Tidal Creek pushes forward with downtown move, despite news of a new Front Street grocery store

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Although Farmin' just announced it will open a shop on Front Street this summer, Tidal Creek remains committed to finding a new home downtown. Photo courtesy Tidal Creek/Jeff Branch.
Although Farmin’ just announced it will open a shop on Front Street this summer, Tidal Creek remains committed to finding a new home downtown. Photo courtesy Tidal Creek/Jeff Branch.

News that a fresh foods grocery store is setting up shop in the heart of downtown Wilmington isn’t slowing down another similar operation’s move in that direction, as well.

The announcement Tuesday from locally sourced company Farmin’ that it will open a scaled-down retail version of its headquarters on Front Street this summer hasn’t swayed Tidal Creek from finding a new home in the area, Shaylah Paul, the co-op’s marketing director, said Wednesday.

“Farmin’ on Front doesn’t really impact our decision-making process at all,” Paul noted.

The longstanding Wilmington natural foods business has been eyeing the downtown market for nearly a year, declaring in March 2015 its intent to seek public input and begin searching for a suitable downtown site.

The need for relocation was prompted by the emergence in recent years of big-box chains like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, both of which offer organic and alternative fare. Tidal Creek, which has been in operation locally for more than three decades, is currently located on Oleander Drive, just a few miles from both of those larger food stores.

The shop has seen its sales steadily drop since 2012, when it took in approximately $5.25 million. This year’s figure is hovering around $3.75 million, according to the co-op’s board of directors.

The community-owned store also recently lost some valuable space. For several years Tidal Creek, housed in a narrow shopping center with limited parking, had leased a portion of the adjacent property that was once Cinema 6 theater for additional parking spaces, green space and an outdoor deck. But UNC-Wilmington, which owned the property, sold it last year, effectively changing Tidal Creek’s tenancy status.

And the store hopes a move to a more urban environment will help fill a gap in a food desert lacking available healthy food options within walking distance of surrounding neighborhoods.

While downtown remains the goal, Paul said Tidal Creek had never really considered a busy main strip like Front Street for its new home. Instead, she said, the store wants to relocate to an outlying spot better suited for space requirements and in closer proximity to residents needing better access to groceries.

“We kind of knew they were looking and knew they were looking in downtown proper,” Paul said of Farmin’. “We are looking in the surrounding downtown area…We definitely want to meet the needs of the community insofar as there not being any stores with fresh foods. And we also need a space that is large enough for us, and a space with ample parking.”

Paul said Tidal Creek’s board had zeroed in on a particular location of interest but would not disclose where, since no plans have been finalized.

The store should be ready to make its decision public in the next several months, she said.

In the meantime, Tidal Creek has created a blog on its website to update shoppers of its relocation progress.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.