Sisters Val and Angelika Unzens have enjoyed six years of business in Pensacola Beach, home of the first Geronimo’s Outpost store. Customers appreciated their stock of art, graphic designs, fashions and assorted beach stuff so much that Geronimo’s Outpost was voted Best Beach Store in Pensacola.
Two months ago they opened a second Outpost in Destin’s Sunsations Plaza. The new place is bigger and positioned along one of the most well traveled stretches of road in the Panhandle. Val and Angelika held a ribbon cutting with the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce on May 15, and greeted guests and customers with chilled wine, snacks and guided tours of the new store.
The name of the store is a tribute to the famous Apache war chief, who was imprisoned for a time at Pensacola’s Fort Pickens after surrendering to the federal government. The first store’s success made the name a natural choice for the second. Angelika notes that while they are still experimenting with stock selection, the Destin store will offer even more upscale items for sale. Angelika says she “fell in love with the windows” when deciding on the new location. The display windows are high and wide, with pedestals that give enhanced visibility. “One is the fashion window, one is the art window,” says Angelika.
Inside the store—a large, square room with high ceilings and plenty of floor and wall space—are groups of displayed items, each creating its own “department.” There are casual and resort-appropriate dresses, shirts, scarves and hats, brightly colored sun visors, ceramics, glassware, soaps, candles, cards, plaques, pillows, jewelry, shell craft, wood carvings, and one table covered with gold and silver flip-flops. There are also toys, decorative odds and ends, even a table of “pirate” souvenirs (skulls, bones, figurines).
Among the items are some antiques that the sisters brought in from their own collections. As word of mouth spreads in their new location, they hope to get a feel for who their customers will be and what they will want. Both are clear that Geronimo’s Outpost will not be just another “beach store.” Val hopes to build a clientele among more grown-up and discerning customers, ones that are not well served by stores that cater to texting 17-year-olds.
The sisters are originally from northern Germany (“near Hamburg”), and spent years in textile engineering and design. They owned textile mills in California, including the Los Angeles area, but got out of the business when manufacturing went overseas. They decided a return to chilly Germany was out of the question (“weather is very important”) so they came to Florida. The sisters divide their business responsibilities. Angelika handles bookkeeping and finance, and Val talks to the customers in the stores, doing the greeting and hands-on contact.
“We don’t duplicate work,” says Angelika. The Pensacola store has four employees, including Carole Wells, who is on hand for the Destin opening. Wells lives in Gulf Breeze and covers both stores. Val says she is in the stores every day.
The sisters admit there is still a “learning curve” as they grow into the space of the Destin store, but they already have exclusive agreements with several area artists, whose work is prominently displayed. They are pottery designer Robin Murray, ceramicist Mary Om, and jewelry designer Becky Makla.
They will continue to look for the work of new local artists, and regularly make buying trips to markets, especially in Los Angeles, where they have long-established connections. The store itself is also subject to change. Currently along the back wall is a row of four dressing rooms (the space was formerly a bridal wear store), which could possibly change.
“We want to create something beautiful, artsy,” the sisters say. “We created a home and opened the doors.”
Geronimo’s Outpost is located at 960 U.S. 98 in Destin and is open daily from 9 a.m. to sunset. Their telephone number is (850) 837-2031, and you can find them online at www.geronimosoutpost.com.