After more than 70 years in business, Davis Beachwear survives and recalls the halcyon era of AB Circle | New

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ATLANTIC BEACH – With its distinctive blue and white striped awning and low roof, the Davis Beachwear boutique at 149 Atlantic Blvd. might seem like an anomaly among the new, multi-story “domino” condos and trendy seafood restaurants that overlook the Atlantic Beach boardwalk. But the boutique has been an integral part of the Atlantic Beach Circle since the summer of 1951, and is one of the last surviving businesses from the glory days of the city’s once-bustling entertainment hub.

“Davis Beachwear is unique. We’re multiple stores in one, with everything you need for a day at the beach,” says Buddy Davis, who owns and runs the business with his wife, Pat.

In effect. As soon as you enter Davis Beachwear, you quickly realize that this is not just another “T-shirts and flip flops” store, even if both items are available. And much more.

“We started offering a women’s boutique in 2012, offering sophisticated and high-end women’s clothing: Julie Vos, Sail to Sable, Jude Connally, Gretchen Scott, Spartina, Charleston Shoes, Tulip Shoes from Denmark, Andre Aussouss Shoes from Spain and Lilly Accessories are all good sellers,” says Pat, who looks deliciously fashionable in her green and white dress and sparkling jewelry as she works the counter.

As you move away from the front shop, the vibe becomes a bit more “beachy”. Men will find clothing from Glen Harvey, Sea Dog and Salt Life, and youth will find clothing and accessories from Simply Southern. At the back of the store is a snack bar offering authentic Hershey’s ice cream and Italian ice cream made with real fruit, the same kind you’ll find served at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Trust me, nothing tastes better than dunking a scoop into a cup of frozen mango ice cream on a scorching July afternoon, which is what I did while interviewing Buddy and Pat. Buddy, who looked sharp in a crisp white button-up shirt and slacks, beamed as he poured me a cup. “Try this, Chuck. I think you’ll like it.”

You won’t find two nicer people anywhere, and the pride they share in Davis Beachwear is evident. Beachgoers can order frozen concoctions and other dishes, including burgers, pizzas, soft drinks and beer, from a counter at the back of the store, or order it “to go” at from a side window adjacent to the promenade. Sit back and enjoy a snack while admiring the Atlantic Ocean or the colorful murals that adorn the exterior wall of the shop. There are two 30-minute reserved parking spaces directly in front of the store and parking passes are available for customers.

One of the best things about Davis Beachwear is its beachfront location — if you forgot to bring a towel, chair, or umbrella, you’ll find them just steps from the shore. Offering “good merchandise, good service and good prices,” the store has served generations of customers, locals and tourists alike.

“Customers who have shopped with us in the past are now bringing their children and grandchildren. Some say they don’t come to Atlantic Beach without checking into Davis Beachwear before leaving,” Pat said.

“All businesses in Atlantic Beach are dependent on tourists. Our business is an equal mix of tourists and locals. Locals fuel the business in the spring and fall, and tourists elevate it in the summer. The pandemic led dozens of people to buy property in Atlantic Beach and Carteret County, trying to avoid the virus in the big cities Many people started working from home The best business we ever had started with the pandemic,” she added.






A customer visits Davis Beachwear taken after Hurricane Hazel. (Poto contributed)


SUMMER ’51

Writing in the 2012 commemorative book “75 Summers: 1937-2012” produced by the City of Atlantic Beach, Buddy Davis offers a time capsule of the store that still bears his family name.

“Davis Beachwear opened in the summer of 1951. It was in a large building on the Atlantic Beach Boardwalk consisting of a men’s and women’s bathhouse, dance hall and grill, and of course beachwear. It was called Davis Beachhead. It was a family business owned by Gus and Katherine Davis which involved their four sons (Gus Jr., Pete, Buddy and Johnny). After Hurricane Hazel in October 1954 it moved to its present location. The business has been remodeled several times. and has survived at least 15 hurricanes. Located in the Atlantic Beach Circle since 1951, (it is) one of the most former east coast family businesses in the same location and operated by the same family.

TIME AND TIDE

Davis Beachwear has withstood the storms and competition from local beach shops and chains (Bert’s, Atlantic Beach Surf Shop, Wings, Pacific, Eagles, etc.) located within walking distance. But it’s also seen a decline of the once vibrant Circle neighborhood (actually, more of a “triangle” if you look at the layout).

“What Davis Beachwear misses most in the Circle is entertainment for kids and adults alike, like putt-putt golf, bumper cars, Ferris wheel, go-karts. Almost all the junior-senior parties came of Raleigh, mainly because of the circle,” Pat said. “Chalet after chalet was rented out for the event. We also miss the pavilion with its famous bands, including the Platters, BJ Thomas, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs – some of whom had the #1 song in the country the moment they appeared at the pavilion.

“And the Jolly Knave, the Embers Club, Chevy’s, the Big Surf, Some Place Else – all contribute to the entertainment of the Circle. It was a mecca for lovers of beach music and shag dancing. Those days are over,” said said Pat Davis.

Buddy and Pat are optimistic that a new project designed to renovate the existing boardwalk will stimulate renewed interest in the area. Atlantic Beach recently awarded a $174,000 contract to KUTONOTUK of Charlottesville, Virginia to renovate the existing seawall and boardwalk. Plans call for a central public park, pavilion, bathhouse and playground, among other amenities.

“Anything done to the Atlantic Beach Boardwalk – which is run down and an eyesore – would be awesome! When people ask us where the boardwalk is, we’re ashamed to say ‘This is it’. It’s been neglected for years. Any improvements to our boardwalk will affect all Atlantic Beach properties. It will bring more people to the area,” Pat Davis said.

In the early 2000s, developer Fred Bunn purchased Circle properties with a Circle Development District (CDD) modernization plan. Davis Beachwear was the only company to “hold on”, as Buddy put it. It wasn’t the first time they had been contacted to sell their prime property and it likely won’t be the last. But tradition and family mean a lot to Buddy and Pat.

“We have been approached many times to sell. However, this property means more to us than money. It has so many special memories from the past. (NC) Governor (Terry) Sanford would vacation every summer for two weeks at the Atlantic Beach Hotel, walking to Davis Beachwear, sitting in one of our rocking chairs and talking to many people who passed by,” Buddy recalled.

GREEK ROOTS

Buddy can trace the roots of his namesake Beachwear boutique back to his grandfather, Louis Darvisis, who decided to bring his four eldest sons (George, Andrew, Louie and Gus) from Greece to the United States in 1915 at the search for business opportunities. After arriving at Ellis Island in New York, Louis “Americanized” his name from “Darvisis” to “Davis” and the family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where he settled the sons by opening a billiard room. Two of the sons eventually moved to New Bern, where Gus opened a pool hall/deli combination known as the Sportsman Club on Middle Street. Andrew opened the New Deal restaurant and later moved to Morehead City, where he opened the Broadway Cafe on Arendell Street.

Buddy says, “In February 1951, Johnny (youngest son of Gus and Katherine Davis) accidentally burned down the house. Gus took his family and moved to Morehead City, where his brother, Andrew, owned the Broadway Cafe. known as Davis Beachhead was available for lease for $5,000 per year.

“Hurricane Hazel destroyed Davis Beachhead in October 1954, and it was rebuilt without a second story. They bought the property behind and opened a sandwich shop and a beachwear store, and the combination of the two properties formed Davis Beachwear Shop.

“Gus died in 1971 and Katherine died in 2004, who left the shop to her son Buddy and his wife, Pat. Buddy practiced law in Morehead City for 45 years, and he and Pat operated Davis Beachwear beginning in 1971.

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