In a way, New Canaan’s Beatrice and Jeff Mellick have their first-born to thank for the idea that—as of Wednesday afternoon—became a public-facing, live retail enterprise. Now a West School first-grader, Phoebe was four years old on the afternoon in August 2013 when, on the beach near the Mellick family’s longtime summer home in Charlestown, R.I., she asked her dad to make a “huge hole,” “big huge sandcastle” and a “moat that goes all the way down the water,” Jeff Mellick recalled. He dutifully said “Of course, sweetheart,” drove his pickup truck to a hardware store, bought a garden shovel, headed back to the beach, finished his project in 20 minutes and “actually got to sit down and relax for 30 minutes straight as my daughter, Phoebe, and my son, Emmett, played for 30 minutes straight—which had never really happened before.”
“And so after that, every day, three or four different dads would come up to me on the beach and ask to borrow my shovel,” Jeff Mellick said on a recent morning from an office in downtown New Canaan. “So the light bulb went off.”
It went off and this week—after two-and-half years and countless hours of hard work, creativity, anxiety, focus groups, searches, frustration and excitement—that light bulb yielded The Beachmate System. Hands-free, lightweight at less than eight pounds and with a stylish design that experts say lends itself to an expanded product line (more on that below), Beachmate includes a set of durable ABS plastic buckets and shovels as well as a cooler, all wrapped in a tote bag (insignia optional) with a shoulder strap.