What would you sell in *your* beachside state park gift shop?
June 10, 2016 3:16 PM   Subscribe

I am the new manager of a coastal state park concessionaire. The inventory I'm inheriting is very generic cheap junk that you could get anywhere and doesn't sell very well. I'm looking to spice up the selection by including funkier, independent vendors in the mix.

Apparel: I'm looking for stuff that appeals to vintage (40's-60's) surf culture.
Toys: I have plastic sharks and plush sea turtles. I want something like an Ugly Doll sea anemone. Same vintage appeal would be nice but isn't mandatory.
Random Gift Junk: Sea+Surf related jewelry, ornaments, mugs, knickknacks? Stuff for people to take home from vacation as souvenirs. But more interesting than just made-in-china mermaid kitsch.
posted by BuddhaInABucket to Shopping (40 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
An idea: check etsy to find local craftspeople and if they sell appropriate wares, send them a message to ask about wholesaling. That's the sort of thing I'd LOVE to find at a gift shop.
posted by R a c h e l at 3:22 PM on June 10, 2016 [31 favorites]

Not a real suggestion but I would make sure to have magnets and christmas tree ornaments all the time, even if it is a small display. Those seem to be two things that people collect when they travel places.
posted by magnetsphere at 3:23 PM on June 10, 2016 [31 favorites]

T-shirts with a old school surf feel?
posted by heathrowga at 3:30 PM on June 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Lapel pins! They're making a comeback, and I keep looking for them for souvenirs when I travel lately, but I haven't been seeing a lot of them. Also patches. It's better if they're specific to your park or area or feature local logos or badges. I love that stuff.
posted by limeonaire at 3:32 PM on June 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

And yeah, definitely local T-shirts, stuff you'd only be able to get if you went there.
posted by limeonaire at 3:33 PM on June 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure this is what you're looking for, but what about stuff that is useful to people using the park?

For example say you go to the beach and realize you didn't bring stuff for making sandcastles. Or you come to camp but forgot some essential camping gear, or it failed. Or consumables tied to common park uses. This is the item I'm most likely to buy in a store like yours.

I was in a town that is positioned right along the Pacific Crest Trail recently, and I noticed a lot of shops had things like gourmet jerky and trail mix (and other foods easily carried by hikers that are nicer than what you'd get in any convenience store). A lot of stores also sold common traveling and hiking items like flashlights, rain gear, water bottles, etc. that people might forget or need a sudden replacement for.
posted by Sara C. at 3:35 PM on June 10, 2016 [15 favorites]

Locally made old style postcard and greeting cards. Great hats of all price ranges. Sunglasses-retro look and for kids.
posted by taff at 3:37 PM on June 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

It is hard for me to resist a Nalgene bottle with a sweet graphic.
posted by delight at 3:37 PM on June 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Great suggestions so far. A tote bag is always good too.
posted by kevinbelt at 3:42 PM on June 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

Fun and unique sunglasses.
posted by deludingmyself at 3:46 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Things I love to buy when I travel:

cool magnets


snacks made from regional things ie huckleberry candy bars in montana, maple syrup candy in vermont, etc.

postcards and journals of regional scenery

christmas ornaments relevant to the location

cookbooks featuring that regions cuisine - these are pricey items and a lot of people look for them. skip the stupid low class best of the best series and get authentic regional cookbooks

things needed for that trip - beach towels at a lake or ocean place and sunblock and hats/sunglasses, hats and mittens at a winter ski area, etc.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 3:53 PM on June 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Retro inspired one-piece and two-piece bathing suits and retro inspired swim trunks

Retro portable radios

Nth all of the useful and practical items that Sara C. mentioned, as well as others suggestions for local Etsy artisans' beachy crafts.

I always loved going to beachside shops carrying "beach reads" that happened to be current non-fiction and literary fiction bestsellers -- the 'lighter reading' of current bestsellers, anyway. It was refreshing to find newer, well-curated book selections, alongside the more traditional mass market paperbacks.

Upon preview, also Nthing the regional cuisine cookbooks!
posted by nightrecordings at 3:56 PM on June 10, 2016

I appreciate field guides appropriate to locale, so shell identification guides for kids and adults, as well as books on sea life. As a kid, I would have loved a small plastic/glass display piece that I could take to the beach and fill with sand and shells as a memory of my trip.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:09 PM on June 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

Sun tan lotion. Bug spray. Kites. Sunglasses. Flip-flops. (But you knew that.)

Guide books for birders, animal watchers, sea creatures. Inexpensive binoculars. Phone chargers. Toys to keep young'uns amused in the car on the way home. Sun hats. Salt water taffy, preferably local. High SPF shirts, e.g. Coolabar. First aid kits.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:16 PM on June 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

If anyone has written any books about the area, you should have those available. Local history, coffee table photo books, local legends/myths/ghost stories. Ditto the local cookbook.
posted by phunniemee at 4:21 PM on June 10, 2016 [13 favorites]

tea towels!

locally-made unique pieces, especially consumables like soaps and jams.
posted by monkeymonkey at 4:26 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Books! Weird, amazing, hyperlocal books! If your regional historical society(ies) still do print publications (some do) you may be able to arrange to take some of their stuff on consignment. Ditto local fiction writers, cookbook authors, photographers, etc.

(Jinx, phunniemee)
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:26 PM on June 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

I like the gift shop at the Point Cabrillo Light Station, because relatively little stuff that they have there is generic (the exception being things like sea-themed kids' books). They have postcards and prints of beautiful photos of the lighthouse by local photographers. They have books about the history of the area and the era of the lighthouse. They have jewelry, mostly local or at least Californian, sea-themed and wildflower/wildlife-themed. Their magnets are not the ones you usually see with a simple photo; instead, they have awesome laser-cut wood ones and handmade ceramic ones. (Their holiday ornaments are similarly unique.)
posted by wintersweet at 5:20 PM on June 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

The shop in Kool Kat in Little Tokyo in LA has a lot of rockabilly-ish apparel from smaller wholesalers that go beyond the Lounge Fly stuff you see everywhere. For example, I have a coat I bought there made by the label Lost Queen
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:22 PM on June 10, 2016

I hit post too soon. Anyway, they stock a lot of men's clothing too, I'm just petite and don't have any in my house. If you or a friend can do a scouting trip to LA, you might find some cool smaller brands.

Also, surf fashion on Insta is huge. Some streetwear companies that do beachy stuff are Mowgli Surf & The Quiet Life. There's so so so much more tho, like you can be up to your ears in floral camp hats if you'd like.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:24 PM on June 10, 2016

I try to get a zippered pencil case for my niece wherever I travel. Usually they are plastic and generic-- if they were a little nicer fabric or unique, I'd be so happy I'd get one for myself, too, as I can never have enough makeup bags!
posted by kapers at 5:29 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Forgot to mention, pencil pouches are inexpensive for those who don't want to blow their budget and small for travelers-- suitcase space is precious. So think of items like that in addition to the other great suggestions.
posted by kapers at 5:33 PM on June 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Things that haven't been mentioned: bandanas printed with something related to your park, those vintage-looking posters (like this national park ones: http://www.rangerdoug.com/posters), maps suitable for framing on the wall
posted by thewestinggame at 5:33 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cards made by local artists depicting local places, both cards with envelopes and postcards. And stamps and a mailbox while you're at it, especially if the park has camping. Coloring books, crayons, and cheap watercolors. Insect repellant. Maps of the area and of the state. Locally produced cookbooks. Locally produced fudge and other sweets. Yeah, bandanas. Inexpensive games if people are camping: cards, checkers, dominoes.
posted by mareli at 5:44 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Things for kids. Wooden puzzles, building sets, books, stuffed animals, games; you can select them to be loosely related to your locale. Things we've bought at park gift shops include a pair of men's pajama pants printed with bears, sand castle toys, locally made jewelry, and a wooden tree house building set.
posted by JenMarie at 5:52 PM on June 10, 2016

Temporary tattoos! Maybe nautical-themed? Big hit with kids and dissolute 20somethings alike (ask me which state park gift park I got some from last weekend). There are tons of indy temporary tattoo makers.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 6:08 PM on June 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm definitely going to your store once you get all this stuff. Where is it anyway? Maybe some MeFites local to you will have some more specific, where to source it type answers.
posted by notyou at 6:28 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check out the work of Jill Bliss - great illustrator with a strong California-flora/fauna theme. Lots of stationary and prints and journals and stuff. If your store is where you're located I imagine it would go over well.

Some decent basic art supplies - wreck this journal, pads of watercolour paper postcards and small pads of paper, one or two choices each of drawing pencil kits, coloured pencil sets, and a little travel watercolour kit. Serious folks will have their own, but on the seaside on vacation is a good time for hmmmm... Maybe I'll doodle a bit....

Coloring books - but nice, ones with good paper like To the Ocean Deep and Lost Ocean.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:56 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, think of things that people can use outside of their vacations. The mask I got from Venice rotted in the back of a cupboard until I tossed it, but I still have the tiny ceramic box I bought on the same trip - it houses my favourite pair of earrings, and I smile every time I see it.
posted by Tamanna at 6:56 PM on June 10, 2016

Nice themed deck of cards, playing and/or tarot.

Saltwater taffy. Candy that looks like seashells (check etsy, wedding suppliers - there's some incredibly cool stuff!)
posted by jrobin276 at 6:57 PM on June 10, 2016

Definitely find local crafters who do weird, unusual, funky or even ridiculous stuff.
posted by Toddles at 7:53 PM on June 10, 2016

Team up with a local beekeeper to have some park-branded honey.

If yours is a beach that allows campfires, Jiffy Pop and S'mores kits.
posted by slagheap at 10:37 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hermit crabs with some of the leftover junk as houses.
posted by bq at 10:51 PM on June 10, 2016

We love the WPA style illustrations that several of the National Parks sell. You can buy them as a print, postcard, magnet, or patch, and if there isn't a historic version already of your park available in the Library of Congress, you could commission a local illustrator.

For your particular site, nice beach towels and koozies would also be useful. Maybe a pre-assembled beach tote with two towels, koozies, and a book of local interest? Folks coming from far away might not bring that stuff.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:26 AM on June 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Since so many people are saying books, you should have bookmarks made up with the name of your park/gift shop, along with some illustration that's significant.
posted by kuanes at 5:53 AM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sun hats, visors, baseball caps with custom embroidery.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:29 AM on June 11, 2016

Tea and cake. T shirts, photography, and postcards. Keep it simple. Then, leave the extra space and forecourt as tables. You can find a tenant to take a leap on a store in store, selling equipment for campers and hikers. Quiches and salads would be a great addition further down the road. Keep it super simple.
posted by parmanparman at 8:50 AM on June 11, 2016

Allergy-friendly food items, such as potato chips, fruit bars, granola bars, the Costco tuna and gf crackers, pepperoni sticks, popsicles, ice cream, etc. If someone is travelling with a hungry kid or they are themselves hungry and they've somehow eaten all their food or found out that the restaurant on the way turned out to totally lie about being peanut-friendly or whatever, it can be kind of devastating and you can be stuck with a kid who is starving, so you go into the gift shop to look for anything they can eat. Some stuff that is truly allergy friendly can turn a day around. (I love those Meal-on-the-Go packs, too.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:39 AM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

posted by mightshould at 11:25 AM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Cat Studio makes really fun tea towels, glasses and pillows in geographic designs.
posted by jvilter at 8:54 AM on June 16, 2016

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