Bethany’s Japanesque Marks 30 Years

Bethany’s Japanesque Marks 30 Years

BETHANY BEACH – Japanesque is celebrating 30 years in Bethany Beach.

After graduating from college and finding herself in dead-end jobs in Washington D.C., Japanesque owner Betsy Clark decided to visit a friend living in Japan.

“I love to travel … and I adored the country,” Clark said of Japan. “I would spend my days wandering around looking at everything.”

Clark lived in Japan for three months exploring the culture and teaching conversational English. She enjoyed her time there so much she extended her visa for another three months to have a dream become reality.

“One of my favorite things was going to all the different boutiques, and learning about Japanese folk art,” she said. “Everything about the Asian culture fascinates me.”

Along the way Clark met a clothing manufacturer, and designed a small beach-inspired clothing line called Japanesque. She reached out to her parents who own the property on Pennsylvania Ave. in Bethany Beach, which was a house with garage apartments at that time.

Inspired by Clark’s idea to bring a Japanese boutique to the small beach resort town, her mother traveled to Japan to see her idea first hand, and before they knew it the first floor garage apartment was being renovated into a store with a large front window.

Japanesque was one of the first retail locations on the street in Bethany Beach at that time. The property has evolved over time into Bethany Station that contains three stores and restaurant, including the children’s store Pitter Patter, which Clark also owns.

“I still remember the first night I opened. They [parents] came in with champagne and we toasted,” Clark said. “That was the beginning of 30 years with Japanesque.”

Japanesque opened in 1985, and from the first day on Clark was working non-stop to keep up with the demand. In the first year, she tripled her investment, which was rarely heard of for a business just starting out.

“From day one it was successful,” Clark said. “The dollar in the end was so favorable at that time. I was getting so much for my money because the exchange rate was phenomenal.”

Along with her own clothing line, Clark also brought in a variety of Yukata’s, which is a Japanese bathrobe that turned out to be a popular item. Yukata’s in different lengths and colors are still available at Japanesque today.

Clark recalled her interest in culturally unique items didn’t start with her travels, but instead close to home with the The Safari Shop in Ocean City where knick-knacks from around the world were sold. Clark brought the same idea to Japanesque offering traditional Japanese knick-knacks, such as welcoming cat figurines, folk art and even Totoro merchandise.

Japanesque has evolved over the years to offer a little bit of everything for women, men and children of all ages, including pottery, home goods, wind chimes, several beach and Japanese-inspired clothing lines and accessories, jewelry, books, incense, greeting cards and, of course, Hello Kitty.

“We have things that people don’t usually see. I have always liked that idea … it’s not mindless shopping. You will always see something that is unique and different,” Clark said. “Now 30 years down the road, we have generations shopping here.”

Clark recognized that it is boutiques like Japanesque that also keeps Bethany Beach one-of-a-kind.

“That’s important,” she said.