WILMINGTON — The Veggie Wagon, a local producer of gourmet food products, is opening its new store in Wilmington this spring.
Husband and wife owners Max and April Sussman, are opening their newest store at 3315 Masonboro Loop Road in the Courtyard at Masonboro shopping center in Wilmington.
The new shop is planned to be nearly identical to its current location at 608 S. Lake Park Blvd. in Carolina Beach.
The Sussmans founded The Veggie Wagon in 2009, as a roadside produce stand. The company has grown to encompass a retail market and commercial kitchen at 608 S. Lake Park Blvd., in addition to its wholesale business and delivery of community-supported agriculture baskets. Earlier this year, the business expanded into office space and a second commercial kitchen at 1117 N. Lake Park Blvd. in Carolina Beach.
The second location off Pleasure Island has been under consideration for about two years. The neighborhood feel and location of the Masonboro Sound area was perfect for the couple to open their new store for customers, who may not have a chance to visit Carolina Beach on a regular basis, Max Sussman said.
“We feel ready,” April Sussman said. “We have a good handle on the behind-the-scenes operations that we need to do to execute a second store. We always knew we wanted more than one store, but we had to learn how to grow the business first to run another location smoothly.”
The Veggie Wagon currently employs 20 full-time and part-time staff members. The store will employ an additional 15 people when the second retail location is up and running this coming spring.
The new space, at 2,400 sq. ft., is about 300 sq. ft. larger than its Carolina Beach location. Over the next few months, the Sussmans will be hard at work, building displays, painting and installing walk-in coolers for the shop.
Customers can expect all of the same products they find now at The Veggie Wagon in Carolina Beach, with the addition of some slightly higher-end wines and other new offerings, which according to Max Sussman, will be made public at a later time. There will also be weekly wine and beer tastings at the shop.
The Sussmans said the expansion is not just about their goals, it’s also about the staff members and the local farmers who are an integral part of the business’ success.
“We’ve enjoyed working with our staff, and their future is part of our drive for doing this,” Max Sussman said. “We also love waking up in the morning and knowing we’re helping to support local farmers and their families. It’s really a cool feeling to go to these small farmers that aren’t big enough to go to big-box stores but are big enough that they have produce that they can’t sell on their own.”
The owners said they and their staff travel to all the best local farms and small-batch producers to bring customers the freshest and tastiest items North Carolina has to offer.
Several of The Veggie Wagon’s products can be found on the shelves of Whole Foods Market stores in Wilmington and Winston-Salem, as well as at many smaller retailers, breweries in the Wilmington and Triangle areas and Overstock.com’s Farmers Market.
Max and April Sussman moved to Wilmington in 2006 from Virginia Beach, and after a few years decided to pursue their passions in the food industry.
“We knew that we always wanted to be in food industry in some complicity,” Max Sussman said. “We were so privileged to be able to build the company in such a tight-knit community. We’ve been involved in these people’s lives … we see these people, three and four times a week. That’s what makes it a feel-good job for us. There’s a real sense of community.”
And now, they’ll be extending their community base into the Masonboro Loop area, filling a need that Max Sussman said will bring more of a local representation of produces to the area.
“It was kind of a no brainier for us,” Max Sussman said about expanding their shop off the island.