Dockside up for sale

Fontana business in the swim of things for 30 years

(Published October. 4, 2006, 8:38 a.m.)

After jumping in the deep end some 30 years ago, Kathleen Williams is finally getting out of the pool.

Williams, owner of Dockside Swim Shop, 235 Broad St., Lake Geneva, 248-8135, began her entrepreneur venture in the early '70s when she and a friend decided to open a swimwear store in Fontana. Her friend had children who were involved with competitive swimming and the location at lakeside was a perfect fit, Williams said in a news release.

"Eventually we had three locations," she said. "When we decided to close the store on the east coast of Florida, Lake Geneva was a perfect spot to relocate. In 1990, she became the sole owner of Dockside.

Now, with her husband retired, she feels it's time for her to retire as well so they can enjoy traveling and spending more time in Florida. And so her business is up for sale.

"We're a unique store," she said. "Swimwear is one of those things that's difficult to buy without trying it on. Our customers come in and often try on a dozen suits before they find just the right one. They appreciate the personal service that we provide."

Between Williams and her two sales staff, Leslie Beukema and Sharon Aspenson, there are more than 60 years of experience in the swimwear business, and that counts a lot when helping customers make good choices.

"During the summer season, between the day tourists and the five large resorts, our monthly business doubles and triples, but the rest of the year it's the faithful fitness and aerobic customers who return season after season," she said. "With two large YMCAs in the area and all the resorts' fitness and aquatic classes, there is year-round swim business. Plus people who buy swimwear for winter vacations and Christmas gifts. We have regular customers from toddlers to grandmothers. Over 70 percent of our business is return customers. We are meeting the third generation in some families!"

The store carries one of the largest varieties of swimwear and accessories in the area, Williams said. A wide variety of Speedo competitive and recreational swimwear is available, plus hundreds of styles, colors and fits in men's and women's swimwear. The latest "float suits" for children that keep them safe and offer a high degree of UV protection are also sold here.

"We even carry women's swimwear from size 4 up to size 24," she said.

Williams said she is amazed at how swim fashion has evolved in the swimwear industry during the last 30 years.

"The Lycra material, the color combinations, the styles-all have changed drastically," she said. "They're just beautiful now. And they fit like a dream."

Swim and beach accessories are also part of the inventory at Dockside. One popular item is watershoes.

"Since our lakes have gotten infested with zebra mussels, these are important things to have to keep your feet from getting cut," Williams said. "Many people also wear them in pools because they have non-slip soles."

Swim goggles, headbands, ear plugs, tanning oils, Tilley hats, tiny bikinis, beach hats and towels, cover-ups and Teva sandals-all can be found in this store. And a nice selection of men's swimwear and casual wear makes this place a great spot to do some Christmas shopping for the man in your life, Williams said.

"The main thing we offer is both competitive and aerobic swimwear along with stylish and practical resort swimwear," she said. "Nowhere in this area can you walk into a store and find this many suits-over 500 of them at the moment. We've stuck to one thing and done it well."

Right now is a great time to find some real bargains with markdown sales in effect, Williams said.

"Most of our inventory has at least two markdowns," she said. "This is the turnover season when we would be ordering the new 2007 suits, so we're moving out what we have."

She is hoping some new owners can jump in, buy the business, and enjoy the excitement of seeing all the new swimwear lines, one of the aspects she will miss the most.

"This business can be an exciting, good opportunity for some," she said. "The timing is perfect. It's a turnkey business. New owners can come in and everything is ready to go. They can take their time making changes and adding new business via the Internet, etc."

She said there is space and a market to add more resort clothing, sunglasses, jewelry and even online sales for the owner who wants to expand inventory and buying opportunities.

"It's a very viable business for a couple of young gals," she said. "There is lots of opportunity here. The building isn't for sale. We have a lease that's up next year-but the business is."

In the meantime, shopping for next summer's swimwear and accessories will never be better with fall and winter specials now in effect. You can visit the store seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. year-round. It's located right across the street from the movie theater in downtown Lake Geneva.

Williams said she is hopeful the business can be sold so that her many faithful customers can continue to shop there.

"We have third-generation customers now," she said. "That's the part I'm going to miss the most-the people."




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