WILMINGTON — When Wayne Theurer spent the night in Wilmington for work years ago, he thought nothing of his quick purchase at the Downtown Convenience Stop. Now, he and his partner, Mary Hughes, are the store’s new owners.
Hughes and Theurer moved from Madison, Wisconsin to Wilmington three months ago in order to be closer to Theurer’s family in South Carolina.
The couple wanted to own a business and the store was in their price range, so the match fit like a glove. Hughes also noted, the store is located “right on the prime 50-yard line of downtown.”
Maybe it is because Theurer works for an airline and travels quite a bit, but it was only later that Theurer realized he had actually been inside the shop before.
With Theurer often out of town, Hughes knew she would need some help with the store, so she brought a whole crew along — including her daughter, sister and son-in-law. They have all been helping with upkeep and renovations in the hectic months since taking over the shop.
“It’s a family affair,” explained daughter Jessica Hughes.
Hughes and Theurer have quickly realized that it’s a community affair, too.
“We’ve forged great relationships with our neighbors,” Hughes explained.
Many of the store’s neighbors are also its most loyal customers, according to Hughes. Bouncers from surrounding establishments have offered their help on busier nights and local law enforcement voluntarily stood out front on July 4, when the store was flooded with customers.
Inspired by the sense of community, Hughes and Theurer have started a customer loyalty program, where a different downtown business is highlighted and its employees given a 10 percent discount each month. Their across-the-street neighbor, Front Street Brewery, is July’s recipient. Men and women in uniform also receive a discount on most of the store’s merchandise.
A little of the old, a little of the new
While the exterior of the shop remains largely unchanged for now, Hughes and Theurer have a whole new vision for its offerings. The rear of the store, formerly reserved for coffee and deli items, will become the “Back Porch.” This new addition will carry home décor re-sale products such as wall art, small-scale furniture, light fixtures, and more—all within a reasonable price range.
Hughes and Theurer have employed Wilmington carpenters to make their new vision for the store a reality, constructing cabinets and replacing some of the tile floors with wood. They plan to continue that trend of supporting local artisans. The Back Porch will also carry art and trade crafts by local residents. Artists are welcome to contact Hughes or Theurer if they are interested in selling their work at the shop.
Longtime patrons of the Downtown Convenience Stop need not worry, as Hughes and Theurer worked closely with former owner, Kevin Yearwood, on the ins and outs of running the store. It will continue to carry the staple corner store items— snacks, drinks, lottery tickets, alcohol, and tobacco — as well as more useful products, from diapers to phone chargers. As Hughes remarked, the new shop will “combine [her] passion for home décor with Wayne’s love for Slim Jims.”