Better Basket started as a dream that Joe and his mother had over a decade ago. They envisioned how they could connect local farmers with the people in their area in a unique way- by combining the traditional grocery store with a restaurant. They felt downtown Wilmington, NC would be the perfect location for this dream to flourish.
They would be creating a one of a kind “Grocerant” and providing a healthy food option for the area. Their dream was for Joe’s mom to run the kitchen with her unique flavors and style. They would transform seasonal harvest from the area into exquisite ready-to-enjoy meals. All the while providing the community with a grocery store that they could truly call their own. In 2009, they were finally ready to pursue their envisionment. They started exploring locations and options to make their dreams come true.
Left: Frank C. Meares, Right: Joseph Allen
Sadly, they never got the chance to launch their grocerant because, in early 2010, Joe’s mom was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. Even in their last precious conversations, they were talking about how she would be working in the store with him after she beat it. Eventually, it took her that November, and their dream faded away.
10 years later, life has brought many changes and reawakened old traditions. Joe now has a beautiful family and creating family meals is very important to him. His wife’s father, who is known for his amazing home-cooking, and his daughter, Katie, share a special bond in the kitchen. Once a week, it is a big deal for little Katie to help her grandfather in the kitchen using fresh ingredients to create delicious meals.
Recently, Joe was walking around downtown Wilmington when he remembered it was their night to cook their special meal. Although, no matter where he turned downtown, there was no place to find fresh ingredients that he could take back to them to cook. It was then that he realized downtown was in desperate need for a grocery store. He noticed the vacant Farmin’ on Front store building had a “For Lease” sign in the window. Then it hit him. His dream sprung back to life. What better way to honor his mother and carry on family traditions than to open the store they always dreamed about.
He remembered a conversation he had with a close family friend who wanted to revive downtown Wilmington and make it more family-friendly. He, as well, had a desire to make the area grow and thrive. His desire and honest passion for revitalizing Downtown Wilmington was pushed by his own family experience with his grandfather who once owned 218 Antiques and Armory in downtown Wilmington. His connection to downtown and his strong family ties and values made it an easy decision to ask him to partner with Joe on this venture. As a fellow visionary and downtown business alum, Frank Christopher Meares was excited about Joe’s ideas to help downtown Wilmington grow. Together with Joe’s former experience in grocery and delivery services, and with Frank’s experience as a supervisor on the Soil & Water Conservation board, they jumped head first into perfecting Joe’s family’s vision for Better Basket.