-engineering items that can reduce the cost with little impact to the customer,” Assistant County Manager Lisa Wurtzbacher said.

“The plans still include a purposebuilt that includes a modern library and museum. That’s a three-story facility that’s approximately 94,000 gross square feet inclusive of programmable space throughout the library and museum, shared space, a loading dock and an outdoor terrace.”

In the new plan, the county’s cost for the new museum and library, parking deck improvements and development fee of $3.5 million would not exceed $60,524,860.

“The deal is distinctly different from the previous arrangement that you saw primarily due to the method of financing the public facility,” Wurtzbacher said. “Rather than financing through a lease with the developer, the public facility would be financed through limited obligation bonds, taking advantage of our triple-A bond rating and our borrowing capacity. This leads to a reduced interest cost for the county.”

The agreement with Zimmer Development would have resulted in the county paying $80 million to the firm to lease the library and museum facility for 20 years.

Wurtzbacher said the county’s staff believes the new deal will likely be more palatable to the Local Government Commission.

According to the agreement with Cape Fear Development, once the new museum and library facility and parking deck improvements are substantially complete, the county would sell the south parcel of the property to Cape Fear Development for mixed-use private development.

“Cape Fear Development has committed to pay no less than $3.5 million for the south parcel property (where the existing main branch of the library is located),” a county news release stated. “Two appraisals will also be conducted for the property, and Cape Fear Development will pay the higher of the two appraisals if it is more than $3.5 million.”

The development company’s private investment, which could include residential and commercial space, is expected to be at least $30 million, and construction on that part of Project Grace would have to start within 24 months of the library and museum facility’s completion.

New Hanover County officials hope the LGC will vote on the new financing method at its September meeting so construction on the new library and museum could start in October. That’s only if county commissioners give their final approval to the plan in July.

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enturesV illaseñor


In the small town of Degollado, Mexico, brothers Miguel and Ramón Villaseñor grew up riding in their father, Enrique’s, food truck, both learning unique skills along the way. While Ramón perfected his mother’s seasoning and secret recipes used in his father’s sauces, Miguel gained insight into entrepreneurship and business management.

After immigrating to the United States in 1994, with stints working at local Mexican restaurants, the two decided to follow in their father’s footsteps, except this time with four walls and no wheels.

From their first venture in the area to their continually expanding footprint, the Villaseñor brothers haven’t slowed down since moving to Wilmington.

The brothers first opened a Los Portales Supermercado grocery store on South Kerr Avenue and by 2007 expanded their offerings with the opening of nearby casual restaurant Taquería Los Portales.

“My father always taught us to be your own boss,” Miguel Villaseñor said. “You miss things from your own country, and we were like we need this in Wilmington, a place to get bread, ingredients, meat, the way we do it in Mexico. That’s why we started the supermarket and the taqueria.”

At Taquería Los Portales, Mexican street tacos showcasing a variety of meats, such as steak, chicken and chorizo but also cheek, buche and tripe, combined with regional-specific dishes lent coveted authenticity, with its popularity eventually resulting in three locations across Wilmington.

Today, the brothers have expanded their offerings to showcase an elevated,

international menu with the addition of Tequila Comida & Cantina in Monkey Junction and a new Tequila Comida & Cantina location slated to open early fall in downtown Wilmington near the Port City Marina.

“Los Portales has authentic street tacos, tacos you will find on the street or from the taco truck. Tequila Comida is authentic Mexican food, but Ramón went to culinary school so there are techniques from France and Mexico,” Miguel Villaseñor said. “Ramón went to Jalisco and Oaxaca and picked dishes from states presented from a unique, upscale way of his recipes.”

Tequila Comida’s French influence is obvious, with an unexpected baguette presented as a courtesy appetizer to diners. Ramón Villaseñor refining his techniques within the Cape Fear Community College culinary program now results in a breadth of Mexican dishes melded with an international fusion of flavors.

Diners can expect the familiar offerings of fajitas, arroz con pollo and street tacos, yet Miguel Villaseñor suggests challenging one’s palate when dining at Tequila Comida. Mezcal salmon marries smoky and sweet; hibiscus sauce adds floral notes to fish dishes. Miguel Villaseñor’s recommendations include the Cochinita Pibil, a dish of slow-roasted pork braised in earthy yet peppery achiote, orange juice, lime and peppers, or the simplistic yet flavorful Tacos Al Pastor, reflective of Los Portales.

“People want to find chimichangas, quesadillas, fajitas, when you show them something new, you’re letting them try that. Sometimes people are scared to try certain dishes, but once they do, they see, it’s really good,” he said.

Diners can taste their way through the Mexican states of Sinaloa, Guerrero and Oaxaca with dishes of deep-fried octopus tentacles, pan-seared mahimahi marinated in chile guajillo and ancho, or smoky pollo al mezcal. Tequila Comida also offers molcajetes, which are hot stone mortars filled with the choice of tierra (chicken, steak, chorizo) or mar (fish, scallop, shrimp) in a base of

Mexican vegetables and sauces.

The brother’s next projects are to open a second, 7,000-square-foot Los Portales Supermercado store on Carolina Beach Road and a second Tequila Comida with waterfront views in downtown Wilmington.

The ample downtown space – in the building next to Marina Grill – will fit 150 seats and two floors to allow a large-scale reinterpretation of Tequila Comida’s flagship location. The brothers hope to lean into the nightlife atmosphere of downtown, including a second-floor tequila library with a separate menu of small plates, snacks and appetizers.

“The tequila library will be a place you can go and enjoy our really nice selections of high-end tequila or have a mezcal drink, even if you finish eating and just want to go up there and lounge. We are hoping to close later at this location and include live Latino music on the weekends,” Miguel Villaseñor. said. “One big wall will represent a jimador, the farmer who harvests agave plants from the ground. In the next two weeks, we are going to drive to Mexico for decorations, for things you can only find in Guadalajara. We’ve been doing this for a long time.”

The Villaseñor brothers have seen plenty of success with their ventures in Wilmington, and perhaps for the reasons listed above.

Throughout the years, Los Portales Supermercado has expanded its offerings to include items from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and more, with butcher, bakery and tortilleria areas on-site.

“We never expected to be in the place we are right now,” Miguel Villaseñor said about their growth.

“Sometimes at night, I think, ‘We have all these businesses and places; we did this much.’ It’s hard to believe, and we’re so thankful for our employees.”

For more restaurant news, sign up for the Business Journal's weekly Restaurant Roundup email at WilmingtonBiz.com.

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When Sullivan Anlyan and her brother, Matthew, started on a project to gild the Preston Restaurant’s dining room ceiling, they didn’t know how many hours it would take – and the unexpected turn of events that would keep the results temporarily out of view.

Sullivan Anlyan (Sullivan Anlyan Art) , an artist with experience using gold leaf in her work, and Matthew Anlyan (Bearded Owl Studio) , a woodworker based in Wilmington, spent three days hand-applying thin, metallic leaf to the fine-dining restaurant’s 13-foot ceiling.

It was one part of a recent extensive, $3.5 million renovation of not just the finedining restaurant but also The Graystone Inn that housed it. The historical landmark/bedand-breakfast at 101 S. Third St. caught fire June 15 – less than a week after the posh restaurant and its golden canopy opened to the public. Wilmington fire officials said the cause was an accidental kitchen fire.

The smoke and water damage prompted the inn and restaurant to close, but Jamie Alfalla, one of the inn’s owners, said the gold ceiling endured.

“We’re looking to reopen as quickly as possible,” Alfalla said the day after the fire. “We’re talking about probably a sixmonth renovation to reopen. It is devastating, but we are optimistic.”

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