Brewery Boom Benefits More Than Just The Breweries


With a number of breweries popping up in and around the Port City, it’s no secret that beer is big business. But what you may not know is that area entrepreneurs are starting to cash in on the local brewery boom in more ways than one, without brewing a thing.

Among them is the duo behind the new Port City Brew Bus, which offers an interactive tour of local breweries. Owners Mark Mueller and Jeremy Tomlinson saw the success of similar tours offered in brewery-rich cities, such as Asheville, and decided to start one in Wilmington.

Already small business owners, it was their entrepreneurial drive and passion for craft beer that made the business idea viable. As advocates and promoters of such, the decision to showcase the local craft beer community, for them, was an easy one.

“We really wanted to get people to understand that we have really creative people here and you can get some world-class beer in Wilmington,” Tomlinson said. “And this is different than just going to the downtown bar scene. You see and learn how the beer is made.”

According to the bus tour’s website (, the beer industry contributed $2.9 billion to the state’s economy in 2012, plus nearly 38,000 jobs. For Mueller and Tomlinson, launching Port City Brew Bus lets them grab a piece of the pie in – and help further – the growing industry they enjoy and admire.


“We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to get involved in this industry?’” Tomlinson said. “We enjoy the craft beer community. There’s a lot of collaboration together, and [with this] we can increase awareness and education [of the craft beer community].”

The bus tours, which kicked off on Black Friday, allow patrons to not only sample the styles of beer created at the local brewpubs but also meet the people who make them. What’s more, Tomlinson explained that tour goers can glean insight into each brewery’s unique fermenting process.

Then, there’s the soon-to-open growler filling station and bottle shop Palate.

Located in the Brooklyn Arts District at 1007 N. Fourth St., the owners of Palate say the surge in Wilmington – and statewide – micro-breweries shows that a strong and abundant customer base is there and ripe for the picking.

“We are very excited at the new microbreweries and nanobreweries opening in town and even right down the street from us, like Flytrap [Brewing], because it shows that Wilmington has an audience for what we are doing and people are passionate about the craft,” Palate co-owner Josh Wittman said. “I’ve heard several sound bites that say that North Carolina has the ninth-most breweries of the 50 states, and that shows there’s support for it from consumers and the legislation.”

While the retail shop will feature craft beer and wine, with “a great selection of local liquid,” Wittman said, it’s those growlers that tie Palate into the secondary boon from the local brewpubs.

For local breweries that don’t have their beers available by the bottle, growlers can be filled with those drafts, hence making them available “to go.” Therefore, shops like Palate, can profit by selling the local brews, themselves.

Wittman, a Raleigh-based entrepreneur, likens the concept behind Palate to the small, independent record stores, where a more personal relationship is established with customers and recommendations can be made according to one’s taste. It’s that back-to-basics philosophy that’s also spurred Wittman and his business partners – wife Fran and Wimington’s Kevin Rhodes – to get in on the local beer action.

“People are rebelling against the corporate food and beer manufacturers,” Wittman said. “‘Shop local, eat local’ isn’t just a catch phrase, it’s a national movement; it’s becoming a lifestyle.”

Another business making bank on the breweries’ coattails is The Veggie Wagon. While the Carolina Beach store specializes in selling fresh, local fruits, veggies and homemade goods, it also functions as a growler filling station, with craft beers from around the state.

But it’s their distinctive Brewnola Bars that seem to set them apart. Made from the spent grains after the brewing process at Carolina Beach-based Good Hops Brewing, the bars are not only nutritious, they also reduce waste, The Veggie Wagon co-owner April Sussman explained.

“There’s a lot of waste from grains used to make beer, so we decided it was time to make a bar from our local breweries,” Sussman said. “It’s something fun and different that we’re able to offer.”

What’s more, the store’s reuse of the spent grains doesn’t end there. The business recently released a “grab and go pizza dough” also made from the grains used at Good Hops Brewing, Sussman said.

The Veggie Wagon also sells its homemade food products in some of the local breweries, further increasing the Veggie Wagon’s retail sales. According to Sussman, they’ve installed refrigerated cases inside Flytrap Brewing and Good Hops Brewing stocked with snacks, including cheeses and dips, that are available for brewery customers to purchase.

“One of the problems when you go to breweries is that there’s no food,” Sussman said. “So we’re providing options that are more healthy, for example, with no preservatives.”

The “no-food problem” that Sussman sees is also being solved by local food trucks. The mobile restaurants can be seen parked outside of the area brew houses, and are often included on the flyers from some brewery-related events.

Ogden retail beer and wine shop Fermental has gone one step further, bringing both the breweries and food trucks to them. Among Fermental’s repertoire is holding weekly events that often highlight local and state breweries and their beers.
Recently, the shop at 7250 Market St. teamed-up with Wilmington’s Broomtail Craft Brewery for an event, with Broomtail’s crafting crew and brews on site at Fermental. Patrons could sample and then buy the Wilmington brewery’s beers that were on tap at the fete.

Local restaurant Catch’s food truck participated in the Fermental affair, offering eats available for purchase. Other food trucks that have caught the brewery business
bug include Vittles, which has sold its food wares at Flytrap Brewing, according to the brewery’s Facebook page.

More breweries are slated to open in Wilmington, including Ironclad Brewery, in 2015. With that, the number of businesses harnessing the resulting potential profit power will likely continue to grow.

Unemployment Falls Locally In September – Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender County

In September, unemployment rates fell in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender, as they did in all but two counties in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Division of Labor and Economic Analysis.

The September county-by-county data, released Wednesday, show that unemployment in Brunswick County was at 6.6 percent, down from 7.3 percent in August and from 7.5 percent in September 2013.

New Hanover registered… 5.6 percent unemployment in September, dropping from 6.5 percent in August and 7.1 percent in September 2013.

Pender County’s September unemployment was at 6.5 percent, down one percentage point from August’s 7.5 percent rate, and down significantly from September 2013’s rate of 8.3 percent.

Other highlights of the monthly report include:

Currituck and Chatham counties were tied for the state’s lowest unemployment, at 4.2 percent. Highest unemployment is found in mountainous Graham County, which has a rate of 12.2 percent. Scotland County is next highest, with 11.3 percent.

Of North Carolina’s 14 Metropolitan Statistical Areas, the Wilmington area, with a September area unemployment rate of 6.0 percent, had the sixth-lowest level, behind Asheville (4.6 percent), Durham-Chapel Hill (4.9 percent), Raleigh-Cary (5.0 percent), Winston-Salem (5.6 percent) and Burlington (5.9 percent).

Currently, North Carolina still considers the Wilmington MSA as including Brunswick County, although the federal government has reassigned Brunswick County to the Myrtle Beach MSA.

The North Carolina MSA with the highest unemployment was Rocky Mount, at 8.8 percent in September.

Year over year, the Wilmington area showed increased employment in every sector except for manufacturing, in which employment decreased 4.1 percent. The sector showing strongest growth was leisure and hospitality, at 7.5 percent growth. Logging and construction was second, with 3.7 percent growth.

February 2013 – Why Wilmington?

With a rich history of being a port city that served local residents from New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick County, Wilmington is the eighth largest city in North Carolina. Its earlier settlers had several names for her: New Carthage, New Liverpool and New Town, which later was Newton. Finally, in honor of Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington (England), the town nestled against the Cape Fear River, 28 miles upstream from the Atlantic Ocean, got her rightful name.

Fueled by the abundance of forest resources, the major industry here in the 18th and 19th century was timber. The “Port City” later became a strategic commercial ally in the opposition to British rule and was so vocal against the Stamp Act of 1765, that it was defeated the next year. In the 1800s, the city also built the longest railroad line in the world to Weldon, NC and was a major commercial and passenger hub for passengers & freight heading southwards to cities like Charleston.

Centuries later, Wilmington is a thriving small city sandwiched by the Cape Fear River to the West and the Atlantic Ocean to the East. While it still is a port town, it also is the commercial, medical and learning center of southeastern NC. Firms such as General Electric, PPD (Pharmaceuticals), Screen Gems, Corning and Verizon call ILM home, as well as Cape Fear Community College and University of North Carolina @ Wilmington.

However, the latest industry Wilmington is attracting is the influx of retirees from points north and west. With its wonderfully temperate year round weather, miles of white sandy beaches, exciting and eclectic downtown and riverfront park, new shopping venues, theater, fine dining and so much more, it’s no wonder that Wilmington is one of the largest destinations for the 10,000 Americans that retire each and every day.

On a quiet street in downtown Wilmington, the cries of “The British are Coming, The British are Coming” have been replaced by “The Retirees are Coming, The Retirees are Coming!!”

Since my move here from Boston in 1999, where I spent 7 frigid years, I have seen The Port City come into its own. While the changes have in and of themselves not been significant, in total they have helped transform a small, sleepy town into a fairly cosmopolitan little city with a Charlestonesque southern flair to her. Make no mistake about it, when people speak of retiring in Wilmington, others are no longer saying “Delaware”?

So in my time living in southeastern NC, here are the changes that I believe have helped Wilmington evolve from a moth into a butterfly:

  • MLK Jr Drive – prior to this road being built, going from east to west meant you were either on Oleander or Market street. MLK/Eastwood Road allows those in Brunswick County to scamper cross town to popular destinations like Wrightsville Beach, Mayfaire and ILM – our airport.
  • PPD //  This home grown pharmaceutical firm, chose to build it’s beautiful campus like skyscraper along the north end of the Cape Fear River – breathing new life to what was one a disregarded step child part of downtown
  • Wilmington Convention Center//  A beautiful waterfront facility tucked in behind Cape Fear Community College with more waterfront development pending! (ie hotel, shops and more)
  • Mayfaire at Town  Several hundred acres that were formerly Parker Farms was converted into a shopping, dining, retail and commercial wonderland about seven years ago. Every day this exciting Mecca continues to add to your best shopping experience in SE NC (Chico’s, Coldwater Creek, Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Barnes & Noble, Belks and more!)
  • Zimmer Cancer Center @ New Hanover Regional Medical Center – // Cancer is never a welcome word but in Eastern North Carolina, the Zimmer Cancer Center is a blessing.
  • The Betty Cameron Women’s & Children’s Hospital//
  • No place along the east coast of North Carolina takes better care of Women and Children than this amazing new facility
  • I-140 and Porters Neck By Pass – this long awaited highway connects the northern part of Wilmington/Hampstead to the Cape Fear River. Plus, within a year the extension will be completed, which will connect I-40 to Hwy 17 in Leland, just below Brunswick Forest. That will take a boat load of traffic off of hwy 17 in Leland.
  • Then there are the new(er) retail venues such as Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Fresh Market, the addition to Lumina Station and many more.
  • New(er) restaurants include Ruth Chris Steak House, Manna, The Kitchen, Indochine, Circa, Brasserie du Soleil, Boca Bay, Port Land Grille, Melting Pot and many more

When our clients come for a visit, we always do our best to make sure that they see the highlights of our very own Port City. Wilmington is not necessarily though a town to retire in because it is chock full of subdivisions, which are simple neighborhoods with a pool and tennis court. Our clients are looking for an active lifestyle with amenities galore such as indoor/outdoor pools & hot tubs, golf, walking trails, tennis, fitness classes, cardio equipment, planned activities, restaurant, parties and more.

Therefore, the majority of our clients will agree that they “Buy Wilmington, but sleep in Brunswick County!”  So if you have not had one of our firm’s almost famous tours of the Port City, contact us so we can arrange for you to get intimate with one of the east coasts top destinations for retirees and those looking for a second home.

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