Mar 022012


Published by: The Coastal Point

As the saying goes, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” And Liz Hammond, long-time employee and manager of Sea Crest in Bethany Beach, knew a good thing when she saw it. The boutique and gift shop in downtown Bethany was up for sale briefly earlier this year, but Hammond was determined to keep things the way they were.

A few interested buyers considered taking over, but Hammond, who recognized the success that the shop had seen over the years, didn’t want to veer from what customers had grown to appreciate over the decades.

“The store had done very well in the past,” said Hammond, who took over as owner of the shop midway through February, “and as a manager, I’d done a lot of the buying over the past few years, so I knew the business. People are happy that it’s staying the way it was. Everyone who has stopped in has been very supportive, and they’re glad I’m still here.”

Sea Crest is located in one of the oldest structures in downtown Bethany Beach – more than a half-century old and one of the few buildings on the town’s shoreline to survive the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962. Originally a motel and lodge, the property was sold in 1976 to Frita Kimmel, who introduced the boutique and gift shop. By 1991, when she retired, Brian McKinney became the owner, and Hammond stepped on board as the store’s manager.

Situated along Garfield Parkway, just steps from the Bethany Beach Bandstand and boardwalk, Sea Crest has become a gift shop staple for shoppers, browsers and pedestrians over the decades. And, as Hammond noted, the shelves and tables and walls will continue to carry the same array of merchandise that has drawn customers back again and again. Women’s and men’s apparel, candles, jewelry, housewares and local art make up much of the products inside Sea Crest.

“Some people have asked, ‘What are you going to change?’” said Hammond, “but I really don’t want a lot of changes. We will be opening the gallery in the back again, soon,” she noted of the store’s collection of local art for sale, “and we will start carrying outdoor, poly-furniture – something we had a little bit of, back in the day.”

Prices in the store run the gamut, which is a feature that Hammond wanted to maintain when she took the reins.

“We carry some dresses that are $200,” she noted, “but you can come in and get a $50 dress just as easily. We have great, quality products, but I never want anyone to walk through the door and feel like they can’t afford something. There is truly something for everybody here.”

Work from local artists – including familiar names such as Carol Dyer, Barbara Deitrick, Abraxas and Rosemary Carol – are available at Sea Crest, with new prints and pictures coming in each week. The window displays often change with the seasons and the approaching holidays – a tradition that Hammond plans to continue.

One of the shop’s most recognizable collections are the detailed wall clocks that hang in the store’s front, with chimes and moving parts that bring the decorative time-tellers to life on the half-hour.

“People have really started to know Sea Crest for the clocks,” said Hammond, “and lots of customers have been asking about them. They’re always big sellers, and we have new orders coming in all the time.”

The eclectic mix of products has helped Sea Crest avoid falling into a particular category over the years.

“I’ve had employees ask, ‘What kind of store are we?’ but we’ve never been like that,” Hammond said. “We’re unique because of what we carry. There’s a great mix of everything here.”

Sea Crest has become a great browse-around store, too.

“People don’t necessarily come in with the intention of finding anything in particular, but they love walking around and seeing it all,” she added. “Just the other day, there was a couple who came in to get out of the cold. They didn’t have any intention of getting anything, but they walked out with a bag of pecan crunch and a hat. You can find so much in here.”

To maintain the wide mix of merchandise, while still appealing to whatever seems to be trending at the time, Liz Hammond – along with her husband, Eddie, who also helps around the store – will go out of their way to attend trade shows.

“My husband and I are continually looking to see what we can find,” Liz Hammond said. “We’ve been to shows in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Atlantic City and even Las Vegas. My goal is to get to some shows in Atlanta, too.”

While the vast selection of gifts and apparel keeps customers coming through the doors, Liz Hammond noted that it is the connection with them that she enjoys the most.

“One thing I wanted to make sure when I became owner,” she said, “was that I wouldn’t be stuck in an office. I wanted to make sure that I would be working with my customers, like I always have, and not be an absentee owner. I really like being out on the floor.”

Sea Crest is located at 99 Garfield Parkway, in Bethany Beach, next to Bethany Beach Books. The shop is open all year long, seven days a week, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with summer hours extended until 10 p.m. For more information, stop in or call Sea Crest at (302) 539-7621.

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