Eagle Ray Cove resort staff will vacuum seal retail merchandise in plastic wrap to stock the resort’s new underwater gift shop, believed to be the first of its kind in the Caribbean. (photo by Wendy Beaufort/Blacktip Times staff)
A Blacktip Island resort owner will open the Caribbean’s first underwater gift shop this Sunday in an effort to increase the resort’s profile in the scuba industry.
“We’re creating a new revenue stream and boosting the outfit’s visibility,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “We already got our topside gift shop, and world of a new, submerged one’ll get around quick. It also lets us tap into visitors from all the resorts, not just The Cove.
“We’re aiming at the impulse buyers, the kind of folks who wander through Wal-Mart picking up crap they don’t really need,” Skerritt said. “Whether it’s a coffee mug or paperweight or what have you, they’ll pay good money to say they bought it underwater. We’re not just selling tchotchkes, we’re selling the experience.”
The store, on the sand flats off Didley’s Landing public pier, will be manned by Eagle Ray Divers staff.
“Our divemasters’ll stock the place every morning, then break it down after the last dive boat docks in the evenings,” ERD operations manager Ger Latner said. “We’ll only staff it when boats are nearby, and rotate DMs through so no one takes on too much nitrogen, though we may staff it all day if it proves popular with shore divers.
“We vacuum seal the products in plastic, like food for the freezer, along with fishing weights to make sure nothing floats away,” Latner said. “People can tap their credit card or charge it to their room. Cash is welcome, too, but we don’t make change.”
Island visitors embraced the concept.
“It has everything you can get in a terrestrial gift shop, only better,” Earnestine Bass said. “So what if the t-shirt’s a little damp? It’ll dry.
“I’m staying an extra day just so I can be at the grand opening,” Bass said. “I’ll be able to take my friends gifts from underwater. How do you get more unique than that?”
Island environmentalists raised concerns.
“This is crass abuse of an incredibly-fragile ecosystem,” activist Harry Pickett said. “There’s already plenty of shiesse shops on shore that don’t damage coral or disturb aquatic wildlife.
“And there’s the issue of people unwrapping purchases underwater and letting the plastic wrapping float away,” Pickett said. “The last thing we need is more plastic on the reefs or washing up on the beach.”
Skerritt shrugged off those concerns.
“Harry and the scuba hippies need to see the bigger picture,” he said. “We’re offering guests a new service. That’ll bring more people to Blacktip, and that benefits everyone. A rising tide lifts all boats, and a little dinged-up coral’s a small price to pay for that.”