In Downtown Wilmington, Grocery Market Gets Closer To Opening

By Jessica Maurer, posted Aug 25, 2021
During the N.C. Azalea Festival, Better Basket opened for guests to preview the downtown food market. (Photo courtesy of Better Basket)
Better Basket, a new downtown market created by Joseph Allen and Frank Christopher Meares, will soon be open at 143 N. Front St.

Allen and Meares announced their plans early this year for a market that would offer fresh, local produce along with grocery staples, dry goods, a meat and fish department, a bakery and creamery and an open kitchen serving prepared foods. 

This past weekend during the N.C. Azalea Festival, Better Basket was open for guests to preview the store, which is in the final stages of construction, and to sample some of the specialty items it will carry. 

“We wanted to generate some excitement and give a preview of some of what we’ll be carrying, as well as get customer feedback,” Meares said. “We’re keeping true to our promise of giving the public what they want and not what we think they want.”

Some of the items offered over the weekend included yellow watermelon, cheeses, spreads, jams, sauces and ice cream sandwiches from Wilmington-based Nye’s Cream Sandwiches.

Better Basket will be closed this week as construction resumes, followed by the filming of the Hallmark Channel movie Christmas in Harmony, which is scheduled to take place at the market later this week. 

Once filming is complete and the market is fully stocked, a soft opening will be scheduled.

The kitchen will still be under construction as owners assess changing COVID protocols and make the adjustments necessary to meet current guidelines.

“We want to make sure every aspect of the kitchen is up-to-date and compliant,” Meares said. “We need to make sure everything is set up to allow us to make changes according to whatever comes down the road.”

It has been the hope of Meares and Allen from the start that the open kitchen would allow customers the ability to see everything as it’s made and to interact with kitchen staff as part of the shopping experience. 

“We want people to be able to see products being made and see that everything is made with the same care we would put into serving our own families,” Meares said. “In addition to that we plan to be very transparent about where everything comes from and source as locally as possible while highlighting products from across the Carolinas.”

Meares said shopping at Better Basket, which is opening in the space formerly occupied by Farmin' on Front, will be a unique experience every time a customer visits because there will be new items coming in all the time. 

He said, “It will be a rotating door of awesome seasonal foods coming in, each for a very limited time."

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