WILMINGTON — “When Fermental left, it was a jab to the neighborhood,” Randy Tarr said Monday afternoon.
Tarr lives in the Middle Sound area, near the location of Fermental before it moved to the Cargo District in 2022. Tarr and his wife, Katie, and two kids, 11 and 9, often visited the quaint shop, well-known for its numerous outdoor music and events. It was a hub of sorts, always family-friendly and filled with neighborly camaraderie.
To fill the gap left behind, Tarr has been leading renovations on three structures on a roughly 3-acre property located a few blocks away from his former hot spot. The goal is to open a bar, restaurant, ice cream shop and event space on a piece of land surrounded by magnolia, pine and oak trees.
The property is owned by JGAT LLC, purchased in 2022 for $400,000; it was once occupied residentially but has since been rezoned for commercial business.
Tarr is renting the property and by May wants to debut a bar, transformed from a 2,000-square-foot ranch brick home. A garage adjacent to it will become a soft-serve ice cream parlor, with an open date sometime in August. Nearby in another garage, a restaurateur is looking to upfit the space.
“We can’t announce who quite yet,” Tarr teased, as the contract has yet to be finalized. But it’s someone already established on Wilmington’s food scene.
The entire compound is referred to as The Bend, a nod to Tarr’s neighborhood Anchors Bend. It will be family-friendly.
“When I saw this place, I knew it was the perfect location and the perfect demographic,” he said.
The 7227 Market St. address is located next to YMCA, Ogden Park, and the ice-skating rink, Polar Ice Wilmington, where families often congregate for sports and other happenings. At first, Tarr was only going to take over one garage at the address to start his “retirement plan” — a soft-serve ice cream eatery called Grumpy’s.
“My wife always tells me I’m grumpy,” he quipped.
Tarr has a love for the soft-serve style. Its menu will be basic: chocolate, vanilla and twist flavors, offered with various toppings, as well as banana splits, sundaes, flurries and the like. A few specialized concoctions specific to Grumpy’s likely will be added further along.
Next door will be The Parlour House, serving beer, wine and cocktails. Tarr has been in the middle of its renovation and is going for a speakeasy vibe, with leather couches. There is an indoor fireplace as well; seating, including the bar, will be roomy enough for around 50 people indoors. More will be spread out outdoors on the newly built 20-by-40 deck — also partially covered — and a gazebo, as well as benches and a stage.
The grounds have lots of greenery and yard space, with pathways leading to the garages. One directly in front of the house will become the yet-to-be-named restaurant, operational for lunch and dinner. It has to be retrofitted to include equipment and a hood system. Tarr hopes the contract will be signed in the near future.
There also will be food trucks parked on site.
While operating hours haven’t been fully sussed out, Tarr plans for live music to take place Thursday through Sundays — outdoors mostly, as indoors there are low ceilings which make acoustics harrier. Monday through Wednesday, The Bend will host activities like cornhole tournaments and other games.
Not only will food, drinks and ice cream be sold, a small portion of the property — around 60-by-200 square feet — is peppered with trees and enough open space to host larger outdoor concerts, farmers markets and other events. Tarr envisions the area rented out for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and other needs when not being used by The Bend.
“It’s just beautiful,” he said. “There’s not a lot of places here in town that are like that anymore. We keep tearing everything down.”
Case in point: Fermental was located at 7250-A Market St., also surrounded by trees, but had to move due to the property owner selling the land; it is now home to a Take 5 oil-change drive-thru. Across the street, a largely forested area has been clear cut to make way for 200 more apartments.
The Bend is a short distance from the incoming renters and surrounded by neighborhoods threading behind Starbucks and Seven Mile Post in Ogden. Tarr plans to close the operation by midnight on weekends.
“This is not going to be a 2 a.m. type of place,” he said. “Then people can go over to Seven Mile and continue jamming out.”
He also hopes to open some mornings and serve coffee; it won’t be a full java bar, but just a few drinks and espresso.
“A little bit of a working space so people can sit underneath the trees and have access to WiFi,” he said. “Or if some moms want to get together and hang.”
He plans to hire up to 15 people to help run the Bend, with his wife overseeing marketing and social media.
A former crane operator who also has worked in construction sales, Tarr and his wife moved to the area five years ago. The plan was to relocate either to Charleston or Wilmington. The beaches and mild climate were the biggest appeal down South, as the family moved from a small town in Illinois, outside of Chicago, where windy, cold winters were the norm.
“As soon as I got to downtown Wilmington, I knew this is where I was moving to,” Tarr said.
His friends now call him “Wilmington’s greatest champion” as Tarr said he is constantly boasting about the region.
“I just love it here: the warm weather, the friendly people. The Bend still has a ways to go before opening — but if you can’t tell by talking to me, I’m excited,” he said.
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