Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Supporting Wilmington's local and organic food markets
photo by Amy Conry Davis
Local and organic lettuce from Tidal Creek.


When it comes to a healthy environment and high-quality food, local mother of three Ashley Reed knows what she wants — and how to get it. That’s why before moving to Wilmington, she searched out local supermarkets that offer a wide variety of organic and natural food products. Her search landed her at the Tidal Creek Cooperative, where she quickly became a member and hasn’t looked back.

“When you think of Tidal Creek, you think of a community,” Reed said. “You come here for the healthy food, but you also come here because everyone is familiar with each other  . . . it’s like ‘Cheers,’ where everyone knows your name.”

But as Reed began learning more about her new community, she became worried about the well being of New Hanover County’s environment — and the potential affect it could have on her childrens’ health.

It turns out, she wasn’t alone.

Customer being helped at Tidal Creek.After quick conversations in grocery aisles, social media blasts to other concerned mothers about regional pollution levels and some help from Tidal Creek, a new group was founded: Mothers United.

The group was first given free access to Tidal Creek’s Community Room to organize and has since mobilized to other meeting areas across the city to discuss ways to combat air and water pollution by taking their fight to local politicians.

“We’re a support system for each other,” Reed said. “We set up play dates and movie nights every third Thursday to get our children together, but while the children play, we’re planning.”

The new group of about 30 mothers is focusing its attention on the proposed Titan cement plant near Castle Hayne and recently held a rally about the issue at the Tidal Creek Co-Op.

“It’s become more than a grocery store,” Reed said. “We’re a community that shares many of the same principles for healthy organic foods, and quality of life for our community.”

It’s the type of intimate community and customer service Tidal Creek Co-op is banking on as new natural and niche grocers begin to set up shop in Wilmington.

Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have all announced plans to open stores in the Port City marketplace, prompting many existing and founding natural niche grocers to prepare for their long-anticipated openings.

Tidal Creek has poured about $80,000 to renovate and expand the store, which shares a portion of its profits with long-vested investors, said Christina McKenzie, marketing and member services manager for Tidal Creek.

Offerings at Carolina Farmin'.At Carolina Farmin’ — a store that stocks its shelves with North and South Carolina grown foods from nearby farms and local bakeries daily — officials have widened shopping aisles, and beefed up the wine selection. The store recently rolled out a self-service salad bar and plans to increase its produce offerings in the coming months.

The store also continues to stock its shelves with fresh produce from local farms daily, a drawing point for many customers.

All parties agree having the new national retailers come to town is not a bad thing; however, they warn that in order to be successful, they must reach out to the community.

“If they’re coming into the community, they need to support the community,” Reed said. “I’ll visit on occasion once they open, but as for me and my family, we’re pretty hardcore Tidal Creekers.”