Topsail outfitter expands options for island living
When visitors come to Topsail Beach, Cheryl Price says they want to spend their time enjoying the best that island living has to offer: waves to ride,
But at the end of the day, they have no objection to a superbly cooked, big-city-worthy meal of freshly caught seafood with side dishes and desserts prepared from scratch daily. And, whether they’re there for a wedding, a graduation, or a fishing trip with old friends, they often arrive wanting to update their clothing or gear.
Since 2012, South End Outfitters has supplied visitors with upscale brands of clothing, beachwear, fishing gear, coolers, and eyewear, plus bicycle and board rentals to make their getaway everything they want it to be.
Refreshing a classic for today
The Beach Shop and Grill, at the corner of S. Anderson Blvd. and Davis St., has served meals to Topsail’s South End residents and visitors since 1952. Jeff and Cheryl Price bought the restaurant in 2002 and expanded its hours to include dinner during beach season.
“We’re restaurant people. We both grew up in the restaurant business,” said Cheryl , who attended Johnson & Wales University’s culinary school, earning degrees in both Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry, which she calls “my true love. I make all our desserts fresh from scratch daily.”
The restaurant’s chef, Chris Gates, said Price, “Does an incredible fresh special every day. All our fish is caught locally, so we don’t know what the dinner special is going to be until 2 p.m. when we buy it right off the boat.”
“We buy most of our produce locally, too. Right now okra and tomatoes are good. Our menus follow the seasons, so for a while, we had desserts with fresh strawberries, then blueberries came in, and then we transitioned to peaches. The peach crop was damaged, so we’ve adjusted our menus to reflect what we can get.”
Bringing big city brands to Topsail
The restaurant building came with a small gift shop on the side, and the Prices kept it open, selling towels, t-shirts, chairs, and other standard beach items. In 2012, however, a larger gift shop on the other side of the intersection became available, and the couple decided to begin selling “moderately priced resort wear and gear for island living – the kinds of things we ourselves want to have.”
South End Outfitters, at 627 S. Anderson Blvd., offers rental surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and bicycles by the day or week. They sell fishing rods and tackle and refer visitors to a neighbor, South End Anglers, for inshore fishing charters. They sell “a ton of Yeti products,” said Price.
Clothing and accessory brands offered at South End Outfitters include Tommy Bahama, Southern Tide, Jude Connally, Tyler Boe, Vineyard Vines, Bill’s Khakis, Sperry footwear, Smith Optics, and Costa. Golfers can find old-school attire by Peter Millar or more youthful surfer-vibe golfwear from West Coast designer Johnnie-O.
And there’s Ruffwear, a line of practical items for dogs who share their humans’ outdoor lives.
Previously the nearest shops selling these upscale brands were an inconvenient hour’s drive each way. The Prices listened to what their clientele wanted and supplied them with the desired brands, all within easy reach of the beach.
Keeping up with trends
The Prices’ businesses stay open seven days a week, nine-and-a-half months a year. During January through mid-March, the owners travel to trade shows around the Southeast. While evaluating new products in Atlanta, Charleston, or New Orleans, they seek out fine meals as part of their “homework,” said Cheryl . “It’s research.”
The sophisticated ideas they bring home to Topsail influence the coming season’s menus. “Guests from the cities tell us they are impressed by our ‘little hidden gem’ of a restaurant. Some of them who are staying at Topsail for a week will eat at the Beach Shop and Grill five times.”
With 262 wines available, including many boutique selections and highly allocated award winners, “We’ve been told we have the best wine list east of Raleigh. They keep coming back.” Wine prices range from $40 to $800 a bottle.
“This is our choice”
The Prices don’t just live to serve good food and sell beach goods, however. They are leaders in Bullies 2 The Rescue, an organization devoted to finding homes for English bulldogs in need.
“I’ve always had English bulldogs,” said Cheryl . In 2015 a Charlotte couple visiting the restaurant described the volunteer and financial needs of the rescue group, which “is constantly running on fumes. The average bulldog rescue intake costs $2,500.”
The Prices raised over $35,000 in 2016 with a spring lunch, a fall lunch, and a Yeti cooler raffle. Volunteers came from Charlotte to help, bringing dogs that were available for adoption. “It’s nice to show people where their donation is going,” said Cheryl. “It was a lot of fun. A hundred percent of the proceeds went to Bullies 2 The Rescue.”
“Jeff and I believe every business should practice corporate social responsibility and give back to the community. This is our choice. We’ve seen what some of the dogs have been through.”
The Prices’ three bulldogs, Chopper, Norton, and Mabel are examples of how much difference proper care makes. “Chopper came to us as a senior dog,” said Cheryl. “He’d been re-homed four times. His former owners said he was grumpy and hard to control. People don’t want to adopt seniors, but if you do, they’re so grateful. When he landed in our home, he knew he’d hit the jackpot, and he’s been the easiest dog.I know I won’t have a lifetime with Chopper, but, with proper diet, exercise and care, he’s in his renaissance.”
A “cult following” of guests now often gather at the shop to pet and admire Chopper, who appears to be the perfect example of a relaxed island living.
The current Bullies fundraiser is a raffle for “the ultimate Topsail Beach getaway,” valued at $3,000. It includes three nights’ lodging, a full-day fishing charter, dinner for four, and a Yeti cooler. Tickets are available for $50 at either business. The drawing will be August 19. The Prices hope to raise $50,000 in 2017.
South End Outfitters is located at 627 S. Anderson Blvd., Topsail Beach, NC, 28445.
Beach Shop and Grill is at 701 S. Anderson Blvd., adjacent to the Topsail Beach Town Center and close to the Missiles and More Museum.
Written by Diana Matthews | Photographs by Donna Thompson