The Story of the Olde Southport Village

Once upon a time in 1996, Phil Hemphill saw the swampy weedy overgrown lot on 1102 N. Howe Street; full of debris and building surrounded by old tires, he had a vision. Back in the 1940's, this spot had been The Pines restaurant, owned and operated by the Worley family and was the hoppin' drive-in where Sunny Point soldiers came, and for just $1.00 they could get a hamburger “all-the-way” and a cold beer.  Now vacant for the past 8 years, the location had previously housed the restaurant, a bar, pool hall and even a church.  Now “all tore all to pieces,” Phil closed his eyes and saw his plan...“My wife thought I was crazy, but I could see a village  there. I drew up a plan that had 12 little houses on it, which would all be specialty shops in my little village.” 

Deciding to update the restaurant first,  for seven months, he cleaned, remodeled, and uncovered all sorts of surprises. A leaky roof and water soaked floor revealed what turned out to be a safe cemented into the floor. Curious to the possible treasures unknown, Phil and friends worked for more than a week, using their brute force to try to crack open the safe which refused to budge and let her secrets be known. His buddies suggested blowing it up, but Phil had to say “no” and get on with his construction; so the mystery of her contents were  permanently entombed under a newly poured cement floor where the safe remains buried today in the Southport Smoke House.

Phil opened his “Olde Southport Village Barbecue” in 1997 and spent the next four years tending  hot hickory coals and cooking pork shoulders. To keep things a swinging, he built an outdoor stage which sheltered the live musicians who came to play on Friday nights. The sounds of country, gospel, and rock-n-roll music danced through the evening air in harmony with the tantalizing scent of North Carolina barbecue.

The Shoppes Are Born

This First Village Shoppe

An old garage had also been on the property and sheltered a classic Buick owned by a local gentleman. After the Buick  moved on, Phil used the  space as dry storage until he decided to move  the entire building  towards the back of the lot. Able to save the  original wood floor, he  then added a porch, new tin roof, and a  bathroom thus giving life to the first shop in Phil’s dream of the Olde  Southport Village Shoppes…this  is now the orange building which is  home to Carolina Manual Therapy (  L  ).

And Then There Were Two

The second house to join the village was a “shotgun" house (which means the doors line up so you can shoot a shotgun in the front door and out the back door without hitting anything else) that was sitting on the corner of Leonard and Atlantic and slated for destruction. Phil relocated the building the Village and got to work! He fixed the bathroom floor was so crooked that  falling off the commode was a real danger for those who dared to use the facilities. All the inside walls were removed  to create one large room and the tin roof and porch were added. This building is now  The StoreHouse Resale ( C )

Welcome to Mouthport!

Word was now out in Southport (which locals have even been known to call “Mouthport”) and everyone started telling Phil about empty houses here and there. Wanting to concentrate on building the Village, Phil decided to sell his restaurant business, take his stage (the new owner didn't want live music) and create another shop out if it. Adding walls, a new roof which had to accommodate the protected Live Oaks, and a porch, he created the building that's currently Earth to Fire Pottery ( I )

With Chainsaw, One Becomes Two

Phil’s next find came from Long Beach Road that survived Hurricane Hazel (1954) and had an addition made from reclaimed wood found on the beach after the storm. After moving to the Village, it didn’t fit under the utility wires, so Phil took out his chain saw and got to work. Cutting the house in two, he added the tin roofs, walls and porches and 2 new shops were born! Currently these are Coastal Bound ( D ) and Ocean Love Found (Coming Fall 2018) ( E ). 

The General Store

No village house party is complete without cold drinks and other goodies!  The General Store ( A ) was moved from West Street in Southport. Built in the late 1930’s, it was the neighborhood general store ran by Miss Gracie Ford who sold everything from candy to hog feed. “The building had withstood all the hurricanes, but Mother Nature was letting it fall was in bad shape.” After the Apostolic Church gave it to Phil, he removed every board inside of it and scraped all the lead paint off the walls and bead board ceiling. He put everything back in place and restored it to its original state. The building had to be held in place by cables and chain until Phil completed the porch which corrected the over two foot backwards lean.

Trailer Trash to Trade Treasure

The next building was a structure originally built onto a house trailer that had long since rusted away and came with a water rotted wall. Phil replaced the wall and added on 12 feet; doubling its size. He then turned the structure around, put a front door on the side and now it’s the purple building that  Debbie’s Hair Studio is in ( F ). 

B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Building)

One day, Phil was approached by a woman seeking to open a bakery and as there were no vacancies in the Village, she offered to BYOB, as in Bring Your Own Building! If he's move it, she'd rent it back from him. Once a servant’s quarters on Willis Drive, the building had no electricity or water and as soon as Phil jacked it up, it fell to pieces as termites had done had their way. Replacing the walls, adding a new floor, tin roof and porch, the Village now had a bakery open for business. Six months later, the new tenant had baked her way back into her high school sweetheart's heart, got married and moved away. DriftWood Custom Designs is now in ( G ).

The Village Gets Religion

The next Village arrival had been a nurse’s home owned by Dosher Hospital and scheduled for demolition. Phil was hired to move the structure to make way for building offices where Dr. Savage now practices. Phil flipped the building sideways, removed the interior partitions and a front door. Phil had always envisioned a church for the Village and found cedar siding “in the trash box where a downtown building had been torn down,” which he used to build a vestibule and steeple. The windows were salvaged from “the little Methodist Church over on Lord Street.” With its original floor, and roof, this building is the only one without a tin roof. Seahorse Design Co. is ( B ). 

Finders Keepers! (With a catch)

Phil found the next building “down on Dry Street in a lady’s back yard.”  She would let him have the building  for free, but only if removed it without damaging the pecan tree that had grown up behind and was now touching it. Never afraid to accept the challenge of a free building, Phil cleverly “jacked up the building and rolled it sideways across the yard on boards and pipes“ to avoid injuring the pecan tree. The ceiling and floor are original; Phil added a tin roof, porch and painted it red. He then added the bell because it reminded him of a Little Red Schoolhouse. Now home of Skin is In ( K ). 

Code Two - Building Move In Progress

The next arrival had been the original Oak Island police station back when Audrey Hickman was Chief of Police. With a little help (and no speeding!), the building crossed the bridge and made its new home in the Village. Phil took a chain saw to the old roof and removed it as one piece; added the new tin roof and then decided to make a unique outside façade by covering the front and back in 125-year-old roofing tins. This is now Black Sheep Trading Co. ( J )

Waterwheel of Fortune

The Waterwheel ( H ) next to The General Store is the oldest operated water wheel in Brunswick county and built entirely by Phil! It’s 12 ‘ high, weighs one ton (literally), and was inspired by a wheel Phil saw in Boone, NC. He took some pictures and off to the saw mill he went, where he found 150-year-old cypress tree wood. He built the wheel in 12 sections, using a band saw to cut the curved pieces. His hardest job by far, it took a month to cut all the pieces (24 identical pieces each 18” wide). Once assembled, it broke the original one inch solid steel shaft! Now, perfectly balanced, it turns gracefully on a 1/2’ water line.

Follow the Red Brick Road!

The Brick Path ( N ) through the Village is a tapestry of bricks brought to Phil from all around the world — one special brick made of mud with straw comes all the way from Africa. Many are from the “old Dosher Hospital that they tore down and the city Southport water plant pump station when they tore it down. “ The lore of his collection got out and folks continue to donate bricks today — one is from the oldest house in Bathe, NC (built in the 1700’s); and others from Civil War forts on Oak Island, NC, Virginia and up and down the East Coast

Last and Least In Size!

The last and least in size, building 12, came from Oak Island where it was a storage building. Without plumbing or electricity, it still functions as a storage building here in the village. On weekends, you will find a wood carver, David DeGroot sitting on the deck in front carving his legendary mermaids. Woodcarver ( M ).

Who's this Phil Fellow?

Phil Hemphill is a Southport, NC native and you'll often see him around the Village mowing and taking care of things!  He's still looking for lucky building 13  and "wants to find an old Pullman dining car and serve coffee and breakfast  buns,” and call it ‘The South Perk Express.’