DARIEN — When you step into the Dock Shop, you feel like you’re by the beach, despite being on Tokeneke Road. The shop carries an array of beach-related goods, from fishing gear, to nautical jewelry and even nail clippers in the shape of fish.

What makes the store stand out even more is a banner out front declaring it the Darien Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Business of the Year.

“It was amazing,” said Michael La Scala, one of the shop’s owners. “It’s the recognition. We’ve had quite a few people come into the shop who’d never been in before and heard word and wanted to see what made the shop special and what it’s all about. It did a great job of bringing recognition to the shop.”

According to the Darien Chamber of Commerce, the Dock Shop received the annual award for being a “generous and devoted supporter of the Darien Chamber,” participating in all chamber activities, including the annual Summer Sidewalk Sale.

“Their generosity is boundless and makes a difference with helping the Darien Chamber fulfill its mission of promoting the business community and working to improve the quality of life in Darien,” the chamber said in its announcement.

The Dock Shop was founded by La Scala and his business partner, Toni Sabia, 10 years ago. La Scala, who has been in the marine business since 1973, got a contract to manage a marina in Norwalk. The marina didn’t have a ship store, so La Scala opened one. The marina closed for the season in October, but the store did so well La Scala decided to open a holiday boutique version of the shop on weekends until Christmas.

The boutique took off to the point where La Scala said he had a customer approach him in August looking for the boutique.

After a four-year run in Norwalk, the Dock Shop was moved to Darien. Two years ago, the Dock Shop opened another location on Riverside Avenue in Westport.

La Scala, who also does sales and marketing for the shop, said he’s stuck with the Dock Shop “since Day One” because of its philosophy of bringing an oceanside lifestyle to the Gold Coast.

“Our Connecticut coast is absolutely beautiful, and so many people around here are engaged in a nautical lifestyle,” La Scala said. “What we do is bring in things people find and see on vacation and bring that (vacation) feeling in their local community. We bring everything from tackle and fishing to gift items. It’s kind of all-around.”

La Scala said it’s this mission to bring the spirit of vacation to Fairfield County that also appeals to shoppers coming into the Dock Shop.

“When we all left the house this morning, it was 22 degrees,” he said. “You walk into the shop and it’s got bright lights, palm trees. It gives you a breath of summer. We don’t live in the Keys where it’s summer all the time. That and when you couple it with the fact we focus on items that are very unique. People see different things and they like that.”

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata

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