Interviews - Wendy Hall
Hampstead from St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Can you tell me what brought you to Hampstead?
We had been living in the Virgin Islands for 10 years and our daughter was turning school aged and I was concerned with the level of education available in the public schools there because they constantly lose their accreditation. And I wanted my child to be able to eventually go to college. My husband didn’t want to have to go back to work in New York, so we looked for something between big city and island beach. We had never heard about Wilmington at all but years ago – before we moved to St. Thomas – my husband worked for a company called EUE Screen Gems in New York. And when we heard from EUE Screen Gems that they had a position, we looked here and we thought we’d like it. Then my mother came down from New Jersey to check it out for me to see if I’d like it – we were still in St. Thomas -- and she fell in love with it and she bought a place here. Then we moved here, lived with her for two years and we bought a place a month ago and we are completely in love with it. It’s got the great education, the cool city vibe downtown, the artsy scene that’s SoHo-ish.
How did you go about choosing where to live?
God bless Buddy Blake and his team. Because this search literally took 4 years. There were 2 years where the team sent us information and I was online almost every day looking at houses and then two years while I lived here with my mom, looking at houses in person. I looked from one corner all the way to the other corner of the Wilmington area. I must have gone to probably about 900 houses. I’m not exaggerating. I was thrilled when I found this house here in Hampstead. I loved the Topsail school district. It’s known as a good school district.
What other areas were you drawn to?
I investigated Carolina Beach because we loved the whole ability to have water access and the beachy things. We looked everywhere. I decided Leland wasn’t it for me; I prefer the Intracoastal to the river. But I think we were ultimately between Carolina Beach and Hampstead. We did fall in love briefly with a house in Georgetown as well.
If you had it to do over again, where would you live?
Absolutely, yes. I absolutely love my home. Every day I walk around saying, “I’m so happy.”
What do you like about living in the Wilmington area that was a surprise to you?
How artistic the environment here is. There are a lot of different arts and wonderful museums. And another thing that’s distinct is the people are so polite here. When my husband first came here and he went to the store he remarked on how polite people were. Yes ma’am, no ma’am, how are you? I was also surprised by the amount of southerners that were in the area,
What sort of people would like living in your neighborhood?
I think it’s a wonderful place for children. There are great parks, lots of extracurricular activities. There seems to be a lot of growth happening. They just on Wednesday opened a Harris Teeter down the road. It’s still growing and it doesn’t feel congested. It’s very central, so it’s easy to locate everything. It’s becoming less rural and it’s just a sneeze away from downtown Wilmington.
What is your favorite way to spend a weekend here?
One of the things that I love is the fact that in the greater Wilmington area the always seems to be a festival of some sort of going on. Some sort of social thing is always happening. There’s always something to do. There’s so many different restaurants and there’s all kinds of great stuff. Another thing we love to do is go out on the water. We take the boat out, go fishing, cruise up and down the Intracoastal, stop in at a restaurant to eat. It’s great.
What sort of cultural activities are available to you?
There are all the different festivals. There’s the Greek Festival, Italian Food Festival. Azalea Festival. There are always all kinds of fishing things going on. But there are also different activities at the aquariums, the art museums. The library has things going on also. There’s The Independent Film Festival, Cucaloras. There’s the haunted house and haunted downtown. Because it’s a very college-oriented town, there’s always stuff going on with that as well.
How is the commute/getting around? Is there much traffic?
I have to say that Hampstead I find to be a little bit easier than where I was in Wilmington, which was the Ogden area. The Ogden area was very congested. The only problem is, when it does snow everything kind of stops.
If you could, what would you change about Wilmington?
If I could, I would find or create some more jobs. Because I find that that’s the one thing: it’s difficult to find jobs. It’s seasonal and it seems to be resort-ish in that sense and it can be difficult to find good jobs unless you are highly specialized.
Do you think your area offers a good quality of life?
Yes I do. I think the standard of living is very good. The people are friendly, the standard of education seems to be very good, the healthcare is fantastic. I’m pleased with it and I think the quality of life is very good here. I have actually lived in a lot of different places. I’ve lived in Brazil, Uruguay, Florida, New Jersey, and I can say that when I decided to move here I said the house I next bought was going to be my forever house, I could have gone anywhere but I chose here because it really fits on so many levels. It’s not stagnant. It’s a growing community. It’s not full of itself, it still tries hard. The weather is fantastic, the water is fantastic. It’s got nature, it’s got culture, it’s got potential and it lives up to its potential.
How are the business opportunities? Would you recommend moving here without finding work first?
Well, I think that it’s one of the most difficult aspects of living here is to find a job that is more of a career rather than just a job. I would say, if you have the opportunity to move here and have something in place before you do, that’s a good move.
Are there activities for children and families near you?
We do Girl Scouts and my daughter has been involved in the Best Foot Forward through the school system. There is soccer and all kinds of sports. There are great parks with nice new equipment. It’s very pet oriented and very children oriented. There are all kinds of options for expression of one’s self: martial arts, camping, boating, swimming, soccer, I can’t think of anything I’d want to do with my 7-year-old daughter that I can’t find here.
How is the cost of living, compared with other areas you have lived?
I find it to be, first of all, substantially lower than the island. But also lower than other places, in terms of property taxes and cost of food. It’s substantially lower than the northeast. Housing costs are lower. If I had tried to by the house I bought here in NJ it would have cost me probably double.
What’s the best thing about living in a beach town during the winter?
One of my favorite things in the whole world: walking on the beach in the winter. And also you get a little bit of a different feeling when there are fewer visitors.