Outside the Box

The Cargo District gains momentum and brings female entrepreneurs along the way

Cargodistrict 1

A successful business is rarely a thing that comes out of nowhere. More often, it’s the result of years spent collecting skills and experiences, combined with the ability to sense a moment of opportunity.

For ELIZABETH CARDAMONE, the beginning of the COVID lockdown was one such moment. Last year, finding herself in lockdown with her then-fiancée Christian and both of them working from home, she says it felt like the right time to jump into Christian’s burgeoning property management business.

The now-married couple owns Aloha Wilmington Real Estate, and Elizabeth Cardamone’s found herself at the heart of the up-and-coming The Cargo District close to downtown Wilmington.

“It’s definitely been interesting,” she says. “Taking on something so new during the pandemic just forced us to both think outside the box and operate totally out of our comfort zones, which I think is something I needed.

“I think The Cargo District is full of people like that, who had to think outside of the box, and I think COVID was just the push everyone needed. We all have these ideas of maybe one day I’ll do this or maybe I one day I’ll own something of my own. That’s definitely the case for a lot of people in the District.”

Elizabeth Cardamone is a Wilmington native who has spent a lifetime getting to know this city, from her early days as a bartender at Elijah’s to wedding coordinator to her last position at local nonprofit WARM, Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry.

Now as a partner with her husband, she finds herself managing almost 75,000 square feet of retail and office space in The Cargo District, an opportunity to put all those hard-earned organizational and networking skills to use.

Developed by L.S. Smith Inc., The Cargo District rose in the past couple of years, growing around an initial cluster of unique apartments at 1602 Queen Street built from shipping containers. It now expands over several blocks and includes stores, professional offices, eateries, a coffee shop, a distillery, and more.

“I love the concept of the shipping containers for something new and different,” Elizabeth Cardamone says. “I’m a big fan of minimalism, and I think downtown that’s what we need – affordable rental spaces. It’s one of the reasons we have these young, first-time entrepreneurs coming to our area because it’s not these sprawling office spaces or a giant strip mall.”

Just as the neighborhood isn’t standard, the Cardamones have a unique approach as well.

“The one thing we like to highlight as the property managers is we’re not a cookie-cutter management company. We’re not a one-size-fits-all,” Elizabeth Cardamone says. “We are boutique, we’re a small team, and we collaborate daily. We want to find local, innovative creative owners and companies to come into the community and work with this synergy we’ve already got going on. We want to find the right space for everyone. Everyone doesn’t need 1,000 square feet. Some people just need one shipping container.”

The businesses in the District are diverse, including popular favorites like The Plant Outpost and burger mecca Mess Hall. There are stylists, private chefs, and retail boutiques.

NORY SIMONEAUX is a local real estate broker and co-owner of Whole Water Solutions, a company that installs reverse osmosis systems. She and her husband, Paul, picked The Cargo District because of its proximity to different neighborhoods and their belief in the area.

“I think this area will continue to see consistent growth,” she says. “People are attracted to the energy, and The Cargo District has created a destination area. People come for plants and stay for coffee or come for a burger and end up remote working all day. It truly is unique, and we feel fortunate to be a part of it.”

ZOE JURUSIK, owner of boutique Auggie & Zo, echoes that optimism.

“There is an aura around The Cargo District that is energizing, refreshing, and inspiring. You can feel it when you’re around here. It’s a community that strongly backs one another as it continues to grow and develop, and that kind of support can be rare. I just knew this was the place I wanted the store to be and to be a part of that communal growth,” Jurusik says.

That sense of togetherness definitely struck Elizabeth Cardamone, who says she’s impressed by the businesses’ willingness to embrace newcomers.

“That’s one thing I’ve brought to Aloha: helping these younger female entrepreneurs who have this vision of what they want but don’t know how to get there,” she says. “One thing we really pride ourselves on is sitting down and saying, ‘Tell me your dreams; tell me what you want,’ and we’ll tell you how to get there.”

Women-Owned or Co-Owned Business in the Cargo District:

To view more of photographer Megan Deitz’s work, go to megandeitz.com.

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Categories: Features