Sunday, December 3, 2023

Wilmington’s first African-Caribbean market opens on Oleander, bringing coveted flavors to town

Felix Emeka prices items at his new store, the African Caribbean Market & More, located off Oleander Drive in Wilmington. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

WILMINGTON — After 15 years in town, Felix Emeka got fed up with driving hours to stock up on African ingredients to make his favorite dishes.

So, he and his wife Tammi opened Wilmington’s first African and Caribbean market off Oleander last week.

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“This comes about because of my personal need. For example, when I try to get some food, I can’t find it nowhere. I have to travel to Raleigh, I have to travel to the Charlotte area to find it. So the last time we went out looking for it, on my way coming back, my wife was like, ‘it seems you have to do this every time,'” Emeka said.

African Caribbean Market & More is the first business Emeka has owned, though he’s helped run businesses other successful businesses for years. Raised around his mother’s restaurant in Nigeria, Emeka has a love for cooking and African flavors. Since opening, he said the response from the local African and Caribbean community has been overwhelming.

“It makes you feel really good. To have the native, back home taste. It’s like you’re back in your mother’s kitchen,” he said.

The store is stocked with seasonings, sauces, and starches. It also has a wide selection of meats difficult to find elsewhere, including oxtail, goat, tripe, cow skin, cow feet, stewing hen, and more. “Pretty much everything that we have in this store is something that we have put some thought into,” Emeka said.

A customer recently came in to pick up a bag of gari, a west African flour made from cassava root, which they typically had to travel hours for, Emeka said. Seeing the reaction from customers picking out coveted ingredients they couldn’t previously find locally is rewarding, Emeka said.

“I’ve got people coming all the way out from the Wallace area to come find something here,” he said. “We solved a problem and also solved my problem at the same time. It’s a win-win.”

With familiar flavors within reach, Emeka said he’s been able to cook his favorite meals at home more often than before. “I can cook just about anything right now. But before, I had to plan around. I had a little of ingredients, right? You don’t want to use them up at one time because you have to travel to get more. Now, I can eat it all day every day if I want to.”

After opening last Saturday, Emeka said the market has been a place for the African and Caribbean community to feel welcome. “It’s a place that connects a lot of people,” he said.

The African Caribbean Market & More is located at 4209 Oleander Drive in Wilmington. The market is open Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sundays.

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