The Must-Visit Shop in the Abacos

Wednesday August 12th, 2015
The Must-Visit Shop in the Abacos

The Must-Visit Shop in the Abacos

MAN-O-WAR CAY — I never met a bag I didn’t like. Beach totes, hobos, box clutches, backpacks … I’ve got somewhere around 40, in leather, fabric, even straw, and in just about every color.

So you’d think I wouldn’t need another. But you’d be wrong.

And now I’ve found a new place to feed my addiction to all things bag-related in the Bahamas, at Albury’s Sail Shop, established three generations ago on Man-O-War Cay in the Abacos by sailmaker Norman Albury.

Norman’s granddaughter Annie, who now runs the shop, tells me that one day, her grandmother, Lois, desperate for something to do, made a small “dilly” bag out of remnants of the sail fabric. It was a hit with visiting sailors so she fashioned a few more. And the rest is history.

Now the sail shop is an essential stop not just for yachties, who stock up on the signature duffels, totes, hats and dopp kits when they’re in port, but also for landlubbing tourists who want to take home what has since become an iconic Abaco souvenir.

All the bags are still made with the heavyweight cotton duck traditionally used to make sails, imported from the U.S. with a factory-applied mildew-proof and water-repellant finish. They’re then lined with 10-ounce cotton canvas for further durability, and each bears the signature patch Lois designed, emblazoned with the name of the store. (Scarlet thread was used until 2014; newer patches feature red-orange stitching.) Albury’s bags are made to withstand a lifetime of adventures, and Annie proudly tells me about the sailor who stopped in the week before to have his much-loved 40-year-old hat re-stitched. (She repaired it but gently suggested that it just might be time to buy a new one.)

While the bestseller is the carry-on ($97), Albury’s also makes sling bags, laptop bags, and iPad and e-reader bags. They’re constantly adding to the inventory and the newest style is the XL boat tote, complete with deep inside pockets. Shoppers can choose from several printed and plain fabrics, and Annie and her team make a collection using canvas batik-printed by the local Androsia Fabric Factory on Andros. The only downside: You have to buy your bag at the shop (or at select Bahamian retailers) because Albury’s doesn’t have an online store.

So which tote got my vote? In the end the pressure of having to rush to get the ferry (I’d come on a quick jaunt from my hotel, Abaco Beach Resort) got the better of me, and I simply couldn’t decide. I saw styles I liked, and colors I liked, but no bag combining both elements.

Annie, however, came to the rescue. She’d gladly customize a piece to my taste and send it on the ferry to Great Abaco, where a kind soul from the resort would arrange to get it to me in Miami. Hooray!

I’m expecting my newest bag to arrive any day now, and I can’t wait to introduce it to the sands of South Beach, where those in the know will appreciate my nod to timeless Bahamian style. Until then, I suppose I’ll just have to make do with one of my current bags.

Good thing I’ve got 39 of them.

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