OCEAN CITY - Island Beach Gear is one of Ocean City's largest purveyors of beach wares, beach toys, pool inflatables, chairs, carts and buckets.
But the store is nowhere near the beach, landlocked on Ninth Street at the base of the Route 52 causeway. The store addresses this deficit each summer by displaying a sampling of its inventory outside, where it serves as a colorful billboard for visitors arriving by the island's busiest entrance.
Jessica Becotte, of Upper Township, director of special projects, said most first-time customers are surprised by the size of the building's sprawling interior, a former pharmacy.
Island Beach Gear is owned by Beverley Gill, whose family also owns Tackle Direct, a high-end fishing tackle business in Egg Harbor Township.
Island Beach Gear opened in 2007 and offers a one-stop shop for practically any beach, patio or pool needs. Inside, there are rows of beach chairs, including the durable Telescope brand, which features wooden armrests, cupholders and optional sunshades.
The store has a large inventory of beach toys and games, from simple buckets and pails to pool inflatables to Spikeball nets and Waboba balls.
"Everyone beaches differently," Becotte said. "We're very family-oriented. When it comes to the toys and games, I run everything past my kids to get their approval."
The store recently expanded its selection of apparel, including Sperry sandals and shoes and Salt Life T-shirts.
It also offers skim and boogie boards.
"We're not trying to be a surf shop. We want to send you to a surf shop for high-end boards. But we want to give beginner kids a choice," Becotte said.
It also has dry plastic cases to protect tablet computers or phones, which have become essential beach accessories.
Tourism is a $5 billion industry in Cape May County and retail makes up a big part of that. A 2014 public poll by the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey found that 20 percent of respondents spent more than $100 per day on shopping.
Affluent families and older visitors reported spending as much as $499 per day on lodging, food, shopping and attractions.
Island Beach Gear is trying to create a loyal customer base among these out-of-town visitors. Their website regularly gets orders from Pennsylvania and New York customers who visited Ocean City, she said.
One customer ordered Tele-scope chairs to be shipped to St. Martin in the Caribbean.
Becotte said beach gear has become more specialized to cater to different segments of the market. For example, some beach chairs have surf-rod holders. Camp-style folding chairs that stow easily in a small trunk are popular because they have carry bags with shoulder slings.
And everything has to be portable. The store offers a variety of beach carts and wagons, including one called the BeachTuff Lazee Low Move that doubles as a chair when you get to your patch of sand. Another called the Beach Caddy features surfboard racks and a bicycle tow option.
Contact Michael Miller:
Island Beach Gear
Location: 2 W. Ninth St., at Bay Avenue, Ocean City
Owner: Beverley Gill, of Ocean City
Employees: 15 seasonally