Going across the bridge that spans the Intracoastal Waterway at Surf City, it’s hard to miss the tall building to the right, the home of East Coast Sports. The minute you walk in the door you know you’re in a fisherman’s paradise because you are instantly surrounded by isles of fishing tackle and accessories. No matter if you’re a novice fisherman of a seasoned angler you find yourself at home in East Coast Sports. Another great feature is the upstairs which is packed with a full array of apparel for men and ladies.
For quite a few years I’ve known the Medlin family who are the owners of this Surf City icon. I’ve watched them grow both as a business and as an expanded family. Everyone, including their employees, give personal attention to customers looking for just the right tackle or fishing rod. So many items, so many choices!
Currently the store is owned and managed by Chris Medlin and his father, Doug. But the Medlin’s actually began their fishing tackle heritage in 1952 with Doug’s father Charlie when opened an ice house and fish house on the island. Then, he opened Barnacle Bill’s pier in the mid-60’s .
I sat down with the 3rd generation of Medlin’s (Chris) to learn a bit more on how they grew to become Surf City and Topsail’s most well known location for fishing tackle and apparel. The journey was one that started with serving fisherman that came to the coast to fish. The Topsail fishing crowd in the early days was largely made up of farmers from neighboring communities coming to the coast in the fall for vacations. Now the East Coast Sports fishing village is visited by anglers and their families from all over the United States all year round and many coming from Ohio, Pennsylvania and other northern states.
Chris was asked what he thought made them such a popular location and he quickly told me, “we listen more than talk”. That approach combined with a high sense of fishing knowledge by each of their 13 employees continues to bring the next generation of local and vacationing fishermen to their store. When you visit you will see that a culture exist. It’s a culture far away from the big tackle shops that reside in highly populated tourist areas. You know, the ones that have their name on nearly every product and large fish tanks to impress the kids. Instead, East Coast Sports has “Frank”. He’s a tall slender older gentleman that is sure to answer your questions on nearly every saltwater fishing subject. He didn’t learn it in company training class, but instead he learned it in the many years he fished the local waters and still does today. Frank not only tells you what you need, but how and where to use it, giving you the end results . He’s an asset that few of the discount tackle shops will ever have and he represents the East Coast Sports staff.
From ice house to fishing pier to the current East Coast Sports fishing village, the Medlin family have shown remarkable success. They have braved hurricanes that destroyed their pier and hurricanes that leveled their community and left 2 feet of water in their store. They have continued to grow while standing the test of time. Now, the 4th generation of Medlins will enter the business with Charlie, the great grandson of the original founder (also named Charlie) in the days to come. East Coast Sports continues to do what they have always done best…..serve their community and the Topsail Island and Surf City Fishing public by being their friend. Never been there? Grab a cold coke and a pack of nabs. Sit out in the hallway at the table and have a conversation with a local fisherman or one of the Medlin family members. Then take a stroll around the store and see the latest and greatest in tackle. Get Frank to tell you what you need and how to use it. Make sure you tell Frank that Captain Tim said hello. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Written By: Captain Tim Wilson, Editor and Chief