It took a day trip to Wilmington – and a stop in Maryann Azzato’s new Water Street wine shop – for a family to find out her vineyard is just a few miles away from where they were vacationing in Ocean Isle Beach.
That kind of discovery is a big reason Azzato wanted to put a tasting room in downtown Wilmington. In addition to selling a selection of Silver Coast’s traditional and signature creations and wine-themed gifts, the store works a bit like an advertisement in action for her Brunswick County winery, Azzato said.
Wednesday, Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI) and Mayor Bill Saffo welcomed Azzato’s expansion into the Port City with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Silver Coast Winery Tasting Room, which opened this spring in the Old City Market building, 119 S. Water St.
“It’s a live billboard,” she said of her newest location. “The growth in Wilmington, and in Brunswick County, is such that everybody comes downtown at some point and walks around. In Brunswick County, I’m in the woods.”
Off the beaten path and down the charmingly southern Barbeque Road, Silver Coast Winery has since 2002 welcomed vino enthusiasts for tours and sips at its original onsite tasting bar. The sprawling property includes a barrel room, often used for weddings and other parties, a gift shop and loads of local and regional art. The lawn is a frequent gathering spot for live music, festivals and other events.
Azzato opened a Silver Coast tasting and taproom in Southport several years ago but said she had always wanted a presence in Wilmington. She didn’t have to look long for a spot, since Old City Market manager Janet Vadie, whose Barouke Exotic Woods is also inside the historic warehouse, contacted her about an open space.
“She recruited me,” Azzato said, laughing.
WDI president and CEO Ed Wolverton said the revolving doors in Old City Market – stores fill up almost as soon as they are vacated – may be due to the “incubator” atmosphere the quaint shopping creates. Small business owners can test the waters in the cooperative environment, he said, and if successful can eventually venture out into a larger, stand-alone shop.
In the midst of efforts to draw more visitors to the riverfront, like the improvement underway to improve Water Street’s walkway, Saffo said a business from across the bridge is a welcome addition.
“This is Brunswick County’s first winery,” he said of Silver Coast. “It is great to have downtown. With the continued growth of tourism, it’s great to have a winery represented in downtown Wilmington.”
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.