SEA BRIGHT: BOUTIQUE IN A BOAT SHOP

A straw clutch by Mud Pie is among the fashion items available in what had long been just a boating supply store. (Photo by Alexis Orlacchio. Click to enlarge)

By ALEXIS ORLACCHIO

After a rough off-season that included severe damage from Hurricane Sandy, the owners of Sea Bright’s Angler’s Marina & Beach Boutique, Fred Leonardis and his wife, Elizabeth, worked hard to reopen their Ocean Avenue shop.

“My husband has always believed that we are in a service business, a seasonal business, and that we need to be here for our customers,” said Elizabeth. “So we take that very seriously.”

Perhaps unnoticed by many motorists passing by, however, Leonardis has been developing a side project within the marina store to go along with the boating hardware: a beach-themed accessory shop selling everything from chairs, towels, tote bags and more. Her experience in retail sparked the idea for the accessory shop.

“I said ‘We should have beautiful beach bags, and we should have shoes,'” she tells Window Shopping the Green. “Last year, I brought in jewelry, and it just evolved.”

During the storm, the riverfront marina took on four-and-a-half feet of water; the tide lines can still be seen on outer parts of the building. Leonardis said the shop lost 75 percent of its inventory.

“It became a giant whirlpool. Things stayed, but everything was displaced,” she said. Some of the beach items on the top shelves and second floor of the building were salvageable, however.

The accessory shop is going into its third season, and among the new items that Leonardis has brought in are straw, nautical- medallion clutches by Mud Pie.

“These are great,” she said. “Think about the person coming from north Jersey or even inland. They’re packing for the day,” she said. “So if you’re going to the beach club you have a big, straw satchel, you put this inside. And if you’re going out in the evening, you have a nice evening bag.”

The line also includes a series of bangle bracelets coordinated to the clutches and sold separately. “It’s nice because you can put your really personal belongings in there: your keys, your money, your phone and you’re able to find it easily, too,” she said.

The clutches retail for $36, and the bracelets are $22.

“I don’t want to carry exactly what the mall has,” Leonardis said. “People are always looking for unusual beach-y items. I generally shop vendors that you won’t see at the mall for that reason.”

The idea for the accessory shop came about when the marina business was slowing down, which she attributed to the economy and high price of fuel.  She previously worked as an assistant buyer, department manager, and window display decorator at Sealfons in Summit.

The introduction of the boutique has “actually changed our customer base,” she said.

When Window Shopping visited, Leonardis was awaiting delivery of beach towels designed by local artist Jane McNiff and featuring images of beach badges from all over the Jersey Shore. Some of the sale proceeds will go towards helping Hurricane Sandy victims.

The beach boutique also carries typical beach-day items such as sunscreen and sunglasses, as well as beach-themed jewelry, candles, picture frames and more.