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A Very Good Reason, to Stay Here All Season

An enterprising Cape Codder returns to take a seat at the top of the beach chair business world.

backpack folded

Courtesy of Cape Cod Beach Chair Company

Shorts and flips flops aren’t the usual attire of the president of a company, but that’s what Justin Labdon, president of Cape Cod Beach Chair Company, has chosen over the suit and tie wardrobe of the workaday world. Labdon left the high-tech world over a decade ago to return to the Cape and establish himself as a businessman that you could only find in a coastal community. Now, when he isn’t building beach chairs, he’s kicking back, fully reclined, on any of the Cape’s beaches in the comfortable, low-slung models reflective of his professionally casual lifestyle.

And Labdon’s day-at-the-beach attitude has caught on, demonstrated by the Cape Cod Beach Chair Company’s wide-ranging clientele. Boston Beer Company requested 2,400 custom Sam Adams chairs in their signature Boston Lager blue.  Stars like singer and actor Harry Connick, Jr. and Van Halen front man Sammy Hagar have picked up a few chairs of their own. International visitors from as far away as Japan and Australia have made their way down from the nearby Chatham Bars Inn to his Harwich headquarters to purchase chairs. And nearly all of CCBCC’s operations are still conducted in the same special region that inspired its owner.

When Labdon found himself in a tight spot after losing his job in the wake of September 11th and the burst of the dot-com bubble, he didn’t have to look far to decide his next step. As the economy was sinking he found himself preoccupied with memories of life on the Cape: long days spent on beaches, and rock star summers when vacationing friends from Boston and New York would return for the season. “It was now or never,” recalls Labdon, “or else I’d get sucked into another job I didn’t like, living in some suburb off Route 495 and that would be it.”

After a weekend visit to his parent’s house in Brewster during the spring of 2002, Labdon found inspiration on the roof of his Boston apartment. While looking at his dilapidated aluminum beach chairs, he began thinking how beach chairs could be combined with the “Cape Cod” brand. When he was in the research stage, Labdon discovered that there were a handful of small operations in South Carolina, Florida, and Nantucket providing high-end beach chairs. (Now, all but the Nantucket Beach Chair Company have gone under.) This confirmed his thought that this idea could work. Within a few days he drew up a business plan, and with the support of his then fiancée, the Cape Cod Beach Chair Company was born.

Cape Cod Beach Chair Company

Courtesy of Cape Cod Beach Chair Company

In 2003, Labdon began running his business out of a 600-square-foot, seventh floor walk-up in Boston’s North End, where he made every chair from scratch. Many of these early prototypes were given to Labdon’s groomsmen at his wedding and purchased by supportive friends. It quickly became obvious that the apartment wasn’t going to be able to house the operation for long, so the young couple happily relocated back to Cape Cod.

As a kid growing up in Brewster, Labdon spent a lot of time with his family aboard their 45-foot wooden sailboat Camelot. The family boat required immense upkeep and maintenance, which gave him some experience in woodworking and carpentry. Hours spent sanding and varnishing gave Labdon a great appreciation for the fine quality of the vessel, comprised of cherry, mahogany, and teak. Now, at 40, Labdon puts the great care that went into the upkeep of his family’s treasured boat into the world-class beach chairs he sells today.

With the world’s teak forests almost entirely depleted, Cape Cod Beach Chairs are primarily constructed from the oil-rich and durable yellow balau and lighter and easier-to-transport acacia. The company offers seven different models like the “Oyster Harbor” and “Monomoy Sling” for children and adults made from both types of wood. Sunbrella and Outdura fabrics come in a wide variety of colors, are easy to clean, resistant to fading, and can be embroidered for personalization.

Cape Cod Beach Chair Company

Courtesy of Cape Cod Beach Chair Company

During its early years, the business moved around between Dennis and Sandwich. Both locations had their obstacles: no workspace in Dennis and no retail space in Sandwich. Without retail space a lot of CCBCC’s business was done through wholesaling and Internet sales. Wholesale is now almost entirely limited to other elite destinations including the Hamptons and North Carolina’s Outer Banks, although Internet orders continue to add heavily to the company’s sales.

After a long two-year search, Labdon found the perfect spot, a 5,400-square-foot Cape-style barn on Old Queen Anne Road in Harwich, complete with nautical memorabilia and crushed seashell walkways. The historic barn began as a one-room shack used to make barrels and fishing boxes in the 1880s when the fishing industry still dominated the area. Before it became CCBCC’s headquarters, it was an antique store and had once been used to make wooden furniture.

Today, customers enter the barn to see exposed beams and original woodwork. Rows of beach chairs are spread out among merchandise and beach necessities such as sunglasses, hats, towels, and sun block. The Wailers and Jimmy Cliff can be heard playing over the sounds of embroidery machines and power drills as the chairs are assembled onsite. With Labdon and his crew in casual attire it can be difficult to distinguish who is working and who is headed off for a day at the beach.

In 2010, Labdon launched Adventure Chatham, an outfitter for vacation recreation. With its own designated staff and set-up within the barn, Adventure Chatham provides stand up paddleboard rentals, lessons, and guided excursions. The idea took form after Cape Cod Beach Chair Company donated several chairs to the 2008 Cape Cod Bay Challenge as part of their charity auction. After witnessing the event, Labdon was encouraged to go out and get a board of his own. As the sport was quickly making its way to the East Coast, Labdon, along with a handful of individuals and local surf shops, helped bring the sport to Cape Cod.

For Justin Labdon, running Cape Cod Beach Chair Company is more than a way to make ends meet. As a native Cape Codder and lifelong beachgoer, this lifestyle is part of who he is. “I’m trying to get my life to be like a Jimmy Buffett song,” says Labdon. “Whether I’m successful or not is debatable.”

Cape Cod Beach Chair Company is located at 1150 Old Queen Anne Road in Harwich. For more information, go to www.capecodbeachchair.com.



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