MeMa restaurateurs pursue vision for Burlaw Mall

James and Myra McDuffie’s restaurant is a major hit in Burgaw with customers coming from all over the Wilmington area to order Southern-style meals.

However, after five years of running MeMa’s Chick’n’ & Ribs, the entrepreneurs want to expand that success across Pender County.

They keep their goal of opening more doors for business owners with a massive business – a mall. A campaign is underway to find investors for The Creek at Burlaw project, which has a funding goal of $5 million.

Folla Capital, LLC works with the husband and wife duo to find investors, while raising money through crowdfunding. The Wilmington-based group helps small businesses raise money through programs authorized under the JOBS Act of 2012.

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Clem Seifert, partner of Folla Capital, is eager to see the project of two two-storey buildings come to fruition.

“There’s a need in Burgawa for that,” Seifert said. “Pender County is growing. Myra and James have been supporting the community for a long time. They’ve taken this leap of faith to build something great for this community. They’re asking the community to invest alongside them.”

They kicked things off a few months ago and are still working to build the campaign and marketing with the goal of engaging local and national communities looking to support a vision of Black-owned business owners. .

“Women, minorities and veterans are generally underrepresented when it comes to receiving funding from traditional sources for projects like this,” Seifert said while also referring to the fact that James was a veteran of the US Marine Corps.

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The minimum investment is around $25,000, through Folla Capital’s initiative called SLICE2 (Secure Loan Investment in Entrepreneurs and Businesses in My Community). It allows participants to own commercial property, at a fraction of the usual cost.

“Our target investor is an investor who realizes and understands the potential of commercial real estate and who wants to get involved, but cannot get involved at the levels of investment necessary to typically invest in commercial real estate,” a- he explained.

Campaign officials said the mission of the project is to provide quality and unique services to Burlaw, Pender and surrounding communities and people visiting the area through restaurants and shops. The mall, just off Interstate 40 at exit 398 near NC 53 across from Walmart, is expected to create about 30 jobs.

The Creek a Burlaw project includes plans for retail stores and more for the city and visitors to Pender County.

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According to a website for The Creek, tourists make up about 35% of MeMa’s revenue. The McDuffies also said high visibility is important to capture a segment of a market traveling on Interstate 40. An example of MeMa’s eastbound and westbound billboards was mentioned as another asset to increase deals.

MeMa’s will occupy the entire 12,000 square feet of the first building. Some uses will include a retail store, a barbecue sauce production facility, rental locations, and a food truck commissary kitchen that can accommodate approximately four food trucks.

Myra McDuffie, owner of MeMa's Chick'n & Ribs in Burlaw, shows plans for The Creek Mall.

A second building of 7,000 square feet should have five units for rent, but it is possible that a tenant will occupy all the space.

In addition to receiving help from Folla Capital, Genesis Block, a Wilmington-based nonprofit that supports minority and women-owned start-ups and small businesses, is also providing assistance.

The creek is expected to be complete and ready by 2023, according to published plans. But Seifert stressed that it all comes down to getting the money first.

“The idea is to raise capital as quickly as possible and move forward as quickly as possible,” he said. “If someone wrote us a check for $5 million today, the project would start tomorrow. They’ve done their general plans with the architect and there’s work to be done, but they’re ready to go.”

Journalist Chase Jordan can be reached at [email protected]

Edwin S. Wolfe