Monday, July 22, 2024

Big wave surfer and surf shop creative director plan to revamp site of former Causeway Market

520 Causeway Drive has been vacant for years. The convenience store previously there was closed while the building was for sale, but a group of beach natives want to bring a market back to the site. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — The building previously home to Wrightsville Beach’s Causeway Market might soon return to action, after its new owners secured unanimous approval from the town’s planning board for project plans at the property.

The site has long been unoccupied; the previous owner closed Causeway Market and listed the building for sale over a year ago.

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A professional surfer and husband-and-wife entrepreneurial team behind other local businesses are working together to open a shop called “Bevvy Mart” at 520 Causeway Drive. The sale closed in October, and final project approval is dependent on a board of aldermen hearing in February. 

‘Venice on Wrightsville Beach’

A professional surfer from Wrightsville Beach and the brains behind The Annex and Bespoke Coffee hope to bring something unprecedented to the vacant property on Harbor Island. (Port city Daily/Preston Lennon)

A limited liability corporation affiliated with Reggie Barnes, local Wrightsville Beach waterman and president of Eastern Skateboard Supply, bought the building for $742,500. Eastern Skateboard Supply owns the buildings of prominent businesses on Wrightsville Beach’s Lumina Drive, like King Neptune’s and Jimmy’s at Red Dogs. A different company affiliated with Barnes owns an abandoned Scotchman building across the island. 

Bevvy Mart, LLC was established in June, with Barnes’ son, professional big wave surfer Mason Barnes, listed as a company official, alongside Chris Batten. Bevvy Mart is listed as the building’s tenant on town planning board documents.

Batten was on the ground floor of Annex Surf Supply on Harbor Island and downtown Wilmington’s Bespoke Coffee. Both businesses employ branding strategies that accentuate the energy of the space just as much as the product itself, Batten said. 

“There’s nothing mind-boggling about the coffee or anything, it’s all about the space,” he said. “You want people to hang out at your store, because that just creates energy.”

According to documents submitted to the planning board, Batten washed dishes at Fish House prior to joining Surf City Surf Shop, where he eventually became general manager. He now works as creative director for Culta, a craft cannabis brand based in Maryland.

Batten became friends with the younger Barnes, the professional surfer, while Barnes was growing up on Harbor Island and Batten worked at Surf City, according to Batten’s wife Michaela. Barnes is currently in Brazil, partly to scout out potential products for the store, Chris said. 

“We’ll try to get those products and maybe be seven-to-eight months in front of the curb,” he said. 

In October, Barnes travelled to Nazaré, on Portugal’s coastline, to take part in a “once-in-a-generation swell,” according to the Free Range American. Waves reportedly reached heights of nearly 100 feet, verging on the realm of a world record. 

“It’s been crazy. It’s been giant for four days. Yesterday was by far the tallest day I’ve ever seen. It could have been the biggest day in surfing history,” Barnes told the Free Range American. 

The plan is for Barnes and his prolific surfer image to serve as a cornerstone of Bevvy Mart’s marketing strategy, Batten said.

An elevated bodega

Batten describes Bevvy Mart as a “variety store hybrid,” with a pickup window, a coffee bar, beer and wine selection, and local prepackaged foods, as if “Whole Foods was shrunk down to the size of a footprint.”

“You’ve got to think like bodega, but in an elevated way, which doesn’t mean expensive,” he said. “It’s going to be focused heavily on branding and product assortment.” 

Michaela, who works on the business end and in product selection, said the group hopes to open Bevvy Mart by May 2021. Just across the bridge, Michaela started Soul Shoetique, a women’s shoes and clothing boutique in Crosspoint Plaza.

After a planning board approval Jan. 5, the project, which requires a text amendment to the town code and a conditional use permit, needs a final go-ahead from the board of aldermen at its February meeting. 

The first step is to get locals on board as returning customers, Michaela said, while also targeting the incoming summer tourist market.

“I’ve really been saying that our business is two parts,” she said. “It’s the community that’s going to drive us throughout the year. And then there’s the tourist community.”

Chris added: “We’ll definitely cater to the Harbor Island residents pretty heavily, and what they like, because that’s going to be predominantly, probably our most frequent customer.”

The hope is to bring back a community shopping experience on Harbor Island, with an eccentric component modeled on other hybrid stores like The Goods Mart and Chicago’s Foxtrot, Chris said. 

“It will look like Venice on Wrightsville Beach, essentially,” he said. 

Preston can be reached at or (910) 478-6511

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