Visitors can celebrate Wilmington's deep-rooted history in trade with a visit to the historic Cotton Exchange. The complex of eight buildings features over 30 shops and restaurants that are worthy of exploration, and will provide an enjoyable morning or afternoon of retail therapy for Wilmington visitors of all tastes and styles.

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

The brick building complex has maintained its outward appearance, more or less, since the complex was initially constructed just years before the Civil War. In an effort to keep up with the flourishing maritime shipping and railroad industry, big construction projects were continuingly taking place throughout the Downtown region bordering the Cape Fear River, and the Cotton Exchange was part of this massive expansion. The large Sprunt Building was originally home to the Cape Fear Flour and Pearl Hominy Mill in 1884, the largest of its kind in the southern states, and the structure was renovated slightly in 1919 to make room for the building's new tenant, Alexander Sprunt & Sons. This company shipped cotton all over the world, to ports in the Americas and Europe, and the complex earned its designation as the "Cotton Exchange."

Shops at The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

The eight buildings along Front Street that make up the Cotton Exchange originally all housed a separate industry that was invaluable to local residents. For example, the Wood Seed Building originally operated as a laundry house, then a seed company, then a barber shop popular with the local railroad executives, while the Bear Building served as a wholesale grocery store and the O'Brien Building housed Wilmington's "Sears, Roebuck, and Company."

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

In the late 60s and 70s, the collection of buildings underwent a small series of tragedies, with a passing hurricane which leveled a back wall, and a fire which wrecked a portion of the Bear Building. In 1975, however, a time when Wilmington was revitalizing its waterfront downtown region, vast repairs and renovations were made and the new "Cotton Exchange" became the first downtown complex in the state to adapt and utilize existing buildings, paving the way for future downtown revitalization projects across North Carolina.

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

Today, visitors can explore all 8 buildings, which are connected through a series of open outdoor courtyards, brick walkways, with small exhibits along the way pointing out the highlights of the Cotton Exchanges' story. Inside, the Cotton Exchange maintains its original charming brick facade, with gigantic heart pine beams overhead keeping the structure sound.

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

There are five restaurants on site, including a coffee shop, an ice cream shop, German Cafe, gourmet Soul Food Restaurant, and a restaurant and pub which evokes the original saloon that once called the Cotton Exchange complex home.

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

The range of stores are impressive and even overwhelming, with a variety of gift shops and a "general store" that specializes in souvenirs and local treasures. Shoppers will also find jewelry stores, pottery and art galleries, exquisite local boutiques, organic and environmentally-friendly specialty stores, and a toy shop that will keep the younger family members thoroughly occupied.

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

Best of all, visitors don't have to come to the Cotton Exchange with a full wallet to enjoy the atmosphere. The collection of paved courtyards with benches and local landscaping, large individual buildings with multiple shops, and that red brick facade everywhere you look is a charming attraction all its own, even without the decadent shopping options. The Cotton Exchange is so massive, that it even has several entrances, including a wide front entrance that leads visitors into the heart of the main building. Located close to the waterfront, with dozens of seasonal fairs and festivals right outside its doors, the Cotton Exchange is a fun diversion for any history buff or avid shopper.

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

The Cotton Exchange is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., and Sundays from 12:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m., (although it should be noted that a handful of shops are closed on Sunday.) There is free parking available for customers close to the buildings' location on the corner of Front and Grace Streets. A map is also available onlinedetailing the parking and location of the varying shops and restaurants.

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

For a unique shopping experience unlike any other on the Carolina Coast, the Cotton Exchange is a must-see. Filled with quirky, charming and elite shops, mouth-watering restaurants, and plenty of historical atmosphere, the Cotton Exchange is a prime example of Wilmington's love affair with Southern culture, history, and relaxing retail therapy.

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC

The Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, NC


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Victory Beach Vacations

Victory Beach Vacations

Visitors who are on the hunt for the postcard-perfect vacation rental in the heart of the Carolina Beach or Kure Beach area will find an enticing selection and plenty of friendly customer service when they rent through Victory Beach Vacations. Based in Carolina Beach in the coastal Cape Fear region, Victory Beach Vacations has more than 100 vacation rentals in all shapes and sizes to ensure that every vacationing family can find their dream home away from home on the beach.   When you book your Cape Fear getaway with Victory Beach Vacations, the fun doesn’t end when you leave the beach, it continues with an array of privately-owned properties outfitted with all of the amenities needed for a fabulous beach vacation.   Jenna Lanier, General Manager, explains that her family first opened the rental and property management business in 2002. At the forefront of Victory Beach operations is Lanier’s mother, Caroline Meeks. Meeks is both the Broker in Charge and co-owner with husband, Buck Meeks, who manages the Field Services team with Lanier’s husband, Scott.   For nearly 20 years, the Victory Beach team has worked tirelessly to establish a network of top-of-the-line rental properties for Cape Fear visitors to enjoy. “As far as our properties go,” explains Lanier, “they are all updated, well-furnished and appointed. “We have always performed post-cleaning inspections and since the pandemic, have put freshly laundered duvets over all of the comforters between rentals.”   Lanier emphasizes how important the guests experience is “we strive to give our guests a relaxing, stress free, memorable vacation.” This emphasis on customer service has led to Victory Beach Vacations having a 4.8 Google rating with over 300 reviews by happy owners and guests.In addition to Victory Beach’s superior sanitation practices, the company offers properties for every type of visitor. Choose from luxury oceanfront houses and condos to more reasonbly priced 2nd row properties with oceanviews. Many properties include pools and hot tubs as well, perfect for outdoor entertaining, and many are dog friendly.   Lanier also notes that all properties are within walking or driving distance to Pleasure Island’s main attractions – Carolina Beach and Kure Beach. The former, as described by Lanier, is the more commercialized of the two destinations and features a boardwalk, outdoor dining options and a plethora of weekly activities including fireworks, live music, amusement park pop-ups, and movies under the stars. Kure Beach offers a more residential feel with its fishing pier, intimate restaurants and family favorite, North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.More water fun awaits, too. “There is a harbor and a canal that feed into the intercoastal. We have several properties on the harbor so guests can bring their boat, kayak, [or jet ski] and travel between islands,” says Lanier.   A stay with Victory Beach Vacations is an annual pilgrimage for most. “A large percentage of guests are previous guests. Some even reserve the same property for the next year as they’re checking out,” Lanier says. “It’s almost like it’s their personal vacation home.”   Even before guests arrive at their vacation destination, the Victory Beach Vacations’ website greets them with a live beach cam and exquisite aerial footage of both Carolina and Kure Beaches. See for yourself by scanning the QR code and call Victory Beach Vacations at 910.458.0868 to book your Cape Fear getaway. Start making your memories today! —Grace Silipigni