Hustle & Bustle

Over the past decade, 128 South has turned part of downtown Wilmington into wedding central

Photo by T.J. Drechsel

It was never MIRA KHOURY’s intent to run a wedding and events business. But, serendipity played its hand, and Khoury, along with three partners, made 128 South one of Wilmington’s premier venues for weddings and corporate and private events.

“I love the excitement of it,” Khoury says. “It’s a celebratory business, and it’s fun to be part of that.”

Khoury and her partners, JJ Khoury, Brian Hood, and Christie Bazemore, started 128 South after Mira Khoury and her brother bought the historical VonKampen Building in downtown Wilmington from their father in 2009. Though it was in the midst of the recession, the new partners, with determination and optimism, decided to renovate and open the space the next year as an events venue – and to make weddings and other celebrations as wonderful and stress-free as possible.

Mira Khoury pulled on her experience in the food service industry – she’d worked in multiple restaurants while attending the University of North Carolina Wilmington – and her partners drew from their experience and expertise. If the group didn’t know how to do something, they learned.

Photo by T.J. Drechsel

In the beginning, the four young entrepreneurs did everything, from walking brides through the planning process to marketing to selling space to cleaning the bathrooms, Mira Khoury says. Thanks to their hard work and vision, 128 South has been a favorite venue for local and out-of-state brides for ten years.

It’s so popular that even though the group added a second venue, weddings still must be booked a year in advance.

Before opening for business, the owners had extensive renovations done on the VonKampen Building at 128 South Front Street. With views of the Cape Fear River, the site was transformed into a space that melds historic charm with modern amenities.

In 2014, the four partners added another site, the historical Bakery 105, to its offerings. Located across the street, Bakery 105 also joins the old with the new to create a unique and beautiful setting, complete with an outdoor courtyard.

Photo by T.J. Drechsel

In 2016, 128 South expanded once again. The Cottage on Orange Street is a former home built in the 1870s that the partners dubbed The Bridal Suite. Brides who book it can indulge in beauty treatments before the big event or hold bridal showers there. You might say 128 South’s corner of downtown is wedding central.

The company folded in full-service catering. Its chef, who attended culinary school in Atlanta, specializes in farm-to-table menus.

“There’s no reason why wedding food has to be mediocre,” Mira Khoury says.

Photo c/o 128 South / by Lightbloom Photography

As the four founders and staff are committed to creating memorable celebrations and events, they offer a boutique approach to their customers. For services 128 South doesn’t provide, or if the customer wants to use another service, 128 South staff recommends vendors they trust. Furthermore, the staff works with brides and party hosts through the planning steps, from assisting with floor plans to setting deadlines. 128 South even sends reminders for such tasks as finalizing the headcount to ensure everything is done in plenty of time.

“We want to make sure the process is seamless and that everything gets done well and on time,” Mira Khoury says. “On the day of the wedding, we want the bride and groom to show up and have the most amazing day of their life.”

Photo c/o 128 South / by Eric Boneske photography

As 128 South celebrates its tenth anniversary, it plans to continue to offer its slate of services and venues to brides and grooms, as well as host more events such as bar and bat mitzvahs and birthday, anniversary, and retirement parties – any milestone is worth celebrating, Mira Khoury says – as well as corporate events.

“I enjoy pleasing people and giving people a good experience,” she says. “I need that human contact, relationships with people, planning parties, and hosting people – having them relax and enjoy their day.”

Photo c/o 128 South / by Susie Linquist Photography


To view more of photographer TJ Drechsel’s work, go to tjdrechselphotography.com.

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Categories: Features