TOLA. owner Alison Buck can’t say exactly what made her little boutique on Main Street in Bellport Village such a success.
She’s no fashion expert, she readily admits.
She’s not ever sure how to describe the place to wholesalers.
“At its core it’s a beach shop with a little bit of everything for everyone; you can spend an hour in here,” she says. “It’s a small town boutique with a big town vibe, I like to say.”
Now she’s taking TOLA. to a place with a famous vibe all its own: Fire Island Pines.
She had a soft opening in late April, and a big grand opening party June 4.
Buck, who also lives in Bellport Village and went to South Country schools growing up, said it seemed like a natural migration to open a second beach store on an actual beach.
“I was always all about the beach,” Buck says. “I was born in the Caribbean. I grew up here, going to Old Inlet and Bellport Beach. And then the whole Fire Island thing came up and figured it all made perfect sense.
The new shop is located right in the main harbor of The Pines, bookended by the famous Blue Whale to the north and Sip ’n Twirl and the High Tea Deck to the south. Buck and her husband got the keys in March and even purchased a boat to travel back and forth to work.
They spent the late winter into spring getting the shop ready for the season.
“We were literally driving over there with snow on the boat,” she said.
Despite the wet May that followed the April 30 soft opening, Buck said TOLA. has been very well received at The Pines.
“It’s really bright and a bit schizophrenic in there but in a good way,” she said. “It really works. Everyone walks in and says, ‘It’s raining outside but it feels sunny in here.'”
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Since The Pines stores serves a largely gay male community, Buck said she offers more merchandise for men than in the TOLA. Bellport store.
And since The Pines is a big spot on Fire Island for cocktail parties, she offers a lot of host gifts.
But the basic idea is the same: If she thinks it’s cool, she’ll sell it at TOLA.
“I have quickly come to embrace the community, and really feel at home,” she said. “Everyone’s been so welcoming. I had an immediate sense of belonging. Just like in Bellport.
“The heart of TOLA. will always be here in Bellport.”
Top photo: The TOLA. shop that opened in Bellport Village on May 1, 2014. (courtesy)