WILMINGTON — A neighborhood bottle shop in Ogden will move after a year of trying to find a way to stay put. Owner Steven Gibbs will be relocating Fermental 8.5 miles away to The Cargo District, he announced Tuesday.
“Although every attempt was made to remain at our current location, in the end, it was an impossible acquisition,” he said.
A Charlotte real estate company, Durban Development, has put under contract 7250-A Market St., with plans to build a Take 5 Oil Change. The half-acre property was listed for $850,000 last year; Gibbs and his wife, Kristen, had negotiated a first-right-of-refusal in the lease to buy it from property owner Dennis Stokley.
They sought traditional loans though ran into quite a few hiccups along the way, Gibbs explained. The asking price versus the property’s valuation, just over $300,000, was too steep to secure the capital.
“And on the real estate records, there’s an easement on the property that is not supposed to be used officially for parking,” Gibbs explained.
That parking area was intended to be an entry and exit to the complex, built in 1950, which also serves other cottages nearby — one previously inhabited Tame and Mane, which moved across Market Street a year ago, and the other being A Atlantic Coast Lock.
“Somewhere in the past, for decades, it was just some sort of handshake deal that was worked out to become parking,” Gibbs said.
He was ready to throw in the towel when an investor who lived nearby stepped in to help, yet also became deterred by the easement issue, Gibbs explained. In essence, if nearby properties were sold, new owners could take umbrage with the parking situation, in effect impacting all businesses.
Chatter a year ago was that Take 5 would scoop up all the cottages in the small plaza.
“At least that was their original plan,” Gibbs said. “They were going to buy this whole thing. And they started to run into problems with this easement. They let their examination period go on that property a few times.”
Representatives from Durban Development didn’t respond to Port City Daily for comment, but property owner Stokley confirmed Tuesday the oil-change business is under contract only for Fermental’s corner lot.
Gibbs said he exhausted his search in trying to keep the bottle shop in Ogden once he realized a move was imminent: “Even when our investor pulled out, we just kept doing everything we could to try and stay here.”
He had grown a loyal customer base from nearby neighborhoods, like Brandywine and Queens Point, over the last nine years. Families would ride bikes to picnic in the beer garden, listen to live music and enjoy the food trucks frequently parked on weekends.
It grew so popular, runover parking began to fill the nearby Big Lots parking lot.
“My wife and I live only three blocks away,” Gibbs said. “We know this place has meant a lot to the neighbors.”
During his search, Gibbs said he looked in Hampstead, Scott’s Hill and Porters Neck, up to Monkey Junction and even in downtown Wilmington, where he opened his first bottle shop and wine bar, Bottega, over a decade ago (which has since been sold twice). He and his wife kept one goal in mind, he said: stay out of a strip mall.
They came across 600 S. 17th St., at the corner of Castle Street, near The Cargo District’s anchored distillery, End of Days. Fermental’s new home is owned by Matt Scharf of Real Properties LLC — the company behind the one-bedroom apartments, Studio 17, located a block over on the other side of the ABC Store at Castle and 17th streets.
The building offers almost double the square footage (1,800) of the indoor space in Ogden. Another 2,000 square feet makes up the outdoor beer garden, about a third of the outdoor space in Ogden.
As fate would have it, the bottle shop is moving from a location slated to become an oil-change business and landing in a former 1960’s service station. Scharff has agreed to upfit some of the building, which needs an HVAC system, as well as an additional bathroom, according to Gibbs. The new tenants will be building out bars and areas for coolers.
“We’re going to move forward with doing glassware rather than wasteful plastic,” Gibbs said, “and so that requires a lot of plumbing. We’re kind of forced to use it here [in Ogden] because it’s impossible to put dishwashers and sinks and stuff into the cottage.”
Gibbs said he may scale down retail inventory at the new location, though plans to offer more drafts. Live music still will be booked, as will arts and crafts events, tap takeovers, and food trucks. He is finalizing hours but leaning toward operating 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Though he said he will miss the close connections he made with customers in Ogden, expanding in the future isn’t off the table. “Maybe we will be back eventually,” he said.
Take 5 is scheduled to close on the Market Street property in January 2022. Gibbs will have Fermental shuttered by the end of the year and reopening in its new location by January or February, though the timelines are loose.
If by chance the current closing falls through, Gibbs said he would operate at both locations. “Anything can happen between now and then,” he said, “but we are locked in at the new spot.”
For now, a farewell celebration is on the books at Fermental for Saturday, Dec. 4. It will include an inventory sale, live music and food trucks.
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