Rockaways beach store takes business online after 11 years

Soft shades of blue and teal complement washed-out brick and wood, evoking the need for a piña colada and a good book. Unmistakably, Liz Smith-Breslin’s Rockaway Beach shop is by the ocean, but while the beachy vibes may stay, the store will not.

After more than a decade in business, Smith-Breslin, 51, and her business partner Jeanne Jamin, are taking The Blue Bungalow’s hand-painted wineglasses, driftwood art and beachy card collection entirely online.

“The convenience of being able to shop online is really … the sign of the times,” said Smith-Breslin, a lifelong Rockaway resident. “I started to see this trend, so I think it’s time for us to change our direction. We wanted to do 10 years and we did 11.”

The pair first opened the store in 2007, bonded by the loss of Jamin’s brother and Smith-Breslin’s boyfriend — a bond broker at Cantor Fitzgerald who passed away on Sept. 11. They launched on Beach 113th street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard before moving two years later to a bigger space at Beach 116th Street, where they stayed to this day. They opened up a second store in 2012 in Long Beach, but suffered after superstorm Sandy struck.

“I would have to say, after Sandy, things became a little bit harder. I think people really watched what they spent,” she said. “They had so many other expenses, they had lost so much that I think people looked at it like, ‘Do I even need to buy stuff.’ ”

In 2015, Smith-Breslin said they decided to close their Long Beach location and focus on the Rockaways.

"And at that point I started to dabble in the social media world," she said, adding she made fun videos to announce sales and engage her customers. "So we kind of started to dabble in more online sales through social media and it really started to work."

Now, Smith-Breslin said it’s "bittersweet," but she’s excited for the next phase of the business. The store currently has more than 5,000 Instagram followers and 3,900 likes on Facebook.

And while she hopes to close the brick-and-mortar storefront by the end of October, Smith-Breslin said she will still offer some perks for neighborhood residents like delivery or local pickup options.

"I think it’s going to allow us to … be more creative at less expensive pricing. There’s not going to be any overhead," she said. "The fact that we did it for 11 years is just perfect, and now it’s a new direction and we’re looking forward to it. And I’m excited about it."