For the past several years, Atlantic Shoals Surf Shop has been catering the Chincoteague Island area in Virginia, where owner Fletcher Birch grew up. Now, with a location in Fenwick Island opening up this season, Birch is bringing a feel-good vibe to the Delaware and Maryland beaches for people who simply love the shore.
“The general feedback we’re getting is pretty positive,” said Birch, who opened Atlantic Shoals in Fenwick Island back in March. “Business this summer has been really good, and people are happy to see us here. Customers are not only coming in, but they’re coming back, and with a retail business like this, that’s the biggest part of the battle. We want them coming back through the doors, and they’re doing that for us.”
Atlantic Shoals boasts an inventory of traditional surf-shop attire with a laid-back atmosphere that’s designed to be welcoming for everyone, Birch explained.
“Fenwick Island was always the town of choice for us if we were to expand,” he said. “Chincoteague and Fenwick have a lot of similarities, as far as the vibe and the people who vacation there. It’s a mellow, family-friendly and nature-oriented group of people who come to these areas, from what I see.”
The step away from a more commercialized beach destination is exactly what Birch noted he was looking for.
Bathing suits, beach wear and boards line the walls at Atlantic Shoals. Sunglasses, wallets, handbags and sandals can help to accessorize for the perfect beach-bound outfit. Brands such as Billabong, O’Neill, Quicksilver, Roxy and Rusty are plentiful.
Skateboards, longboards and Indo boards can supply what customers are looking for on the terrain, while Bing and Jon Ashton surfboards bring a vintage nostalgia back to the water.
“The boards we carry are full-quality,” said Birch, “but we’re trying to highlight the shop here as something a little different. We’re kind of a throwback surf shop. A lot of the older surfers in the area like to come in and check out what we have, as well as the younger guys.”
Wetsuits, rash guards, bodyboards and surfing accessories can help deck out anyone trying to shred, too.
The top sellers, however, still seem to be men’s trunks, women’s dresses and sandals.
“Those are the main things people come in looking for,” said Birch. “We carry Sanuks, too. They’re the fastest-trending sandal brand. I’ve been really happy with how much of our private label apparel is selling, as well. We had help from a local artist who gave us our design, and customers can’t get enough of it.”
As for the name, shoals, or sandbars, off the shore typically provide a target for surfers and beachgoers, alike.
“I’ve always grown up at the beach,” said Birch “My dad has been big into surfing, too. I have a lot of buddies who are watermen and surfers. We wanted to bring a name to the area that people can associate with. People know the Diamond Shoals in the Outer Banks. Atlantic Shoals puts a local spin on it and make it authentic.”
Despite lacking a physical boardwalk in Fenwick Island, foot and bike traffic has helped Atlantic Shoals kick up business from its spring start.
“We have a great location here,” said Birch. “You’ve got Dairy Queen, Nantucket’s, Ocean Side, the bike shop… There’s plenty of walking along this strip, and great businesses on the other side of the highway, too. Foot and bike traffic probably make up 20 percent or more of our customer base.”
For now, Birch is confident that the shop will stay open, year-round, with shortened hours in the offseason. For the time being, however, Atlantic Shoals, located at S. Carolina Avenue and Coastal Highway in Fenwick Island, is open every day, from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. For more information, call them at (302) 539-3700. For their Chincoteague Island location, call (757) 336-1305.
“People really enjoy stopping in,” added Birch, “and they find what they’re looking for. We’re a family surf shop that supports that lifestyle. We’re definitely a laid-back shop. It’s not intimidating like some of the other places you might see. You can be 90 years old or 9, and you’ll leave here with a smile on your face.”