Keep on Growing… Blue Bay Lifestyle Co.

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By Christopher Manson

“We are committed to providing excellent customer service and ensuring that every customer leaves our store satisfied. We also believe in giving back to our community and supporting local organizations that make a difference.”
~ From “Our Commitment,” bluebaylifestyle.com

“…a breath of fresh air to the Fort Walton Beach community.”
~ Staci M., Review on Blue Bay Lifestyle Co. Facebook Page

Blue Bay ShirtBlue Bay Lifestyle Co., located at 27 Racetrack Road NE in Fort Walton Beach, is a men and women’s clothing and footwear (sneakers, sandals, hiking boots, loafers) store that has partnered with a number of leading brands, including Keen, Hoka, The North Face, Aetrex and OluKai.

The shop offers vegan and environmentally-friendly shoes, as well as in-store shoe fittings. Blue Bay’s aim is to provide high-quality shoes and apparel that “not only look great, but also feel comfortable.”

Owners Donna and Jeff Harris also own neighboring store Run With It and the adjacent indoor pickleball court. Their sons, recent college graduates, are in the business, too.

Blue Bay opened last Christmas Eve, to the delight of the area’s last-minute shoppers. “It took a lot longer to get the store ready than we’d anticipated, but we made it happen,” says Donna.

Blue Bay DeskThe big challenge in starting a new business, she says, is getting the word out. “We’re lucky. We knew what we were doing, because we’ve had Run With It for 15 years.” Run With It was located in Downtown Fort Walton Beach for its first 13 years, but the Harrises longed to own their own building.

When their lease was up, they found the current location on Racetrack Road, a four-unit building that houses Run With It, Blue Bay Lifestyle Co., the pickleball court, and another tenant. “When one of the units was vacated, we decided to open an everyday casual apparel and shoe shop.

“We don’t have that many shops in Fort Walton Beach,” says Donna. “We’re definitely here to stay, and we’ve always loved the retail business and providing for our community.”

Donna and Jeff’s first inclination was to lean more towards outdoors, but they’ve evolved toward boutique and unique brands.

They relocated from Birmingham, Ala., 15 years ago, where they were in the restaurant business for a little over two decades – “a café and catering company,” she says.

Blue Bay Mens Shirts“We were ready to do something different. Late in life, we started running with our friends and loved the concept. So, we opened a running store. Jeff’s parents lived in Gulf Breeze, which was a big reason for moving here. And we love the beach!”

The couple supports the Northwest Florida Track Club, and Donna serves as race director for several yearly events. “One of our biggest endeavors was building the track at Fort Walton Beach High School. It took about 10 years, but we did it.”

She adds: “The reason we picked Fort Walton was because they had enough room for a self-sustaining track, whereas the other schools did not have that ability.” They are also members of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce and contribute to many local running groups.

The Blue Bay Lifestyle Co. has a small staff, including Donna, that rotates between the new shop, Run With It, and the indoor pickleball court. Donna takes pride in her business’ personalized touch. “Customer service seems like a thing of the past, but not to us,” she says.

Blue Bay Lifestyle Co. is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 850.374.8236 or visit bluebaylifestyle.com.

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