Owners Turn Abandoned Building Into New Assateague Island Surf Shop

Owners Turn Abandoned Building Into New Assateague Island Surf Shop

BERLIN – The age-old adage “location, location, location” is considered the first, and most important, rule in real estate.

So when Denny Riordon and Nancy Sweeney first came across an empty building along Stephen Decatur Highway, a frequented roadway that links West Ocean City to Assateague Island, they realized its potential.

“It had no for-rent sign in the window, but we always talked about how perfect the location was,” Sweeney said.

After years of curiosity, Riordon contacted the owner about the property, and within four meetings he walked away with an agreement and a space to house the new Assateague Island Surf Shop.

Riordon surprised Sweeney with the news and immediately set out to renovate the abandoned building, a task that would ultimately take six months to complete.

“The building was a mess,” he joked.

Back in its heyday, the space served as a local grocery store owned and operated by Olin and Mildred Shockley and their family, according to Riordon. For decades, their store was the local hang-out spot for tourists and residents traveling Route 611.

“We’ve learned a lot about the building,” Riordon said. “It’s got a great history.”

The dated décor has since been replaced with what Riordon calls “surf-chic” style, but old grocery store checks that hang on the wall pay homage to the building’s past.

Nowadays, patrons won’t see sodas or shelves of food, but instead can find clothing, accessories, surf gear and acai bowls.

Assateague Island Surf Shop, now in its sixth month of operation, opened in July of this year and has since seen an unwavering amount of visitors come in and out of the revamped space, according to Riordon.

“We’ve created our own unique stopping place,” he said. “We continue to get our customers going and coming.”

Located just south of Route 376, also known as Assateague Road, Riordon and Sweeney said the location captures an underserved market of surfers, campers and tourists who do not want to travel to Ocean City for sunscreen, surfboards or clothing.

“A lot of people don’t want to go into Ocean City,” Sweeney said. “They don’t like the hustle and bustle, and there aren’t as many rules in Assateague.”

With a style to match its surroundings, the owners said customers constantly compliment them on the surf shop’s unique rendition.

“We’ve created our own little atmosphere,” Riordon said. “It’s not your typical surf shop. It’s more boutique-ish than anything else, especially on the women’s side. But that kind of sets us apart from the norm.”

On one side of the store, patrons can find unique pieces of clothing, local jewelry, soaps, soy candles and accessories. On the other, they can buy organic drinks and acai bowls while grabbing a surfboard rental.

Riordon and Sweeney said they planned to close the shop for the winter, but its success during the autumn months convinced them to keep the store open through December.

Sweeney said the surf shop will re-open sometime in March, but they are willing to take suggestions for new ideas next season.

The couple is currently looking to add organic sandwiches, salads and soups to its coffee shop, a skate section to its boutique shop and additional surfboard rentals.

“We are always going to be looking for the next item,” Riordon said.

The owners are encouraging individuals to visit their dog-friendly establishment and shop and eat from the store’s unique and organic selection.

“We both keep going, ‘Is this really happening?’” Sweeney joked. “We had no idea what to expect with anything, but the response we got was overwhelming.”

For more information and hours of operation, visit Assateague Island Surf Shop’s Facebook page or call 410-973-2632.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.