Staff photo by Cole Dittmer
Wrightsville Beach Visitors Center employees Betty Shumpert, from left, Gloria Richardson and Rosalie Howell gather at the Howell Cottage for the visitors center’s grand reopening Wednesday, April 30.
With another summer tourist season just around the corner, the Wrightsville Beach Visitors Center and Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted a grand opening of the organization’s headquarters in the historic Bender-Howell Cottage Wednesday, May 3.
The event served as the official reopening of the visitors center as well as the unveiling of the renovations the chamber of commerce funded for the circa 1940 cottage.
Chamber chairwoman Sue Bulluck said Wayne Bland and David Middleton completed the rebuilding of the cottage’s entire back wall, porch and various other projects in the offseason.
Bulluck said the chamber is trying to replenish its membership with more of the nearby banks like PNC Bank on Eastwood Road, which has registered as a chamber member for 2014.
Last season, Bulluck said the membership grew to 38 but there are 180 potential member businesses in the area. The chamber had 165 members in 2006.
The final decision of whether the chamber will renew its lease of the cottage has not been determined after the town of Wrightsville Beach voted to assume ownership of the cottage when the current lease ends. Bulluck said town attorney John Wessell and the chamber’s attorney, William Fuss, are reviewing the options for the lease. The chamber intends to remain in the cottage.
The Bender-Howell Cottage was relocated to Historic Square on West Salisbury Street in 2003 and opened as the visitors center in 2004.
Visitors center employee Betty Shumpert has worked at the center for six years and said she is still surprised by the diversity of tourists who walk through the door.
“We have people come here from all over the world,” Shumpert said. “One day there was a group that came in from Germany and then when they left some people from France came in. You just never know who is going to come in the door.”
A native of Wrightsville Beach, Shumpert said she enjoys being a source of information to those international travelers visiting the beach.
“I can tell them a little about what it used to be like or I can tell them what is going on now,” she said. “I grew up here so I am really partial to Wrightsville Beach, and I just enjoy encouraging people to stay.”