Interviews - Jeremy Johnson
Carolina Beach from Wilmington, North Carolina
Can you tell me what brought you to Carolina Beach?
My wife and I both surf and my youngest son, who will be four in two months, loves the water, So we’re very much beach people. We just find ourselves from April to October constantly at the beach. So when we sold our house in Wilmington we decided the beach was for us.
How did you go about choosing where to live?
Carolina Beach is more of a family beach than Wrightsville Beach. Wrightsville Beach is where everybody from out of state has moved to and is where all the college kids go and there are few parking spaces and it’s hard to get beach access. Carolina Beach allows dogs on the beach, there’s a place where you can drive your 4x4 on the sand, and it’s more casual and family friendly. It just fit our lifestyle more than Wrightsville Beach.
It’s a very undiscovered place. Back in the 70s when my parents lived in Wilmington, it was a rough place. It’s now a totally revamped family atmosphere. Does it work for everybody? No. It could take 45-hour to get downtown to work. If you want a laid back beach community where you can bike or skate, Carolina Beach is probably the place for you.
What other areas were you drawn to?
We’ve always been midtown or the south side of town. My wife works at the hospital. She’s a nurse, so we need to have close proximity to the hospital.
If you had it to do over again, where would you live?
We’re building another house in Carolina Beach right now.
What do you like about living in Carolina Beach that was a surprise to you?
I love how you can bike everywhere. You can bike to the restaurants or the bars. There’s a Chowder Festival that we plan to bike to this weekend. Another thing is, everyone knows each other. It’s more of a tight-knit group than I was expecting, and than I was used to, which is very, very nice. Another big thing about Carolina Beach is, you can go on the 4th of July weekend at noon and find a parking space. At Wrightsville, if you aren’t there at 8 a.m. you’ll never find parking. It’s that busy. At Carolina Beach, there’s a lot more beach, a lot more access and a lot more parking.
What sort of people would like living in your neighborhood?
Mostly families, I guess. That’s pretty much what it is. The couples get together and grill out and have 4th of July together. On Halloween everyone sits at the end of the driveway and gives candy out so kids don’t have to go up the stairs. Our neighborhood is great for young families.
What is your favorite way to spend a weekend here?
At the beach with my family. The perfect day for us is: we wake up, my wife sleeps in, my son and I watch cartoons, we check the surf report, walk to the beach, surf for a few hours, walk home, kids take a nap, wake up and go back over to the beach for a few hours, come back, grill out, kids go to bed and my wife and I finish off with an adult beverage on the porch.
What sort of cultural activities are available to you?
They have Jazz in the Park and plenty of other outdoor music events. In the summertime there’s a movie in the park every Thursday. Families bring coolers and blankets and sit and watch a kid friendly movie. On Sundays they have jazz. During summer they have amusement park rides at boardwalk in Carolina Beach. There’s Blues Fest in Kure Beach in the fall. Also, there are all sorts of low tide runs, 5Ks for cancer and stuff like that.
How is the commute/getting around? Is there much traffic?
In the summertime it’s bad, to be honest with you. A perfect weekend is me parking the car on Friday afternoon and not getting back in until Monday. The main drag can get kind of hectic, so it’s better to bike.
If you could, what would you change about Carolina Beach?
What advice would you give someone considering a move to the Wilmington area?
I tell people, Wilmington is the type of place that has something for everyone. It’s big enough that there’s everything you need but small enough that if you stay on your side of town you recognize the same people. You see every day. Find the place for you and you’ll never be unhappy.
Do you think your area offers a good quality of life?
I do. Most people down here, they don’t care about what kind of watch you have or what car you drive. They care more about what’s going on with your family and they want to get to know you. It’s a different lifestyle. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever been to the Caribbean. It’s almost on island time. It’s very laid back. Business casual is a nice shirt, probably not tucked in, with khakis and flip flops.
What do you do to stay out of the way of the tourists?
We don’t go to the mall or movie theaters on weekends. We do a lot of that stuff during the weekdays.
How are the business opportunities? Would you recommend moving here without finding work first?
I think pretty good. We took a hit for the recession, but I don’t think it was as bad as other places. We’re lucky with all the colleges here. They keep growing because kids want to come to the beach to go to school. Kids go to school here, parents visit, grandparents visit, they fall in love and end up moving. Verizon just built a call center here. PPD just built a huge campus downtown that added 1,000 jobs. The county is the biggest employer, then the city, then New Hanover medical center, which is always hiring.
What’s your favorite local attraction/restaurant/event?
My favorite restaurant is Port land Grille, because it has different meats like ostrich and buffalo. We have the Azalea Fest and River Fest, those are always huge The population in Wilmington almost doubles when those happen. The 4th of July is always a great time to be at the beach.
Are there activities for children and families near you?
Oh yeah, there’s always something going on. On Friday evenings downtown they block off the street and have concerts. There’s music on the boardwalk, there are all the festivals. There’s always something going on. You just have to look for it. We have a farmers market Saturday mornings too, that’s a big thing.
How is the cost of living, compared with other areas you have lived?
It’s pretty comparable. I’ve only lived in NC. But as far as my clients coming from New England, the cost of living is a lot less, taxes are drastically less. Insurance can be a little bit higher because of wind and hail insurance. But, I think the cost of living is good for what you get living in paradise.
Do you worry about hurricanes?
The good thing about hurricanes is you know they are coming a long way away. The meteorologists give you an idea to watch out 7 days in advance. It’s the stuff you can’t prepare for like earthquakes and tornadoes that I’m afraid of.
What’s your favorite thing about being in a beach town during the winter?
No tourists. It’s quiet. The days are a little bit clearer, because there’s no haze, which is good for photography, which is one of my passions. It’s a lot quieter, which is very nice.