Bitty and Beau’s emerges and the port expands: a look back at the most-read business stories of 2016

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As the Wilmington area continues to grow, Port City Daily follows the businesses – large and small – that help support and define the region. From mom-and-pop coffee-shops to massive infrastructure projects, these are the most-read business stories of 2016.

Bitty and Beau’s Coffee

Wilmington’s own Bitty and Beau’s Coffee had a big inaugural year. Amy and Ben Wright’s coffee shop, named for their children, is dedicated to providing job opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Shortly after opening as Beau’s Coffee in late January, owners Amy and Ben Wright got a call from the Rachel Ray show and later in the year they were featured on the show.

Bitty and Beau Wright sport t-shirts with Beau's Coffee's new name and logo. Beau asked that his sister, who also has Down Syndrome, share the name of the shop the pair inspired. Courtesy photos.
Bitty and Beau Wright after the renaming and relaunch. Beau asked that his sister, who also has Down Syndrome, share the name of the shop the pair inspired. (Courtesy photo)

After changing their name – to Bitty and Beau’s Coffee – and moving to a new, larger location, the Wrights got more good news: Ray would be making Bitty and Beau’s house blend the “official house coffee” of her daytime show.

The Port of Wilmington

The Port of Wilmington had a boisterous year, overcoming a major setback to end the year on a high note. A $16 million project to expand the Port’s turning basin, which began in February and was completed in early August, quickly brought the largest-ever ship to visit Wilmington. The project, along with others to increase cold storage and crane capacity, are geared at keeping Wilmington’s port up to date with the larger post-Panamex ships traveling through the recently enlarged Panama canal. Shortly afterwards, the Hanjin corporation of South Korea – owner of the largest ship to visit Wilmington and the region’s pipeline to Asian markets – declared bankruptcy, isolating the region from Asia and other Pacific markets.

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Hanjin shipping containers, stranded in limbo after the South Korean company’s bankruptcy, alongside Maersk containers which replaced them. (Photo Benjamin Schachtman)

In early November, Maersk – in association with the Mediterranean Shipping Company – opened up a new route to Asian markets that included Wilmington. In December, the Enviva facility came online after a year of construction and preparation.

New Grocery Stores

Wilmington welcomed several new grocery stores in 2016, with more expected for 2017. At the beginning of the year, plans for German grocery chains ALDI and LIDL where both in the final stages of approval (The ALDI site has broken ground on College Rd. near 17th St.) In early August, Publix opened the first of two planned locations in Pine Valley (the second location, in Ogden, is planned to open in 2017).

Rapidly growing chain Publix will open its doors to Wilmington residents next month. Courtesy photos.
Publix opened the first of two planned regional stores in August. (Courtesy photos)

A homegrown entry in ever-expanding field of grocery stores is Farmin’ on Front, the retail outpost for the local Carolina Farmin’ company. Many remember when the original Carolina Farmin’ shuttered in 2013, leading to a long search for a new location. After setting up their main production facility, Carolina Farmin’ set their sights on downtown, eventually deciding on a location on Front St. Farmin’ on Front opened in November, bringing much needed services to the downtown area which had been previously without a major grocery store.

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Farmin’ on Front opened its doors for local press on Dec. 17 before their grand opening the following way. (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)