The Marriage that built Boatique USA
“The owl and the pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat…”
When Edward Lear penned that classic children’s bedtime tale so many years ago he obviously had not met Fred and Jane Heine because they were not yet born, nor was their fairy tale. But had Lear had the opportunity, he would have soon realized that the Heines were the veritable personification of his verse.
“It all started with a 45 foot sailboat I bought eight years ago,” began Fred, who has been sailing since he was 5 years old. “At the time, Jane and I were dating. The boat was structurally and mechanically sound, but the interior needed work. It needed sprucing up.”
And that’s where Jane came in. “Sprucing” was a big part of what she was trained for and did for a living. With many years experience as an interior designer in New York, Jane knew how to do a whole lot more than “spruce” up a space. She was a thorough professional who had worked in condos, homes, and yes, even boats, designing spaces and filling them with beautiful things. Best of all, she knew how to buy.
The couple visited the then local marine store in their hometown of Essex to see what they had to work with and came away sorely disappointed. So they asked a local dealer, “How do you furnish a boat to best show it off?” The dealer led them straight to boat shows, a venue that has served them well ever since.
While at a show in West Palm Beach, Florida Jane and Fred spoke with a boat accessory company that caught their eye. “No one in the Northeast does this,” they were told.
Somewhere along the was they married…both their lives and their talents. Now it was time to go home to work.
Back in Essex, Fred, who had retired from a successful career in manufacturing and had the necessary business skills, found 500 square feet in the local shipyard, Jane bought some furniture and accessories, and Boatique USA was born.
They knew to make their business grow they had to exhibit at boat shows. “That first year we begged for space in Newport just to get in,” remembers Fred. “And we really paid our dues to get into the biggest show, the one in Annapolis. Now, 7 years later, people ask us to be in their show.”
When the Heines do a boat show they literally take the store with them? At Annapolis, Boatique USA occupied one of the largest booths filling 400 square feet, with every inch carefully designed by Jane.
One thing is abundantly clear after even the briefest look around the store: you do not have to own a boat. You don’t have to sail, cruise, or even like being on the water! You just have to like beautiful, functional, and even whimsical things, because nearly every bit of merchandise can be utilized in living spaces that are planted firmly on land. And it is certain: chances are what you see at Boatique USA you won’t find anywhere else.
For example, Fred and Jane have a line of linens not found in the finest department stores or specialty shops. A silk-filled comforter makes one forget they had ever even thought about down. There are custom made fitted sheets, a silk and cashmere throw, hand embroidered linens and towels, and even a wonderful way to clean and dry off the dog called Soggy Paws.
You’ll be astounded when you see the china cabinet filled with high-end Pickard custom made bone china, a way to personalize your dinnerware with perhaps a picture of your boat, a crest, or logo on each plate. Complement the china with Bottega fine crystal, exquisite designs for every potable.
Bamboo plays a major part in the accessories Jane has selected for Boatique USA. Fish plates, serving dishes, knives, even handmade purses delight both the boater and non-boater and are quickly snapped up. The Heines have forgotten nothing. With a nod toward Jane’s interior design background there are sample books of swatches throughout. Upholstery, carpeting, curtains, and light fixtures remind the customer that nearly everything in the 4000 item store is adaptable for home as well as boat.
Another turn around the shop shows fender covers, Nantucket leashes and collars for the well-equipped pooch, Melamine and bamboo plasticware that is not just fashionable, but biodegradable as well, Cocoon travel bedding neatly packaged in a space pouch, perfect for both travelers and boaters. The Hines proudly direct attention to their impressive display of international maritime signal flag pillows. Each flag spells out an alphabetic message, well known to those who sail, but favored as a unique accessory in any home.
What is so amazing about Boatique USA other than the sheer scope of the store’s contents is that Jane and Fred are constantly changing the merchandise within. “The store has to look new all the time,” Jane announces with firm resolve. “We have to interest people who come in and keep their interest, so we are constantly changing, adding, growing. Knowing how to buy is the secret.”
“I came from a manufacturing background,” reflected Fred. “I had two different careers and retired from both of them. When I was in that world I worked Monday through Friday, 8-5. Boatique USA is my retirement, and now I work 7 days a week! It’s a lifestyle change.” He laughed, then settled back in his deck chair, apparently thoroughly pleased with this avenue of “retirement.”
Boatique USA closes at Christmas and opens again each year at the end of March. And what do the Heines do during their off-time? “We visit marinas. We go to shows. We decide what we’re going to buy.”
It is important to reiterate for those non-boaters who still look at the name and feel the store would offer them nothing, that this is a store dedicated to those who love to sail, yes; but also those who love casual, beautiful, comfortable living. It’s for the gadget lover who just has to have that magnetic knife holder, for the person who loves sleeping on the finest of bedding and wrapping themselves in luxury, for the house guest who needs an inexpensive but unique gift, and for the boater who never could amass it all. This is a store for everyone. This is Boatique USA.
In eight short years the Heines have built Boatique USA to where it is a major presence in the boating world. With customers all over the country, Canada, the Caribbean, and the islands they have carved out success while also having a lot of fun a the same time. The Owl’s business acumen and the Pussycat’s outstanding decorating skills have truly made for a successful marriage…in more ways than one.
“And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon”
Photos by Stephanie Sittnick
As it appeared in Ink Publishing, LLC, A guide to finer living in Connecticut & abroad, Vol. 7, Issue 6, 2011.