September 6-8, 2013
Orange County Convention Center
Trying on a swimsuit can be as painful as waiting in line at the DMV. That’s one of the reasons Mary Bauer, her sister Liz, and Mary’s husband Don, decided to make trying on swim suits a positive experience at Aqua Beachwear.
Fifteen stores throughout Florida, Arizona, and the U.S. Virgin Islands
By Shelby Stanger
Mary and Don Bauer founded Aqua Beachwear on their honeymoon in 1994. Mary worked in sales and Don has been an entrepreneur his whole life―even lying about his age to get a paper route when he was ten. While looking to buy a different business they stumbled on a swimsuit store in Sanibel Island and had a hunch.
“We didn’t know a thing about swimwear, but that’s the beauty of it all,” says Mary, the president of the company. Don took charge of the building, layout and logistics, Mary and Liz dove head first into learning everything they could about swimwear.
One of the first things they discovered is how emotional women get trying on suits. “I saw a women in tears in the dressing room the very first month I worked in the shop,” says Mary. “Women are so critical―too critical―of themselves.”
Mary realized that while some women loved buying swimwear, many more had difficulties with the process. They called reps to learn about fabrics and experimented with the suits first hand.“We tried everything on and figured out what stretches and what flatters and what works and what doesn’t.”
One of the biggest problems is women are often attracted to a color, but Mary says fit and how a fabric melds to a certain person’s body is most important.
For example, someone with a bigger backside can actually look better in bottoms with less coverage. Or if a woman is a DD bra size, but is trying on a suits that’s too small, she can easily get frustrated.
“When we work with our clients to get the right fit, at the end they are happy and we often catch them dancing in front of the mirror, and that’s what makes it all worth it,” she says.
Aqua Beachwear has a lot of dancing customers these days, at least enough that they now have fifteen stores throughout Florida, Arizona, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as a growing online business.
The stores are all different, but Mary says there’s a consistent theme throughout each store.
All the shops have blue tiles, much like a swimming pool, and play upbeat French or Italian discotheque beats.
Since Mary and Don travel to Surf Expo (and all over the globe) in search of the hottest fashion brands, they carry a great mix of contemporary, junior’s and missy’s styles from about 40 better and designer brands. The average cost of a swimsuit is about $110.Their selection is top notch, but customer service is Aqua Beachwear’s strongest asset.
“We constantly coach, coach, coach, increase staff knowledge, and share that info between all of our stores,” says Mary, who loves bouncing between stores and getting on the floor with her staff. “It doesn’t matter how many fitting rooms we have, they are all full and there’s a waiting line to get in,” she says. “But that’s what resort season is all about.”
… Either that or everyone inside is busy dancing in front of the mirror.
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