Finding coastal people who have lived, worked and owned businesses in the same place for generations can be difficult – not impossible, but difficult. That’s part of what makes Chris Medlin, owner of East Coast Sports at Surf City on Topsail Island, extraordinary.
He couldn’t remember the exact time he caught his first fish because he had been there so long, but he guessed it was somewhere on old Barnacle Bill’s Pier.
“I don’t remember when I first started fishing, but I’m pretty sure it was next to my grandfather Charlie, who owned and/or operated the piers I grew up on,” he recently told Coastal Review.
Madeline’s grandfather, Charlie Madeline, moved to Topsail Island in 1948.
He saved enough money to put himself through business college and moved to Topsail to open an ice house. In those days, this literally meant delivering blocks of ice to people’s homes for their non-electric iceboxes.
Over the years, the ice business has evolved into a beachside grocery store. But then there was a different need.
“After my father and grandfather retired in the 1980s, it turned into a serious nursery shop.”
There was a need for such a store on Topsail Island, he said. “I tried to do it like a grandpa,” Medlin said. “He always says, ‘Find a need and fill it.’
East Coast Sports has been a successful venture ever since, he said.
“Our model is very successful. We continue to grow every year,” Medlin said.
The inventory is vast and varied and covers two floors of a large building on Roland Avenue. Medlin said the store’s online reviews are a reflection of the friendly and helpful staff.
“We couldn’t do it without our staff, which I feel indebted to. We can only be successful if we can retain well-qualified employees.
Medlin said the key is to treat employees fairly and with respect. “My grandfather and father taught me to value people and their time. If you owe them, you pay them.
And he said that respect should be the rule for everything you do in life.
“You must give the same respect to everyone you cross – rich, poor, old or young. Everyone.
But the story of the business was not all sunshine and roses. The old Barnacle Bill’s Pier was destroyed by hurricanes in 1996.
“We lost the barnacle bill because it fell off during Bertha and then Fran. We have already built the pole. He lost twice in the same year. “
It was an emotional season.
“I saw Pop cry for the first time. East Coast Sport was under 3 feet of mud.
But they soldiered on and rebuilt.
As we rebuilt our lives, we had to find something. We made roofs – knitting, resin, standing seam. We also did some cladding and remodeling work.
The work allowed them to keep the lights on while rebuilding the shop, but the side street was temporary.
“Once East Coast got up and running, we ran out of construction,” Medlin said.
Because of the accident, he realized that it was not a good way to raise his family. It also didn’t please him in the long run. “I didn’t like that job as much as running the store.”
But then they had to do it all again in 2018 after Hurricane Florence.
“We had a lot of damage in Florence and we updated the store because we had to fix it anyway – it made it more of an open concept,” he said.
As you’d expect from someone who runs a small business that spans generations, family is especially important to Madeline. And it sponsors a kids’ fishing derby every year and gives away about 300 rods, reels and bait.
“It’s a lot of kids’ first fishing rod,” he said.
This past year was the 20th and participation has increased every year.
Medlin said his whole family likes to fish. His 13-year-old daughter, Kaya, and 16-year-old son, Charlie, catch some of the older ones.
“Charlie once landed a 40-pound shark and a 100-pound amberjack.”
Madeleine’s wife, Chowdell, would love to go, but it had better be the right day. “My wife enjoys fishing perfectly,” he said slyly.
Medlins also love to travel and of course do some fishing when they are away.
“My son and I usually do a charter wherever we travel,” says Medlin, explaining that there’s nothing like getting out on the water in a new place to see what the local action is like. But not all of their family trips involve fishing. Chris and Charlie recently visited Peru and did not do any fishing but did see Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines and the city of Lima.
“No fishing on that trip, but it was amazing,” he said.
Tosail said the island has changed a lot since Madeline was young, but one thing that hasn’t changed is people’s willingness to hit the water when they arrive.
“The spirit of fishing is one,” he says, adding that advances in the fishing industry have made the hobby better for everyone. “The best invention has to be the dashed line and bar graph. Both have revolutionized the tackle business and made it possible for many people to land big fish.
For many, going to a tackle shop and looking at all the gear can be confusing, but modern gear has made fishing more accessible.
“Gear has gotten better across the board. Every day there are technical advances in bait, gear, lures, reels and rods,” he said.