WILMINGTON—Wilmington is taking charge of finding its next downtown business by offering a cash prize for the business that best meets the town’s needs.
Faced with several downtown vacancies, and recognizing that a lack of capital is the most common barrier of entry for small businesses, the downtown organization Wilmington Works put together the “Make it on Main Street” competition.
A $20,000 prize (raised via donations and corporate sponsorships) is being offered for use as start-up capital for a new small business that is ready and willing to open in downtown Wilmington by October 2019.
According to a news release, three aspiring businesses have been invited to present their ideas live on Thursday, Oct. 18, beginning at 5 p.m. at Memorial Hall. The public is welcome to attend the presentations.
Following the presentations, one lucky winner will be announced, and the community will get ready to welcome a new neighbor to their downtown.
Entrepreneurs were judged using a scorecard that took into account factors like community need, potential for job creation, and economic diversity.
Nineteen applicants submitted their ideas in mid-July, when a team of judges narrowed down the initial pool to six. Those six were partnered with local business mentors and given six weeks to work up a full business plan.
After reading the business plans, the judges met again in late September and narrowed their choices to three finalists. All three finalists have traveled a unique path that led them to want to open in Wilmington’s downtown.
Headed and developed by baker Hannah Cofiell, Beurremont Bakery has been operating out of the kitchen of a local restaurant and selling goods mainly via a weekly pre-paid subscription service as a CSB (Community Supported Bakery).
As word has spread about the quality of her goods (which are also available on a pop-up basis at several locations around town, as well as at Mount Snow and the Cask and Kiln dessert menu), the CSB program has maxed out.
Cofiell is hoping to move into a kitchen of her own, expand the number of families who can subscribe to her program, and establish a walk-in retail presence. She also plans to offer baking classes and to host parties and celebrations in the space.
802 Fitness and Therapy, headed by corrective exercise specialist Paul Croutworst, has been operating for the past year out of shared space in Wilmington. The fitness center is another locally developed business which has outgrown its space.
Croutworst has just signed a lease for a space of his own in the former Wilmington High School (now part of Wilmington’s state-designated downtown area).
He said he hopes to expand offerings to larger group classes and make his fitness services and equipment available to more local residents. The cash prize would go toward equipment and technology that would help workout and nutrition programs work seamlessly for members.
The third business represents an entirely new venture that has been several years in the making by a far-flung group of international coffee aficionados. Two of the members plan to eventually make their home in Wilmington, while a third has ties to the area via Marlboro College (although he is currently based in Ethiopia, where he works directly with coffee growers and leads educational tours).
They hope to bring their separate coffee sourcing, roasting, and wholesale businesses together under one roof in downtown Wilmington with expanded offerings of pottery, produce, and groceries, and, of course, a place to sit down with a great cup of coffee.