Raising the Bar

by | Jan 12, 2022 | Business, Surf City

Three women business owners revive an old Surf City shopping complex.

Three local businesswomen have breathed new life into a decades-old shopping center located just off the roundabout on the island side of Surf City. In an area where many businesses would close before they even officially opened, these new businesses are packing the parking lot every day now.

Anne Bilderback launched the Fractured Prune in 2016, offering hot, hand-dipped doughnuts and coffee in a style modeled after the original Fractured Prune in Ocean City, Maryland. Customers enjoy a wide variety of doughnuts that are essentially made to order, as the shop touts “always hot doughnuts, all ways.” Surf City’s favorite flavors include Eskimo, Bacon Bomb and Maple Coffee Cake, among many other flavors.

In April 2021 Bilderback opened Sunrise Bagels right next door to the Fractured Prune. She says that customers at the doughnut shop kept asking her if she ever made bagels; after sitting on the idea for several months, she seized the opportunity to open the new business.

Fractured Prune Surf City NC

Sunrise Bagels occupies the space that was the home of Topsail Steamer, which outgrew the center and moved across the street.

Danielle Mahon opened Topsail Steamer in 2017 after being inspired by a similar restaurant in South Carolina.

Offering “take-home, steam-and-eat seafood steam pots,” Topsail Steamer’s concept has been wildly successful. Mahon saw an opportunity to buy the building across the street from her spot in the shopping mall the week after Hurricane Florence hit the island. She says they are already “busting at the seams” and have expanded the size of the original building.

Topsail Steamer has also opened in several other locations, including one in Wrightsville Beach and three in New Jersey. They’ve recently started a national shipping program. Everything they offer is locally sourced. One-use pots, which customers fill with vegetables, seasonings and locally sourced, in-season seafood, are then taken home to be steamed and enjoyed with family and friends.

Topsail Steamer Surf City NC

Bilderback and Mahon were both instrumental in convincing Debbi Beverage to open her new business in the same shopping center. Looking for a place for her market and design business, Inlet Blue Market, Beverage says she watched several places and had a couple of places in mind. Then Bilderback and Mahon told her about their location, which Beverage thought seemed like a “really good place for a design shop.”

Today, Inlet Blue Market is located on the opposite end of the shopping center from the Fractured Prune and has now expanded into the unit next door to her. She has also partnered with two other design experts, Heather Hudson and Ally Schieselbein. All three have the same love of design, Beverage says, noting that they offer interior design services along with home decor, gifts, furniture and jewelry.

Hudson also has a background in clothing, so they also offer some resort wear such as linen tops and pants.

Surf City NC Inlet Blue

Why are these businesses thriving in an area that has been known as the place “where businesses go to die?” Mahon says it’s primarily because of their high standards, in their level of customer service and in their operations. “We have good business models and we do good business,” Mahon says. The island, and Surf City in particular, was “thirsty for each one of our businesses,” she adds.

Mahon, Beverage and Bilderback are enjoying great success throughout the year.

Each emphasizes that their business is a family venture, with children, spouses and a few in-laws and nieces involved as well. Bilderback also focuses on developing job skills in the youth of the island. “We hire young people and try to help them grow,” she says. During the summer season, she employees 48 people to run Fractured Prune and Sunrise Bagels.

Inlet Blue Fractured Prune Topsail Steamer

Mahon is looking at opening new locations for Topsail Steamer, probably in Delaware and Florida as well as additional locations in North Carolina. Bilderback is happy with the Fractured Prune and is going to see how Sunrise Bagels goes before making a decision about expansion. She says she is “not looking to make any major changes.” Mahon is also pleased with Inlet Blue Market’s success, particularly as it expands into the adjoining space but emphasizes, “I don’t want to be so busy I can’t enjoy my family.”

This little pocket of Surf City is the place to go for hot, hand-dipped doughnuts, fresh bagels, local seafood and beach decor. It is now a place where businesses thrive under the high standards and direction of three successful businesswomen.

Want to go?

Fractured Prune Doughnuts
303 S. Topsail Drive, Surf City

Sunrise Bagels
303 S. Topsail Drive, Surf City

Topsail Steamer
302 S. Topsail Drivev, Surf City

Inlet Blue Market
303 S. Topsail Drive, Surf City

Photography by Mark Butler

About the author

Pat Fontana

Pat Fontana

I am a business writer and communications workshop leader. My business, WordsWorking, and my recently published book, Talk to Me Like I’m a Human, focus on improving workplace communications, concentrating on the fundamentals of human interactions. I developed, write about and train on the concept of REAL Communications, encouraging others to communicate with Respect and Empathy, paying close Attention and Listening with intent. I can be reached at pat@words-working.net.