As nightfall approaches, B.J. Gedney lights candles and lanterns along the terrace wall of her Shippan Point, Connecticut, home. Glancing up, she takes in the activity across Long Island Sound. Vessels began mooring in Westcott Cove earlier in the day, and now their lights dance on the glassy water. The boaters, as well as groups gathered on nearby beaches and at neighboring homes, unite in heady anticipation of the fireworks display.
"When we moved here five years ago, it seemed natural to have a party and watch the fireworks with our friends and family," B.J. says as guests arrive for the Gedneys' annual Independence Day barbecue. Her husband, Bill, adds, "We found our place in the sun, so we try to share it with others as often as we can." Their daughters-Cooper, Hayley, and Eli-join the festivities after spending the afternoon boating with friends.
The Gedneys' love of the coast is as palpable as the salty air blanketing tonight's party. Bill, who grew up not far from Rye Beach on Long Island Sound, met B.J. in 1980 while vacationing at Westhampton Beach. Both had majored in business and were working for large companies, but their jobs didn't satisfy their career expectations. As their romance blossomed, B.J. and Bill felt a growing desire to start a business.
Their professional paths took a turn by way of a gift in 1981. "A friend gave me a cotton baseball cap he brought back from the Cayman Islands," Bill says. "We liked it so much that B.J. had the idea to market similar hats to New York City restaurants. We were sewing logos on caps out of our Manhattan apartment when the orders started coming in. We had to enlist outside labor to keep up with demand."
Next, B.J. embroidered a polo player on a cap and approached Ralph Lauren. They passed on the caps, but showed interest in her straw beach hats. Now, 27 years later, shops across the globe carry her extensive accessories collection, manufactured by Hat Attack. B.J. finds inspiration for her products during travels to Key West, the Caribbean, and Italy. "We're never far from the shore," she says.
Suddenly, a brilliant light bursts above the water, illuminating the sky and slowly drifting downward. Guests edge closer to watch, their chorus of oohs and aahs answering each display. For the Gedneys, this party celebrates more than the Fourth of July. "Realizing the goal to live on the water is a dream come true," B.J. says.
"The coast has been a constant for me," she adds. "Living here is coming full circle."
Hat Attack; 800/982-1569 or hatattack.com