A vibrant splash of colour, a touch of green plants, bold graphics and a trendy velvet couch catch the eye when entering the Aceplaymore store that has just opened in Nicosia. The only brand in Cyprus selling and manufacturing beach paddles, the team at Aceplaymore (APM) has upgraded their four-year-old start-up from solely functioning online to a walk-in shop that oozes summer vibes.
A “little slice of islander life, right in the heart of the city”, is how the APM guys describe it. Standing between multicoloured surfboards with beach tunes playing in the background and staring up at the 4-metre-tall wall of beach paddles, I would agree that the store is a taste of summer in the centre of Nicosia.
Founder Stefanos Ierodiakonou greeted me at the door and eagerly began showing me around the shop, telling me about their worldwide delivery service and the outdoor island lifestyle that is a fundamental pillar of their brand.
My eyes drifted around the shop as he spoke: caps, beach towels, t-shirts, tennis ball-shaped coasters; the store is filled with random, pleasant surprises. A mini sombrero hat sits on top of a box of balls, framed signs with quirky quotes and big red phrase on the wall that reads ‘made for screwballs’.
“What are screwballs?” A name they made up to call their friends, clients and their community. Lady Gaga has her ‘monsters’, Aceplaymore has its screwballs.
Stefanos’ tanned skin and flip flops indicate he really is a “beach bum,” although he described the rest of his team as “creative, like-minded weirdos who found each other through a mutual love of all things beach, and an intrinsic hatred of working 9-5 office jobs”.
In love with the islander life and the beach paddle game, they turned a passion into a job, a brand and a lifestyle. “That’s just how we grew up,” they said, “spending long summers on the beach playing beach paddles, are some of our fondest childhood memories. We wanted to bring that into our adult life, to create a community of existing and new players who love the game, and also promote and introduce the beach paddle game on a more global level where it is not as popular.”
This playful beach activity has no net or rules and is probably something most people have tried out once in their life when handed a wooden racket. Or more correctly, a wooden beach paddle, as it is properly referred to.
Dozens of beach paddles sit proudly in the store, each with a different design and colour. Stefanos picked one up and began explaining its three layers. Though the Aceplaymore workspace and warehouse are both in Cyprus, the beach paddles are created by their partner in Athens who specialises in handcrafted paddles. “Unfortunately, even though we wanted to produce everything locally, we found too many limitations, especially for a small start-up, so we had to look out of Cyprus for production partnerships.”
Everything has a touch of Cyprus in it. Even the team’s first workspace was a make-shift office at Stefanos’ beach house. “It meant we could spend long days on the beach testing our products and then head back to the house (which doubled as a warehouse) to discuss ideas, our brand, and the future we imagined for it.” The brand is simply an extension of themselves, an invitation to other beach bums and beach paddle newbies.
“We are beach babies,” the team said, “we live on a beautiful island lapped by turquoise waters, it is our constant inspiration. Our love for island life has really been the thing that has shaped and defined us most as a brand, and probably is a thing that our clients are really drawn to about us because it’s a shared feeling.”
Their love for Cyprus is obvious even from a brief chat or just by looking at the photos that decorate the store from a road-trip around the whole coastline of Cyprus. The opening of the store could have come at the perfect time as we ease out of lockdown.
With summer travel plans up in the air, local tourism is bound to be popular this year as many are likely to stay home for the holidays and with hotels and tourism brands focusing on local travellers.
The community that Aceplaymore is creating not only wants to offer a wide range of paddles that suit a wide range of different players’ needs but also to come together with other adventurous souls to enjoy beach life, sport and nature. As such, their annual beach clean-ups have grown very popular.
“We feel that it’s imperative to protect the (limited and vulnerable) nature that we have on our island, so we began organising yearly beach clean-ups to help tackle the trash that some people feel is acceptable to leave behind on the beach. Our numbers of volunteers have grown, and so has the enthusiasm for the project. We have also recently released Aceplaymore awareness initiative products, full profits of the sales of these items go into funding more clean-ups.”
To the beach paddle and beach tennis fanatics, Aceplaymore is a known brand as they’ve held numerous pop-up events over the years and have been sponsors at others. To the beach paddle shy, they are a pleasant new discovery, found at just the right season when summer’s just beginning and Cypriot beaches are the highlight of it.
The store, near China Spice on Androkleous street, aims to be more just a store. “We wanted to create a space that was a clear extension of our brand, relaxed and comfortable that our friends/clients and the beach paddle community could come to, meet new people and make new friends. The fact that it’s also our store is just a bonus to that,” Stefanos said.
What would he want people to feel when entering the store? “Happy, like it’s their home,” the team replied.
I can’t say it felt like home but its cool, fresh atmosphere, colourful décor and Stefanos’ friendly, laid-back manner definitely brought a sense of being by the sea. All while being in the heart of Nicosia.
Aceplaymorem Androkelous 9 street, Nicosia. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 10.30am -6.30pm. Friday: 10.30am-4pm. Tel: 96-317587. www.aceplaymore.com