Interviews - Marcia and Conrad Roncati
Wilmington from Fort Lee, New Jersey
Can you tell me what brought you to Wilmington?
We were of retirement age and we knew we wanted to go south where the weather was nicer and we knew we wanted to be near the ocean and we knew we didn’t want Florida. We didn’t really know anything about Wilmington, but I did some research in Barnes and Noble and something about Wilmington struck me.
We visited during Christmas 2002 and even though it was rainy and cloudy, we loved it. It really had everything we were looking for. It was near the ocean, it was a university town and there was so much to do. When we found out they had a foreign movie house we were over the moon. Even to the little things, they had what we were looking for.
How did you go about choosing where to live?
We decided we should look at some other places so we looked at Charleston and Savannah and of course they were beautiful but this really felt like a homey place. When we looked in Charleston, you had to live over the bridge, which looked like any suburban community. And Savannah was too hot. On every level Wilmington had everything we wanted. It has all the amenities of a much larger city.
We didn’t want to be in an area that was too rural, too far away from major medical services. We wanted the whole enchilada. We wanted to be near the ocean, we wanted some culture and nothing really compared to this.
If you had it to do over again, where would you live?
What’s funny is we did have it to do over and we chose Wilmington again! We have kind of an interesting story in that in 2002 we first chose a neighborhood in the North, towards Hampstead because my husband was into boating and he wanted a boat slip. So we chose a very pretty area and we lived there for 3.5 years. Then we left to be with family in Maryland. After a while there we asked ourselves where we were happiest. We looked at each other and said Wilmington! Given the opportunity to make a second choice, we chose to be near the ocean. We are absolutely delighted with that decision because we are 2 miles from the ocean but still accessible to all the cultural activities downtown has to offer.
What do you like about living in Wilmington that was a surprise to you?
It is the friendliest place. That is the first word that comes up. You have a lot of transplanted northeasterners that come down here and they want to be friendly, they want to have fun. I love that it’s so easy to get everywhere here. You don’t have to go on highways to get any place here. That is so neat and very user friendly. I love that it’s a university town and when you go into the restaurants most of the servers are students. It’s fun to talk to them and they are very friendly. Frankly, coming from the NY area and being exposed to NYC my whole life I was surprised by how there is a bit of everything here. No one could be bored here there’s always something to do. There’s something about Wilmington that gets into your heart. It’s just a delicious place.
What is your favorite way to spend a weekend here?
When you are retired, every day is a weekend. One of our favorite things is we like to go to dinner out with good friends and we love to experiment and go to different restaurants and then go to Cinematique. They have the most wonderful movies there. A lot of small-budget art films that you don’t get to see in the big theaters. We love to walk on the Riverwalk downtown. We love to go to lunch at the Oceanic and look at the ocean. And we just love to walk everywhere, now that all the flowers are coming in and everything is just gorgeous.
What sort of cultural activities are available to you?
They have opera at UNCW. All kinds of musical artists play here. They’ve had big bands. There’s almost nothing you can think of that they don’t have. They have Broadway shows. We have a lot of stuff. At Christmas time they always have beautiful holiday concerts. They have a lot of senior offerings at the university itself where you can take 1 or 2 day courses in things you are interested in.
What advice would you give someone considering a move to the Wilmington area?
I really think that they should pick a reputable real estate agent before they even visit. This is what we did. We made an appointment before we came down to go around and check out the neighborhoods. Having Buddy help show us around was vital, because we didn’t know anything about the area. That’s how we found out what the neighborhoods were and what they were about. There’s no way you can do it yourself. It’s not a tiny little town. You’d miss so much without a real estate agent to show you around.
A good way to orient for people who are new here is join the Newcomers Club. It’s an exceptional, vibrant club. I joined within 4 weeks of moving here and it’s a great way of meeting people. They just have a desk where you pick out the activities you are interested in. I joined a Scrabble club. It’s incredibly social and I’ve developed some strong friendships in that group. There was an offshoot club of the Newcomers Club for men, which has a very large membership and they do hunting days and fishing days and they do social events throughout the year that are phenomenal.
What do you do to stay out of the way of the tourists?
I guess the only thing that we’re conscious of in the summer is we try not to go out on Friday and Saturday night because the restaurants get more crowded. Restaurants that we like seem to get a lot more crowded on the weekends. And maybe we don’t go to the beach that much in July and August. We just feel like we have it the rest of the year.
What’s your favorite local attraction/restaurant/event?
We love the Azalea Festival, which is in April. We also love driving downtown. It’s a beautiful historic downtown that leads to the Riverwalk. And walking on the Riverwalk is just lovely. And there are restaurants there too. I love Carolina Beach, they have a cute little boardwalk, it’s a cute town in general.
And as far as favorite restaurants: Boca Bay, Brasserie, Bonefish Grill, Le Catalan, South Beach Grill in Wrightsville Beach, The Oceanic and OC.
How is the cost of living, compared with other areas you have lived?
It’s certainly less expensive to live here than in the Northeast, definitely. You get a lot more for your money in buying a home here than you would get in Maryland, and forget New Jersey. And taxes are lower, car insurance is lower. Food and clothes are the same all over.