Bay Shore Outdoor Bucks Economic Trends, Expands

While the evening news seems to be filled with announcements of one business after another closing their doors, Door County seems to be withstanding the trend. One business in particular, SBR, Inc., seems to be bucking the trend, expanding into three new locations for the 2009 season.

“We have been in business for over 25 years, and we’ve never had plans to expand,” SBR co-owner Rick Wylie said. “But when we see a good opportunity we take advantage of it.”

Those opportunities they’re taking advantage of include Bay Shore Outfitters, located at 27 S. Madison Avenue in Sturgeon Bay, Sister Bay Kayak Rentals at Waterfront Park, and Off the Beach, a shop in downtown Sister Bay, adjacent to the village’s public waterfront expansion.

All three of the ventures play off of the company’s strength and experience in Door County’s outdoor recreation and retail industry. SBR, short for Sail Boat Rides, was started in 1980 by Peter Parsons and Dave Zasler. By providing a true Door County experience on the water via Stilleto catamaran sail boat tours, the company satisfied a growing demand for outdoor activities.

Rick Wylie later joined the duo, creating the trio that operated The Boat House in Fish Creek, where operations moved beyond sail boat rides to include renting mopeds, paddle boats and fishing boats.

Since selling the moped portion of the business to Edge of Park in the mid-1990s, SBR has maintained its presence in Door County at a number of locations, branching out into other outdoor activities like biking, kayaking and cross country skiing. Nicolet Beach Concessions & Rentals in Peninsula State Park, the Ephraim Kayak Center on South Shore Pier and Bay Shore Outdoor Store in Sister Bay have been the business’ mainstay for the past few years.

Wylie said the owners had been considering the Sturgeon Bay market for several years. Similar to their previous expansions, the company recognized the continued growth of the outdoor niche within the tourism industry. When an appropriate space was found, Bay Shore Outfitters – a sort of sister shop to Bay Shore Outdoor Store – was launched.

“We saw an opportunity in the Sturgeon Bay market in the outdoor clothing and kayak business,” said Mark Schuster, Store Manager. “Bay Shore Outfitters is a full-service paddle sport, outdoor adventure retailer.”

In addition to outdoor apparel, Bay Shore Outfitters will offer kayak tours Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

For those looking for an independent, on-the water adventure a bit farther north, Sister Bay Kayak Rentals provides a new locale for kayak and paddle board rentals.

By nearly doubling the size of its public shoreline with the purchase of Helms Four Season’s hotel in 2007, the Village of Sister Bay made a major move to preserve the scenic beauty and outdoor lifestyle for which the peninsula is so well-known. Wylie said the village’s move was strong motivation for Bay Shore to expand.

“We chose Sister Bay because of the commitment the community made to their waterfront park, and we want to be a part of that long term,” Wylie said.

A compliment to the new rental location and larger public waterfront access is Off the Beach.

“Off the Beach is a kind of lifestyle, beach, surf shop,” Schuster said. “We wanted it to be fun with a laid back vibe to it.”

The store, decorated with bright colors, bamboo and tikis, sells swimsuits, board shorts, sunscreen, flip flops and more from vendors, such as Life is Good, Lolé, Mad Gringo and Reef.

Over the years, SBR has come to mean so much more than “Sail Boat Rides” to not only its owners, but also their employees and customers. It seems that 2009 will only expand that legacy.

Schuster said the business hopes to build upon its tradition, to “continue to grow in our markets…to offer the best customer service and product mix for the outdoor paddle sport market to full-time and seasonal residents alike.”