Team of beachtowners scores win in quest to bring eclectic bodega to Harbor Island

520 Causeway Drive has been vacant for years. A group of Wrightsville Beach natives want to bring a market back to the site. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — For the first time since last August, the Town of Wrightsville Beach convened its board of adjustment to handle an application from a group of beach-bred trailblazers that would bring a “high-end retail variety shop” to Causeway Drive. 

Last year, the players involved purchased the convenience store building on Harbor Island, previously the Causeway Market, with a grand plan of installing an eclectic bodega at the site. Since January, the owners and their attorneys have been navigating the town’s regulatory channels, seeking the necessary red-tape approvals required for a revamp of the building. 

The proposal is called the Bevvy Mart: “a high-end, clean-living convenience store that will attract both townspeople as well as tourists.” 

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

According to the application submitted for the May 27 board of adjustment meeting, “To explain the motivation for this project, you must first understand the gentlemen who own Bevvy Mart, LLC.” 

Mason Barnes, professional big wave surfer and Wrightsville Beach native, will be the face of the project. His father, Reggie Barnes, is a major property owner on the beach and has sparred previously with the town over requests to transform the long-abandoned Scotchman building on Salisbury Street into a restaurant. He also owns the land under Red Dogs. 

Chris and Michaela Batten, a local husband-and-wife entrepreneurial team, are also part of the squad. Michaela started Soul Shoetique in Crosspoint Plaza, while Chris helped conceptualize Annex Surf Supply and opened Bespoke Coffee in downtown Wilmington. 

Michaela previously told Port City Daily in January the target opening date was May 2021. At this time, plans have been unhurried by the slow movement of the town’s regulatory processes. The initial planning board application involved a request for a text amendment and conditional use permit; the planning board gave a favorable recommendation. 

After that, another hurdle was discovered. The Causeway Market building was constructed in 1972, and since that time the town had put new setback laws on the books. As is, the structure stands out of compliance — meaning another play to propel the project was needed: a variance request to the board of adjustment. 

Hank Miller, Wrightsville Beach mayor pro tem, leads the board of adjustment. A handful of residents showed up to town hall to support the quest of Bevvy Mart, LLC. The central discourse of the meeting revolved around how the Bevvy Mart would affect traffic and noise, and the seating logistics for the site. Alcohol consumption will not be permitted on the property, but the market plans to sell pre-packaged beer and wine. 

“You’ve got to think, like, bodega, but in an elevated way, which doesn’t mean expensive,” Chris Batten previously told Port City Daily. “It’s going to be focused heavily on branding and product assortment.” 

As of earlier this year, Mason Barnes was in Brazil, both to surf and scour the landscape for rare products to bring back to America and potentially sell at the Bevvy Mart. 

“The Applicant seeks to utilize the existing commercial building on the existing developed lot,” according to the board of adjustment application. “The Applicant’s goal and intent is to beautify the Property and redesign this commercial space in keeping with the small, specialized commercial atmosphere unique to the Town.”

The board of adjustment unanimously supported the Bevvy Mart’s variance request, and now the application moves back to the board of aldermen. 

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