Browsing Local in Wilmington - Carolina Country

Browsing Local

Wilmington’s customer-centered shops offer unique gifts, experiences

By Karen Olson House

Wilmington’s historic downtown has deftly avoided “chain drain,” and boasts block after walkable block of locally owned shops. Here are a few of its many specialty stores that visitors enjoy, starting near the intersection of Market and Front Streets.

Cigar exchange

Photo by Karen Olson House

Man cave

107 Market St. [mapnew-window] |

The Cigar Exchange wafts an aromatic welcome to both guys and gals, but men are more often the patrons of this enjoyably masculine “manctuary.” Lior Ben-Ami is the congenial host, er, proprietor, and knowledgably assists customers in selecting fine cigars from the walk-in humidor. They can pleasurably puff their purchases afterwards, sociably in chairs. Other premium products include pipes, imported cigarettes, ashtrays, cigar cutters, coffee and wine.

Artisans’ showcase

208 N. Front St. [mapnew-window] |

There’s a range of quality, handmade goods at Going Local NC, including pottery, handbags, enameled metal, photographs, paintings and general conversation starters. Buying local is a mission at this dynamic gallery/gift shop. It showcases at least 60 artisans from across the state. Curator-owner Michelle Conely has an eye for striking pieces. Browsing, you might see hand-beaded crystal spiders, wooden sunglasses, jewelry made from old watch parts or an octopus ring made from a fork.

Custom jewelry

10 N. Front Street [mapnew-window] |

Owner Mary Sedcieski has turned an outlet from grief into a storefront business. She began making jewelry at age 9 after her dad passed away, and started selling her pieces from a riverfront table at age 18. In 2015, Sedcieski opened her Gems4U shop, where she pleasantly greets customers. She mines raw minerals in western North Carolina, returning with rubies, emeralds and more. Her designs include chakra and hematite bracelets and birthstone earrings and creations from sea glass. You can order special occasion pieces, and have personal crystals wire-wrapped. Many works are custom-made, often on the spot. 

Pet haven

Photo by Karen Olson House

Pet haven

339 N. Front St. [mapnew-window] |

Coastal Paws is inside the Historic Cotton Exchange shopping complex along the Riverwalk. Owners Kathleen White and Ruthie Halko each have more than 20 years of canine experience, and own seven rescue dogs between them. They can advise on training and feeding. The shop also hosts animal adoption events. There are homemade treats, grooming products and humorous signs, along with colorful pet beds, leashes and bow ties. About half of the items they carry are made in North Carolina.

Encouraging clothing bravery

22 N. Front St. [mapnew-window] |

The Wonder Shop sells vintage clothing, jewelry, shoes, accessories, and some housewares. “We support clothing bravery and eco-friendly fashion,” says owner Kelsey Gibbs. Inspired by her late grandmother’s outfits, Gibbs own vintage finesse helps her advocate for environmental sustainability. “Vintage fashion is very versatile, from modern and minimalist to eclectic. It’s how you style it,” she says. “So many cool things are already made in this world. Let’s make use of them.”

Wilmington Area

For more information about the Wilmington area, contact the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau at 910-341-4030, or online at

About the Author

Karen Olson House is a contributing editor for Carolina Country.

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