Island Water Sports Snaps Up Epic Surf Shop
The Cottrell family, owners of Island Water Sports, have expanded their footprint to downtown Delray Beach, Florida with the acquisition of the long-standing Epic Surf Shop.
The purchase, along with the acquisition of the building Epic had previously operated in, is a long story with a few twists and turns involved in getting the deals done, IWS General Manager Cheyne Cottrell said.
Cottrell, who operates IWS with sisters Karly and Linsey, said the family had eyed the Atlantic Avenue property several years ago when it first came up for rent. But the Cottrells didn’t begin making moves until a little over a year ago when talks began to buy the surf shop and, in a separate transaction, acquire the building. After many months of negotiating and the deal on the property falling through once, the family was able to seal their agreements late last year.
“So many things had to line up. We had to make a deal with (Epic Surf Shop owner) Walter (Soltess) and the owner of the building,” Cottrell said. “But we got it across the finish line, so we’re stoked.”
The real estate deal in some ways brings the Cottrells full circle.
Soltess originally ran Epic out of a location previously occupied by IWS and carried over some of the old Island Water Sports merchandise racks to the Atlantic Avenue location just acquired by the Cottrells.
That previous IWS storefront was part of a 35-store chain created under a franchise model in the ‘80s when Island Water Sports founder Kirk Cottrell ran the business.
The latest addition to the portfolio – which counts the flagship Deerfield Beach IWS and Boca Surf & Sail that the Cottrells acquired in 2020 – offers a different consumer base than is served at the other two stores.
The Deerfield Beach and Boca Raton store assortments are heavily focused on hardgoods and performance surfboards, and they’re also larger at about 5,000 square feet.
“Going down to 3,100 square feet, we’re going to have to make some cuts everywhere (across categories,)” Cottrell said. “We can’t have the same assortment and if you calculate dollars per square foot, the merchandise has to be turning pretty good. So, we’re going to focus more on the soft goods side.”
Still, the new store will offer surfboard rentals, since its location is just a block away from the beach, along with a small selection of surfboards.
The acquisition places IWS about three miles south of Nomad Surf Shop, located in Boynton Beach with a sizable hardgoods business that further underscores the decision to focus on soft goods and private label unique to the IWS shop.
Epic didn’t have a sunglass section and none of the other nearby retailers on the strip have the category either, so the plan is to build out the eyewear selection.
“We’re going to try and feel out the customer at this stage and see what they’re looking for,” Cottrell said. “It’s a different customer. It’s more tourism than locals, where the Boca store is more locals than tourists and Deerfield is about 50/50 these days. This new store is probably about 75% from out of town.”
For now, the sign outside the building still says Epic Surf Shop. It will be converted to an IWS sign in the next couple of months. The Cottrells are currently going through the permitting process and having the new signage made.
The building boasts a rooftop deck they hope to use in the future as an event space.
Inside the building, the Cottrells are now doing renovation work to update the store on the ground floor of the building, which was built in 1941.
A second story will also see some renovations with the Cottrells looking to convert that level into an Airbnb.
A previous owner, who was a fashion designer, had used the upstairs as a large penthouse for herself to live in, when she traveled to Delray in the winter to run her store, J.H. Cousins Dress Shop, on the ground floor. In the summers, she’d travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan and do the same thing there.
“The upstairs is pretty nuts,” Cottrell said. “All the furniture and fixtures are from the ’60s: record players in mint condition, lots of Pyrex, grandfather clocks. So we’re slowly converting it into what an Airbnb would be.”
Ultimately, plans call for the upstairs to be divided into three units at over 1,000 square feet each. The Cottrells are targeting a possible November opening for the Airbnbs and have brainstormed the possibility of throwing in free equipment rentals and other tie-ins to the store for guests. Although, Cottrell said they’re looking to largely keep the store and rentals “separate and not too commingled.”
Take a tour of the store:
Kari Hamanaka can be reached at email@example.com.