“As long as there is water, people are going to fish,” said Sandra Byrd, who owns Port Isabel’s Quik Stop with her husband Calvin. The couple bought Roy’s Quik Stop in 1984 from his father and quickly converted the grocery store into a bait shop.
After reading about a bait stand that also sold lingerie for fishermen to bring home to placate their wives, Sandra realized she could have more than a bait shop. The store has expanded four times and now sells outdoor apparel and gifts as well as bait, fishing tackle and fresh seafood. “It’s great combination that works for us. We are the only bait shop on the water you can get to by boat.”
Years of merchandising experience have resulted in tidy displays of polarized sunglasses and large selections of Guy Harvey and Salt Life clothing and accessories, as well flounder gigs, surf weights, oxygen tablets for bait buckets and more lures than you can shake a rod at. By the rods and reels are snacks and caps, beer and boat anchors.
“Like any small business you have to learn who your clientele is and what are they looking for. You try to service them all,” Sandra explained. Valley day trippers account for 70% of their customers, while the rest are tourists.
“We provide a lot of tourist info. A part of any small business is answering the same questions over and over with sincerity and enthusiasm: ‘Where’s the causeway? What’s the weather? What’s biting?’ Customer service is what makes them want to come back,” she said. “Lots of customers tell us their mom and dad brought them here and now they’re bringing their own kids in.”
Maintaining that long-term relationship is important to the Byrds. Sandra says she is often on the beach by dawn taking pictures of the jetties and the bay and then posting the shots on Facebook as part of a Byrds’ Eye view, encouraging people to come to the island. “I don’t know how I became an expert on red tide. But our customers want to hear from us about local conditions, although we have no control over Mother Nature.”
Yet Quik Stop prepares its customers to have a good interaction with Mother Nature from tide tables to helping the early angler go after the fish. “We’re here by 5:30 a.m., and fishermen are waiting at the door sometimes,” Calvin said. Staying open until 9 p.m., the shop caters to evening fishermen and fisherwomen, too.
Quik Stop has its own dock on the channel where bait shrimpers’ boats off load their lively cargo. “Laguna Madre still provides a livelihood for 15-20 bait shrimpers,” said Sandra, noting that several of the independently owned boats supply the shop’s live wells. Frozen, packaged bait ranges from small mullet, squid and ribbon fish to sting ray (for sharks), boxed shrimp and shiners.
“Seafood is a big part of what we do,” Calvin said. Cases hold fresh seafood such as locally caught Gulf shrimp (medium to super jumbo), oysters and oyster meat from Reyes Seafood in Laguna Heights, crabmeat and yellowfin tuna. Frozen delicacies include scarlet snapper, lump crabmeat, scallops, stuffed crabs, frog legs, grouper and crab cakes.
In September, between the summer crowd and the arrival of Winter Texans, Quik Stop takes advantage of a brief window to catch up on maintenance chores like painting, even though local anglers are active.
“We’re a small mom-and-pop and we love our crew. We are a team here, and everybody’s ideas are valuable. We work hand in hand, side by side bagging squid or whatever has to be done,” Sandra explained. “Our philosophy is if you treat your employees good and fairly, they will work very hard for you and try to make this store successful. When we succeed they succeed.” Quik Stop provides full health insurance and free uniforms.
For more information, see Quik Stop on Facebook or call 943-1159.
This story by Eileen Mattei appears in the November 2016 print edition of Valley Business Report.