We took a short drive out to Assateague Island National Seashore this week and stepped inside a collection of decade-old shipping containers for our latest interview. Intrigued? Yes, so were we. Housing the soon-to-be-open-for-business Assateague Outfitters, the upcycled building is comprised of three shipping containers and outfitted with re-purposed materials. The building will serve as a hub of operations for Super Fun Eco Tours, but will also be the site for the national park’s latest concession stand, Assateague Outfitters, which will provide camp supplies, food and gear, along with recreation equipment to rent. To top it all off, the view is outstanding, with sweeping views of the bay. Natural beauty meets environmentally friendly entrepreneurship.

SuperFun Eco Tours – a local recreation services business located at the end of Bayside Drive on Assateague Island – recently partnered with Maryland Coastal Bays in the exciting, environmentally conscious venture. The idea was born after the Assateague Park’s Service conducted a survey among park visitors, asking what services they wished to see added to the park. “There was an overwhelming response that people want to be able to buy snacks and gear,” explained Assateague Outfitters (and SuperFun Eco Tours) co-founder Tom Simon. After hearing about the opportunity, Simon and his business partner Neil Nimrichter decided to team up with Maryland Coastal Bays to put in a bid, which included plans for their forward-thinking building.

Simon explained that a major component in the building requirements for the park concession was mobility. The building needed to have the ability to move in case of flooding or a major hurricane. They began brainstorming ideas, eventually deciding to work with Chesapeake Container Systems to purchase and construct a building composed of old shipping containers. According to Simon, shipping containers have a shelf life of roughly ten years before it essentially becomes cheaper for companies to abandon them and purchase new ones. “Financially it gets to a point where it doesn’t make sense to ship them back, so a lot of them are just left sitting around.” Assateague Outfitters and other like-minded individuals can then purchase the retired containers and use them to construct upcycled buildings.

“It was a big part of why the park service chose us,” said Simon, explaining that the building has received high acclaim so far. In fact, the model will be used as an example for other new park concessions across the country. “It’s pretty cool that we have been able to be trailblazers in all this.” In addition to the upcycled containers, the windows and doors have been re-purposed. Simon noted that the windows and doors hail from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. “So even they are being given a second life.” The building is in its final stages of completion, with plans for a soft opening this weekend. Simon explained that they will be selling firewood, ice, camping gear…”all the different things you might need out here.” In addition to camp gear and general concessions, the aim is to provide healthy options as well. Simon noted that they would be carrying Albert’s Organics as well as natural juices. Outside of the building, look for vending machines, including a vending machine for bait!

Assateague Outfitters will operate as a joint partnership between SuperFun Eco Tours and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, with 50 percent of the profits going towards the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, a local non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the bays behind Ocean City and Assateague. SuperFun Eco Tours has always maintained a sincere and dedicated mission in providing fun and educational recreation services that highlight the importance of protecting our bays. “As a business, we have the opportunity to do things that a non-profit can’t,” said Simon, explaining the beneficial partnership. Their business influence will go a long way in raising funding for Maryland Coastal Bays. In return, the non-profit organization will provide manpower and assistance, while helping further their shared push for environmental conservation. “It’s great because we are actually able to make a difference though this partnership,” said Simon. What’s more, as their business evolves into Assateague Outfitters, they will be staffing ten employees in the summer. “Which is also cool because we are creating jobs,” Simon pointed out.

In addition to the concession offerings at Assateague Outfitters, visitors will also have access to kayak, paddleboard, canoe, and bicycle rentals. The new business will also encompass the beloved tour component of SuperFun Eco Tours, including the Wildlife Discovery Tour and the Sustainable Shellfishing Tour. We already have plans to return for a tour this summer so stay tuned! In the meantime, stop by Assateague Outfitters to check out the upcycled building, follow them on Facebook, or visit their website at www.assateagueoutfitters.com.