A Surf City Legacy

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Online Exclusives, Shopping, Surf City

Established in Surf City 48 years ago, Surfside Sportswear and Gifts and its owners, the Fussell family, are part of the fabric of the Topsail area.

“I never dreamed of having a business,” says Elizabeth “Peggy” Fussell, owner and operator of Surfside Sportswear and Gifts, a company that has provided clothing, swimwear, gifts and home décor in Surf City for 48 years.

Peggy and her husband, Forest, had a trailer on Topsail Island and were frequent visitors. In 1971, they moved to Topsail Island full-time with their daughters Angie and Lori and opened a business at 314 N. New River Drive.

Forest, an electrician, worked out of the New River Drive shop, where he stored supplies.

Peggy wanted something for the ladies to do while the men were fishing on Topsail Island. She sold craft supplies, and the ladies would gather to create stained glass objects, macrame, cross stitch, candle wicking and more. The crafting grew over five years.

Topsail NC Surfside Beachwear

“We moved Forest to the back of the shop,” Peggy says with a chuckle. “Eventually he moved his electrical supplies off the island.”

Each year Peggy and Forest added items of interest to everyone who visited the shop. They sold gifts made of seashells, household gifts and t-shirts.

Tourists and locals shopped Surfside Sportswear for glassware that could be monogrammed with initials or decals, a service Peggy provided on the premises.
“There were very few places here to shop at that time,” Peggy recalls.

Surfside Sportswear and Gifts continued to expand.

While attending the buyers’ market in Charlotte, Peggy met the Jantzen swimwear sales representative. Peggy asked him if he would sell $2,000 worth of swimwear to give her a chance. He did not normally do business with a small business such as Surfside Sportswear and Gifts, but the representative liked Peggy’s honesty.

Soon the store doubled in size and major swimwear brands, including Jantzen, and select clothing brands were offered by Surfside Sportswear and Gifts.

“Before we moved to Topsail Island, Mom worked for a textile company in Wallace in the personnel department,” Angie says. “She learned about the quality of fabrics.”
Peggy also learned about fabrics from her mother.

“My mother sewed our clothes,” Peggy recalls. “My family were farmers, but Mom loved clothes and she made us the best children’s clothing for school.”

Around 2000, the Fussell family added the back section to the store and added the second entrance from North Topsail Drive.

Peggy stocks Surfside Sportswear and Gifts with major brands that cannot be found everywhere. The store, with two additions stretching between two streets, offers clothing, swimwear, beach cover-ups, beach bags, shoes, purses, home décor and a beautifully unique selection of jewelry.

Surfside Beachwear Topsail NC

“We always say, ‘We dress you from head to toe, for on the beach or off to a wedding, and work in-between,’” Lori says.

The Fussell family invested in the community in addition to growing a business.
“The Fishing Club started talking about a chamber of commerce,” Peggy remembers. “The chamber started at my kitchen table.”

The Fishing Club was sponsored by the fishing piers, real estate companies and other local businesses on the island at that time. Each helped to establish a chamber of commerce in 1977.

As the secretary of the chamber of commerce, Peggy recalls promoting Topsail Island with a booth at the N.C. State Fair where various members of the chamber traveled each day of the fair to give away literature and seashells. The chamber was the first to advertise Topsail Island on a U.S. Highway 17 billboard.

Peggy and the Topsail Ladies Club hosted an annual fashion show.

Because of Peggy’s relationship with Jantzen, the company loaned the fashion show their wool, full-body covering swimsuits from the 1920s through the 1950s. The newest lines of clothing sold by Surfside Sportswear were also featured on the runway at the local fashion show.

Fashion Show

The Fussell family volunteered their time to help the Surf City Volunteer Fire Department, Surf City Volunteer Rescue Squad and events to promote Topsail Island, the wonderful place they now call home.

While the Greater Topsail Area has witnessed change and growth, one thing remains the same: Surfside Sportswear and Gifts is still a locally owned, family business.

Want to go?
Surfside Sportswear and Gifts
314 N. New River Drive in Surf City
(910) 328-4141

About the author

Topsail Magazine Contributor

Topsail Magazine Contributor