Islanders Jane and Robert Jeffreys have reopened Topsail Beach’s beloved Godwin’s Market, which dates all the way back to 1949.
When Jane Jeffreys was four years old, she started going to Godwin’s Market in Topsail Beach with her family. As a young adult, she teased Mr. Godwin that she was going to buy the store one day. That day has come, and now Godwin’s has reopened with the new owners carrying on the tradition of the neighborhood grocery store.
Jeffreys says she loved the original owners of Godwin’s Market. “They were sweet, good people,” she says. Mary and Bill Godwin were fixtures on Topsail Island. Bill died in 2018, after operating the family store with his wife since the 1970s. Jeffreys says that about six months after Bill died, “I told Mary, all jokes aside, that if you ever decide to sell that store, I’ll buy it.”
Shortly after Mary died, in April 2020, a local Realtor called Jeffreys and told her the store was for sale. She jumped at the opportunity and has spent the past three years renovating and upfitting the building. Jeffreys reopened the store in April 2023. She says of her “new” store and the Godwins, “I think they’d be very happy with what I’ve done with the place.”
Jeffreys’ own connection to Topsail Beach goes back to the 1970s as well. Her family bought a house on the island, and it is where they vacationed “every weekend, every summer” since she was four years old. Her parents, especially her mother, loved to fish. Jeffreys has raised her own children here and says, “My children have spent every summer here since they were born.” She now lives in that same house, even though she has “improved that too.”
The legacy of Godwin’s Market traces back to 1949, when Bill Bland from Fayetteville built the market building on Topsail and hired James Averon Godwin to travel from New England in the summers and run the store. J. A. Godwin eventually made North Carolina his permanent home, bought the store from Bland and ran the store and gas station with his wife until he passed away in the mid-1970s. In 1977 J. A. Godwin’s son, Bill Godwin, and his wife, Mary, moved from Graham, North Carolina, to Topsail to help his mother run the market.
“I always thought it was so interesting over the years watching Bill and Mary,” Jeffries says. “This was their life, who they were.”
Mary, affectionately known as Miss Mary, knew everybody. She and Bill would go across the street to the bar after they closed the store each evening. That bar has changed hands several times and is now also being renovated to open under new ownership.
As a long-time resident on Topsail, Jeffreys now also knows most people on the island.
“I always thought it would be great to be the person that people depended on for their necessities,” she says. “It would be great to be Miss Mary.”
Jeffreys says she is hoping that kids who come into her store now will someday tell their kids they knew “Miss Jane.”
The response to the reopening from residents and visitors in Topsail Beach has been tremendous. Godwin’s is the only grocery store in the town, with the nearest store being 7.5 miles away in Surf City. Many people in the area are thrilled to see the store reopen and bring in their memories to share with Jeffreys, who says she gets “a story every day.”
Comments like “I’ve been coming here all my life,” “So glad you guys are open – this is great,” and “My granddad used to bring me in here” are common. One customer said she used to work for Mary, that she used to pump the gas when the store had pumps. Those were removed in 2013.
Miss Mary was known for her ice cream, Jeffreys says, adding, “If anybody has any memory of this store and Mary, it’s about the ice cream.” Of course, there will be ice cream in the new store as well.
Jeffreys says everyone has been “so inviting, so welcoming” and is happy to share that “I haven’t heard any negative feedback.” She adds, “I just want to give them what they need, what they want, as best as I can.” To that end, she is following another tradition of stocking the items her customers want to see offered in the store. While Mary and Bill would keep track of how many times a customer would ask for something, Jeffreys keeps a “wish list” of what people say they want to see in the store.
There are a few changes in the newly renovated store, most notably the addition of an HVAC system. The Godwins never had air conditioning. Jeffreys and her partner, Robert, have also had to update the plumbing. Even though they “tried to keep it as original as possible, structure-wise,” there have also been updates to the inside of the store, with new shelving, a walk-in cooler and a fountain drink machine.
Godwin’s sells lottery tickets now, too. In fact, just a few weeks after opening, hey had a $10,000 winner on a $20 scratch-off ticket. They are the only lottery shop in Topsail Beach at this point.
Outside, they purchased an additional two lots for parking and the septic tank. They are also installing a self-serve ice machine and are planning a “huge food truck.” The truck, named “Mr. Wilson’s Burgers and Bites,” after their dog, will offer grilled items. Upstairs, the two, two-bedroom apartments also underwent significant renovation and are occupied again.
They put picnic tables in front of the store for their customers, “to make it more inviting, so they’ll have somewhere to sit,” Jeffreys says. Plans for the neighborhood grocery store also include an electric vehicle charging station.
Jeffreys, who owns a property management company with Robert, says, “The south end needed a market and restaurants.” Godwin’s officially reopened on April 14, and Jeffreys is glad to see a number of new and renovated restaurants opening in the area.
Jane and Robert’s 22-year-old twin daughters, Lexi and Grasen Jeffreys, work in Godwin’s as well. Jeffreys hopes they will take over in the market after they graduate from college in May. All in all, Jeffreys is excited to follow in Miss Mary’s footsteps.
“If I can make things easier and less stressful for his end of the island, that’s my goal,” she says “I’m happy we’re making things happen. It’s been needed for a long time.”
Need to stock up?
721 S Anderson Boulevard, Topsail Beach
Open 7 am to 9 pm every day
Photography by City 2 Sea Media