Interviews - Pam Baker
Downtown Wilmington from Toms River, NJ
Can you tell me what brought you to Wilmington?
We do family there and that’s what brought us to the area in the first place. Wilmington is very similar to where we live right now. Toms River is part of the Jersey Seashore, so we’re used to that casual, beachy feel.
We wanted a second residence and we chose Wilmington both because of our family and because we can see ourselves settling down here someday when we retire. We purchased a condo about a year ago and we’ve visited about five times since then. We’ve loved every visit. Wilmington is like our hometown but with the added benefit of a wonderful downtown. It’s charming and quaint and historic. It’s a nice area to walk around and hang out in, too.
How much of the year do you plan to spend in Wilmington?
Last year, including when we bought it we were there 5 times. We usually stay a week. This year our goal is to be there at least 4-5 times. We’ll probably come down in April, May and June. We’ll pass on July and August. It’s hot in Jersey too and we get that weather here too so we don’t need to travel for it. We really like September, October, November. That’s a nice time to be in Wilmington.
What other areas were you drawn to?
To be honest with you, we really weren’t. Knowing someone who lives there, like a family member, was key. But secondarily, the fact that it is so similar in all the good ways to where we live now, it really made it an easy choice for us. We just knew immediately that this was a great place for us to be. We love the parks and we use them. We love that people are outdoors a lot and people walk their dogs. We live a pretty simple lifestyle and that is attractive in Wilmington, too. It’s laid back and casual, but there are also nice restaurants and things to do. We’ve never had a bad meal there.
Another thing that was appealing about Wilmington is it isn’t all built up like Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach is nice in the off season but in the summer, it’s nuts. But from Wilmington you are close enough to visit Myrtle Beach for golf if you want to take a day trip.
If you had it to do over again, where would you live?
What we did is, we knew we didn’t want a home yet because we have a house in New Jersey. Our thought was to get a condo that would be low maintenance for us that we could visit up until the time we are ready to retire. Then once we retire, Wilmington is where we’ll make our final residence. Taxes are higher in New Jersey and the weather is nicer in Wilmington. There are no 25-inch snows in Wilmington. If we ever live there full time we will probably build a small house or buy a small house in Wilmington.
What do you like about living in Wilmington that was a surprise to you?
It’s not super southern. I have nothing against being southern. It’s just how it is when you are used to a certain pace and people. I was surprised that there are so many transplants from New York and New Jersey in Wilmington. And there are very few natural born Wilmingtonians. We’ve met so many nice people. We go to different places and we meet people and they are always transplanted from the North. I don’t think we’ve ever met anyone who said, “Hi, I’m from Wilmington.”
We find a lot of people in the northeast have summer homes in the Jersey Shore area. If they are drawn to the Jersey Shore, they would like Wilmington as well. And, home prices are a lot more reasonable in Wilmington.
What sort of people would like living in your neighborhood?
We’re in a condo. It’s more people who work in the hospital and I like that it’s a mix. There are younger people, there are renters like college kids. There are older people. What I don’t like about Toms River is they have so many of these active adult communities. My husband and I have never wanted just one group of people. We like a diversity and a mix.
What is your favorite way to spend a weekend here?
We go out to dinner quite a lot. But we also like exploring, we took the ferry from Southport. That is a great deal. I think it was like $5 for us and our car. It was a nice time. We never made it all the way to Bald Island, we just walked around the town and had breakfast and it was a lovely, pleasant day. Wilmington is just a lovely, pleasant area.
What sort of cultural activities are available to you?
We haven’t yet gone to any of the theater groups in Wilmington proper but I understand that they are very nice and that’s something we’d definitely look forward to doing. I think what’s nice is that there are things to do if you want to do them, but if you don’t want to you can just relax and enjoy the area.
How is the commute/getting around? Is there much traffic?
No. It’s very funny. We were down in June and we were meeting Buddy Blake and his wife Erin down at Carolina Beach and it was about 5:30 at night and I said to my husband, “If this is beach traffic, this is a breeze.” Because we’re used to New Jersey where the parkway just stops. But then again, we’ve never been to Wrightsville Beach, so I hear that gets a little backed up.
If you could, what would you change about Wilmington?
I would have a direct flight from Atlantic City. That would really make it great. When we fly, the reasonable flight is from Myrtle Beach to Atlantic City. And Wilmington has a delightful airport and I think people would really utilize a flight between the two places.
Do you think your area offers a good quality of life?
I think it offers a wonderful quality of life. The fact that it’s such an outdoorsy place. There’s plenty to keep you busy. You have to seek it out, it’s not everywhere, but there is so much to do and the activities are so rich. The whole pace slows down and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. There’s a beautiful town center in Wilmington that has all your good upscale stores and then there’s the mall where you have all the chain stores you need and then there’s all the boutiques you can seek out and visit.
Biggest hint for someone considering part-time Wilmington life?
Definitely buy a townhome or condo if you are not going to be here full time so you don’t have to worry about a lawn or something breaking down when you aren’t there. If you could find someone to check on your place while you are absent, that would be a good thing. I think what you want to do is, if you have a second home, you don’t want to worry about it when you are gone. Also, we bought clothes and everything we need and put them in our closets down there. When we fly we have our pocketbook and my husband has his laptop. No luggage whatsoever. You are footloose and fancy free. You go and enjoy yourself and all you have to worry about is the next time you can come back.
What’s your favorite local attraction/restaurant/event?
The Airlie Gardens. We went in and walked around once and said, Ok we’re going to join. It was December, so nothing was in bloom, but it was so pretty and tranquil. We look forward to attending their events when we are in the area. I can’t pick a favorite restaurant because we’ve had great experiences at all of them. And there’s still so much more we have to see.
How is the cost of living, compared with other areas you have lived?
It’s quite good. Just to give you a specific example: we went to the Melting Pot. The price of dinner at the melting pot is 15% cheaper than it is in our home area. And all the food is much cheaper than in New Jersey or New York. That’s big.