Storefront Closure Didn’t Break These Gift Shop Owners’ Spirit (Or Their Business)
By Ann Luongo
When you live in a coastal town, love of the ocean is practically a given. The water and sand are a part of what we know as home, and the salt life is ingrained in just about every person who’s fortunate enough to live here.
Friends Genile Dimaio and Kristen Schultz, who grew up in the beach towns of Salisbury and Wellfleet, respectively, took their love of the sea, combined it with their entrepreneurial spirits, and launched a nautical-themed jewelry and gift shop in Pembroke called By the Sea, LLC.
“Our business started out with a drink and vision of something really quaint,” said Schultz. “We both loved each other’s ideas, and from there we took the leap.”
By the Sea carries beautiful and unique items that sell out almost as fast as they come in. The nautical-themed and boho-style jewelry pieces and the gorgeous gift items are all researched and chosen by Dimaio and Schultz.
“We both loved nautical things and had a love of the water,” Dimaio said. “We both came to the realization that if we could it would be awesome to have a little storefront in our community. We spend an incredible amount of time researching products, as they represent who we are. We love to find local vendors, if we can, and we look for items that we love.”
Schultz and Dimaio enjoyed their brick-andmortar Pembroke store for five years before the property was unexpectedly sold. As a result, until they find that perfect next location, By the Sea’s online presence is fully functional. This pivot, in the meantime, has not stopped sales. It has, in fact, expanded its geographic area. Sales have stretched beyond the South Shore and include buyers in Florida and in several other states thus far.
“We carry jewelry. We have lots of functional pieces, but also a lot of fun, trendy pieces,” Schultz said. “We try to stay up in the latest trends.” When they once more have a storefront location, she added, inventory will be expanded to include “scarves, beach bags, wine glasses, and some other great entertaining pieces for that special housewarming gift or party you may be attending. We’ll try to carry candles, and different lines of hand and body lotion, as well.”
“We made our focus online while we researched storefronts,” said Dimaio. They were about to take a space in Plymouth, but ended up not taking it, which, she said, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “We would have had the store, but it would have been closed during the pandemic. This made us really focus on our online service which we have been learning and growing daily.”
While online business has been busy, Schultz and Dimaio make it a priority to handle every transaction personally.
“This business was started by the two of us and it still runs that way,” said Schultz. “We do everything from research to ordering, to fulfilling orders, to shipping. Your business reflects you and we chose to run it ourselves, which we very much enjoy.”
The vision from the beginning was all about the experience and their customers, she added. “We wanted customer service to be the priority – wrapping their gifts, delivering them if needed, finding multiples of some item, etc. I think anyone who does business with us will tell you we are great to work with.”
Extraordinary service continues to be of top importance for Dimaio and Schultz when it comes to their customers.
“I truly believe what makes us stand out is our customer service. We have made it a point to know every customer’s name and have conversations with them,” Dimaio said. “We have hand-delivered packages. We wrap our gifts with tender-loving care. We support the community through donations to various organizations.”
As with so many other local small businesses, By the Sea, LLC, has not fully escaped the effects of the pandemic but, fortunately, they have found support along the way.
“Probably the most challenging event we have faced is this pandemic,” Schultz said. “It has been extremely hard and a lot of work to stay ‘in the spotlight.’ We have managed to do that and have great support from family, friends and, of course, our wonderful customers.”
In fact, Schultz and Dimaio agree that their loyal customers have remained with them through thick and thin, and that the most rewarding part of their business has been all of the relationships they’ve built along the way.
“We miss the interaction with (our customers) and they miss us,” said Dimaio. “We hear from them all the time. We would love if they stopped in just to chat over a cup of coffee and we want that back. We would love to just have our little storefront serving the community and enjoying all those relationships.
“We love our work and that is why it is not really work – it’s our happy place,” she said. “Our customers are truly wonderful and have been with us through this awful pandemic. They made us who we are! We both worked hard from the ground up and built a great little store. We were a Readers’ Choice winner in our first or second year. It is quite an accomplishment for two women with six kids between us to build something so special from the ground up. We have looked at this pandemic as a growing experience and will be back. By the Sea is a treasure and we love it dearly.”