September 6-8, 2013
Orange County Convention Center
Roberta and Ron have operated the 1,200-square-foot retail store for sixteen years now. “We carry everything you need for the beach, a cocktail party and anything in between.”
Fire Island, New York
By Shelby Stanger
Roberta Smith describes how she came to own A Summer Place retail shop on Fire Island, New York in the same terms she uses to describe meeting her future husband: “It was love at first sight.”
Before becoming retailers, Roberta and Ron were both corporate executives who worked for a pharmaceutical company. Having frequented and shopped at A Summer Place many times before, when it became available for purchase, they jumped at the opportunity to change careers.
The resort shop stays open from April through October every year, and during that time the couple works twelve to fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. “We believe in hands-on management, ” says Roberta. “We don’t just point when someone asks for something. Customer service is key for us.”
Roberta and her husband took a lot of lessons they learned from their pharmaceutical past to their second career in retail. “We had a saying in the pharmaceutical industry: inspect what you expect.” They are also fond of “details, details, details.”
The store is meticulously organized, that's for sure. Even the bikinis are arranged by a numbering system, so customers wanting to try on suits merely need to call out a number.
The window displays of the shingled storefront shop lure in customers with the latest fashionable outfit hung on a mannequin.
Besides carrying the latest fashion-forward lifestyle and resort casual clothing for women, men, and children, the shop also carries Fire Island logoed clothing and gift items.
They feature brands like Brighton Jewelry, Ray-Ban, and Maui Jim Sunglasses; women’s brands Free People, Three Dot, and Sanctuary; and men’s brands Reef, Quiksilver, Tommy Bahama, and Toes on the Nose to name a few.
The store is located on Fire Island’s quaint beach resort village of Ocean Beach. It's a sidewalk-only town, where the main mode of transportation is on foot, bike or wagon. The island itself is 32 miles long, but only two city blocks wide, seemingly custom made for ocean lovers.
The red wagon is a big icon for the island. People throw their beach supplies, towels―even their kids―in their wagons and tote them around the island, even while shopping at the store. No surprise then that A Summer Place carries its own line of branded tees, hoodies, flip-flops, wine glasses, mugs and more, all with a wagon logo.
During the season, the shop is open from 9:00 a.m. to at least 10:00 p.m. every night, and 11:00 p.m. on Saturdays. There are many days Roberta and her husband go home very tired, but there’s never a day they aren’t thankful to have found the perfect job.
“I love meeting new people,” says Roberta. “We are people persons.” Since over a few hundred people roll in and out of the shop every day, the Smith family has truly found their perfect “Summer Place.”
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