F O O D C O U R T
Historical Gathering Place to Be Honored
THE original Newell’s department store, where
Wings stands today, left an indelible mark
on Wrightsville Beach for generations. A hub
for everything from swimwear to hardware,
Lester Newell’s store helped usher in a year-round busi-ness
model for the town when it was built. But, perhaps
more importantly, Newell made an impact on the local
community by offering a simple, free cup of coffee that
drew residents and vacationers together in the adjacent
Newell eventually sold to John Drewry, who kept the
beloved store running before selling to the Seal family in
1976. Today Drewry’s son, John C.
Drewry, wants to see the Newell’s
namesake carried on as a reminder
of simpler times and to ensure that
the important historical significance
of the food court is not forgotten.
Drewry says that Mr. Newell,
being the enterprising entrepreneur,
would offer free coffee at the store
with the hopes that folks would
stay for a purchase. It was the cof-fee
that kept the fishermen — tied
“Mr. Newell was a key
figure in the community —
his business was a building
block for Wrightsville
Beach businesses and his
store and the food court
area was a gathering place
for everyone on the beach.”
off at the municipal dock across
the street — and other notable
community figures coming back,
creating a veritable social heart of Wrightsville Beach.
“Mr. Newell was a key figure in the community — his
business was a building block for Wrightsville Beach busi-nesses
and his store and the food court area was a gathering
place for everyone on the beach,” Drewry says.
Drewry, whose family owns the communal space now
shared by Trolly Stop, Kohl’s Frozen Custard and The
Workshop, is leading the charge to have the iconic Newell
name permanently dedicated to the community hub of
years past. He is planning to host a celebratory dedica-tion
later this summer, complete with an emblazoned
plaque, and hopes that some of the Newell kin can make
an appearance. A date has yet to be established with the
uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a defining landmark of culture and community where
folks could catch up on local politics, where the flounder
were hiding, or even just share some juicy gossip, the aptly
and soon-to-be-named Newell’s food court still stands as
a culturally significant center point. Whether it’s an older
couple riding up on bikes to grab a
coffee or ice cream, teenagers skate-boarding
by, young women shop-ping
in Hallelu, a family sharing hot
dogs, or boaters tying off and head-ing
in to grab provisions, every walk
of life can usually be seen passing
through the court.
Though taken for granted only a
couple of months ago, the simple
act of socially connecting in the
heart of the beach in a Mayberry-esque
setting might just be exactly
what most are desperately yearning
for right now.
Year-round, the location continues to prove its worth
for surrounding businesses. The pleasant, sunbaked, small-town
feel of the site will always draw in patrons, offering a
sense of community.
“Mr. Newell would have a cow if he knew somebody could
get $3 for a cup of coffee there now when he just gave it
away for all those years,” Drewry jokes.
The Drewry family, including John C. Drewry and his mother, Gail Drewry, plan to dedicate Newell’s
food court later this summer. The family owns the property that is still a central meeting area in
Wrightsville Beach, as it was when Lester Newell drew customers there with free coffee more than 50 ago.
BY PETER V I E L E