‘Design Star’ opens shop, studio in burgeoning Castle Street arts and antique district

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HGTV personality and 'Design Star' winner Meg Caswell's Fifth and Castle Design Shop is the latest addition to Castle Street's booming arts and antiques district. Photos by Hilary Snow.
HGTV personality and ‘Design Star’ winner Meg Caswell’s Fifth and Castle Design Shop is the latest addition to Castle Street’s booming arts and antiques district. Photos by Hilary Snow.

For Meg Caswell, moving to Wilmington felt a lot like coming home.

And opening up a business on Castle Street was like coming home to family.

The Windy City native and HGTV personality’s Fifth and Castle Design Shop, 602 S. Fifth Ave., is one of a string of recent additions–including an eclectic produce and local arts store, a vintage boutique and an under-construction apartment building with retail space below–to the burgeoning arts and antiques district. Caswell hosts “Meg’s Great Rooms,” a show she won through season six of the network’s “Design Star” competition.

It was her grandfather’s advice that propelled Caswell–who had aims to become a lawyer–into the world of interior decorating in her hometown of Chicago. Add to that a sharp ability to perceive what a customer wants a self-proclaimed lifelong desire to be in front of a camera and it’s easy to see how Caswell found her way onto HGTV.

But when it came to finding a place to balance work and home, Caswell knew Wilmington was where she wanted to be. Her husband, Randy Holladay, is a North Carolina native who spent his childhood vacationing at Topsail Beach. Caswell’s sister, Jennifer Meyer, resides in the Port City, as well.

“I always wanted to raise a family here,” Caswell, who has a 15-month old son, Ransom, noted. “Being able to have my nieces come into the store is so great…I really enjoy being around family, especially when you are having your own family.”

Caswell said she picked Castle Street, in part, because she wanted to make interior design accessible.
Caswell said she picked Castle Street, in part, because she wanted to make interior design accessible.

That sense of family extends to Castle Street, where, with bursts of bright pastel retail items surrounding her in her historic showroom and design space–located in the old firehouse that once housed Working Films–Caswell has been busy managing clients and greeting customers since she opened up earlier this month.

“There are artists here, antique dealers. I love that there are so many creative people on this street. I feel like I am with my people,” she said. “And I didn’t want to be where all the other design people are. I’m all about making design accessible to everyone.”

Caswell said Castle Street’s continued growth is anchored in the success of Jester’s Java, 607 Castle St., which first got its start in the neighborhood back in 2005. With its loyal customer base, she said, Jester’s brings in shoppers who might not otherwise be strolling the street.

Fifth and Castle Design will carry on that tradition, Phil Floyd of nearby AlPhi’s Chic Boutique, 315 Castle St., said.

“This is a really up-and-coming area. And she is going to bring lots of business here,” Floyd said of Caswell.

Floyd and his partner, Alex Odom, first opened All About AlPhi’s across the street from their current location in February after relocating to the area from Whiteville.

“We’ve always done a little shop wherever we go,” Floyd said, noting the pair have owned similar businesses, as well as a landscaping company and restaurant, throughout the southeast.

They moved over to the new site just a few weeks ago to make room for the store’s mix of artwork and farm-fresh finds.

AlPhis Chic Boutique offers up an eclectic mix of farm-fresh goods and creations by local artists.
AlPhis Chic Boutique offers up an eclectic mix of farm-fresh goods and creations by local artists.

“Most everything we have is by local artists and crafters. I love the art; there are so many great artists here,” Floyd said. “And we have plants and produce and fresh eggs and farm butter. The fresh produce and things are what get the locals in, and then they see all this art.”

Like Caswell, Floyd feels a kinship with his fellow Castle Street proprietors, who share a love for the quiet charm of the district. It’s a charm, though, that might not stay quiet for long, he added.

“Castle Street is really getting ready to boom. There’s a lot of appeal here. You know, downtown, it’s hard to find parking. A lot of people are just realizing this is here,” Floyd said.

In the coming months, Floyd and Odom plan to open an eatery at the All About AlPhi’s location. It’ll be yet another in a series of storefronts that have been occupied over the last year, including the hip Second Skin Vintage, 615 Castle St., which describes its offerings as stylish, high-quality but affordable men’s and women’s clothing and accessories.

And next to Gravity Records, 612 Castle St., Urban Oasis Apartments is taking shape, set to open later this summer with 11 two-bedroom, two-bath units and a storefront on the first floor.

“When we first came down here a few years ago, we noticed a lot of boarded up buildings,” Floyd said. “Now, there’s nearly every space is full.”

A mixed-use complex is set to open up next to Gravity Records later this summer.
A mixed-use complex is set to open up next to Gravity Records later this summer.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@hometownwilmington.com.