Divin’ Off the Dock has provided a one-of-a-kind shopping experience in downtown West Point for 10 years.
The boutique sells clothing, accessories and home decor from independent vendors and will celebrate its 10-year anniversary March 28.
The store was a long-time dream of Diane Rilee, who managed gift shops for Riverside Health System for 30 years. She retired in June 2008 and tried to relax for a few months after always being on the go.
“I read book after book and one day I just decided I had had enough,” Rilee said. “I’d been talking about opening a store for years and knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Rilee’s daughter, Beth Kelley, who helps as a marketing assistant for the store, remembers sitting on the dock while her mom slammed a book shut and said she was “done.”
“I said ‘Oh good, you’re done with another book,’ ” Kelley recalled. “She said ‘No, I’m done with this, I want to open my own store.’ ”
Kelley said it was during the 2008 recession and she warned her mom about the timing.
“I said I know, but I have a dream and I’m going to go for it,” Rilee said. “My husband, Jeff, is my biggest cheerleader and he told me to go for it, too.”
Rilee said she knew she didn’t want to run a store full-time, so she sought the assistance of her two sisters, Pam Taran and Jane Dzula.
The three sisters moved to King and Queen County with their mother in the late 1950s after their father died, to be close to his sister who lived in the area.
Rilee and Dzula remained in the area and now live in New Kent County; Taran lives in Portsmouth.
“I was fully expecting them (Dzula and Taran) to tell me I was crazy," Rilee said. “But they were all in as co-owners.”
Dzula and Taran agreed even though they both had full-time jobs -- Dzula is the owner of Ten Years Younger hair salon in New Kent and Taran was a nurse anesthesiologist in Portsmouth. Taran decided to retire to dedicate her time to the store.
Rilee, a fan of Key West, Fla., painted all of the walls in the house-turned-store off of 6th Street in bright colors to make it a “happy place” for customers.
Rilee, Dzula and Kelley agreed they were pleasantly surprised at the support they got from the community when they opened.
“I obviously wanted that for the store, but it exceeded my expectations for sure,” Rilee said.
“It was like a big embrace,” Kelley added.
The key to a successful business is doing anything you can to make the customer happy, Rilee said.
“We let people take clothing or decor items home to see how they look in their homes or with other clothing items,” Rilee said.
The store’s bright, cheerful atmosphere, cards and home decor with funny sayings just makes people happy as well, according to Rilee.
“We’ve had customers come in and say this store makes them happy,” Rilee said. “We have a few customers that come in here, don’t buy anything, just want to look around because it makes them feel better. What else could you want as a small business owner?”
A lot of clothing wasn’t originally in Rilee’s plans, but they started selling more clothing after customers requested more than just sweaters.
“I never thought about getting into clothing when we opened,” Rilee said. “People requested more and it has just grown. Clothing is our biggest seller now.”
In terms of competition, when the store opened there weren’t many consignment stores in the area, but now Homestead Cottage and Anchors Away Antiques & Collectibles are both nearby.
Rilee said they have welcomed the new stores with open arms and will even direct their customers to the other stores.
“If customers or residents shop local, we all win in the end,” Rilee said.
In a small town with a limited number of stores, Rilee said she doesn’t find it hard to maintain her business.
“People say it’s hard to make a business work in West Point, (but) I just say well, I don’t know about them but I know what we can do together.”
Kelley said they have plans for a girl’s night out for select customers at the store and a few other celebratory promotions in honor of the anniversary.
West Point Chamber of Commerce president Lindsay Wise said it’s been great seeing a business as special and unique as Divin’ Off the Dock still here and thriving after 10 years.
“The hope of the chamber is for all businesses here in town to come in, grow and stay like Divin’ Off the Dock,” Wise said.
Town Community Development director Holly McGowan said the owners’ hearts show in their business.
“The store has been very successful and people come from all over to shop there,” McGowan said. “Divin’ just has unique things that you can’t find anywhere else in town.”
Want to know more?
Divin’ Off the Dock, 417 6th St. in West Point, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.
No anniversary event or promotion has been announced yet, but follow Divin’ Off the Dock on Facebook to keep up upcoming events.
Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ashleyrluck on Twitter