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Turning swimsuit shopping into fun

CENTRAL POINT — Capturing a slice of the Bahamas and the spirit of the Caribbean was no easy task in the dead of winter.

In order to draw in customers, Sams Valley resident Vicki Hardey felt it was essential to create a tropical paradise inside The Wild Seahorse, her newly opened swimwear and apparel store in Mountainview Plaza.

I wanted them to feel, even though it was winter outside, that it wasn't in here, Hardey said, clad in shorts despite the cold weather. When people come in here, they come in happy.

— — — The Wild Seahorse

— What:

swimwear and apparel.

— Owner:

Vicki Hardey.

— Location:

1350 Plaza Blvd., Suite G., inside — Mountain View Plaza, Central Point.

— Hours:

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through — Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Starting in February, closed Mondays.

— Phone:

665-0035. — — Hardey's goal was to turn swimsuit shopping — what many women view as a frightening and emotional experience — into something fun.

In addition to natural lighting, Hardey said the coral-colored walls also make shoppers look a little tanner.

The Wild Seahorse opened its doors Jan. 2. Hardey estimates that she has about 60 percent of her stock in — about 600 swimsuits in all. Next year, she hopes to offer 2,000 varieties of bikinis, one-piece suits and tankinis, ranging from size 6 to suits featuring G-sized cups. Plans also include adding a children's line and expanding the men's selection.

The Wild Seahorse will soon feature items from the Delta Burke and Venus lines, suits for women who have had mastectomies and a wider variety of choices for plus-sized customers.

When you?re wearing a swimsuit, you?re basically wearing your underwear out in public. You want it to be pretty, Hardey said. I want the sizes that are 18 to 24 that are pretty.

Instead of opening a high-priced boutique, Hardey wanted to cater to real women by selling a wide variety of suits for customers of all shapes and sizes.

The only thongs you?ll find at The Wild Seahorse, she added, are flip-flop sandals.

The baby boomers who haven't bought a suit for 30 years, women who aren't skinny, Hardey said. I want them to know they can choose a suit that's not black or blue.

Medford resident Sharlene Stephens, who is planning to take a cruise to the Caribbean, purchased two suits Saturday.

I think (The Wild Seahorse) has a great variety, she said. I like that it's more for women and not young kids.

Hardey runs The Wild Seahorse herself with a little help from her 22-year-old daughter, Summer Hardey, on the weekends.

It's fun helping somebody find something new. A lot of people don't think to try a new style and they're so surprised when they do, Summer Hardey said.

For the past 20 years, Vicki Hardey has assisted her husband, John, with the family business, Hardey Engineering of Medford. About three years ago, she began looking for a change.

The idea to open a year-round swimsuit store was born as Hardey was preparing for a tropical cruise in October but couldn't find a swimsuit.

Business has been great, Hardey said, even during the winter. Customers from different athletic organizations or those getting ready for a cruise keep her busy, she added.

One customer told her, you might as well sell ice to an Eskimo.

Hardey was pleased to note, however, that the man left with a swimsuit.

Reach reporter at 776-4485, or e-mail

Turning swimsuit shopping into fun