Cashing in on shark craze - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Cashing in on shark craze

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CHATHAM, Mass. -

You can't escape the great white in Chatham.

"I think the town loves it. It sets us apart," said shopkeeper Jennifer Norwood.

While visitors may not actually see a shark lurking offshore, they can't miss them in town -- sharks of all colors fill store windows.

And they're eating it up.

"People come in and they want shark items," said Lisa Franz, who heads the Chatham Chamber of Commerce.

Art, jewelry, clothing. And in this boutique-y kind of town, businesses are cashing in on the craze.

Justin Labdon is cranking out shark apparel at his shop in Chatham.

"Sweatshirts are super popular. Kids and women love the pink polka dots," said Labdon, describing a pattern on one of sweatshirts.

He first opened the Cape Cod Beach Chair Co. 10 years ago. But then a few years ago he added some new products when great white sightings first started cropping up off the town's shores.

"It became the big thing, so we thought it would be funny to print up some shark shirts in our store to sell. It became a great seller for us, so over the years we decided to expand it a little bit here and there, add a shirt, add a sweatshirt," Labdon said.

Last year, Labdon turned the shark gear into its own line called Chatham Whites.

"Our best seller is … one that we call the All American Whitey," Labdon said.

Because the shark business is going so well, Labdon was able to just buy a brand new embroidering machine for $18,000. And he's already planning on expanding to give the shark line its own store.

"We're going to go crazy with it. This summer we just launched our website. We've been getting orders steadily," Labdon said.

He's hardly alone. Most downtown shops are getting in on the action somehow.

"Everybody's fascinated by the sharks," said Norwood, of the Mayflower Shop.

The store -- a downtown icon for more than 100 years -- has its share of shark memorabilia.

"We just make sure we have a lot of products because it seems as though everybody's looking for something, whether it's a hat or a necklace or a stuffed animal," Norwood said.

It seems like a full-on shark love-fest in town.

There's the art exhibit in the park of painted sharks that will later be auctioned off, and a shark scavenger hunt for kids. There are also plans for a shark education center.

Labdon said sharks have been good business.

"I think it really has. It's a little bit of a bummer that you have to be wary swimming at certain beaches these days, but aside from that, it's really been a draw," Labdon said.

Franz agreed.

"I think they're doing wonderful. Everybody's brought new merchandise in that targets the whole shark frenzy that we have going on here. It's been good," Franz said.

"It's a make it or break it in 10 weeks here. We're very seasonal. So, the sharks have been a very good draw for us," Franz said.

"They're here to stay, and we're capitalizing on it, to be honest," she said.

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