In a distinctive twist on the typical convenience store, Fast Break Bait & Tackle houses a fisherman’s paradise, ideally situated in Okeechobee, Fla., on the north end of Lake Okeechobee, which has a vast surface area (730 square miles) and enormous habitat diversity. It is Florida’s largest freshwater lake and the second-largest natural freshwater lake contained entirely within the contiguous 48 states.
Known as the Bass Fishing Capital of the world, the lake draws boaters as well as professional and recreational anglers, and Fast Break reels in the many outdoorsmen with both its convenience items and fishing gear.
“Fast Break is an outdoorsman’s one-stop shop. The concept offers lake-goers and day-to-day customers a convenience that our competitors do not — fuel, groceries, fishing licenses, ice, live bait, tackle and more — all in one location,” said Rebecca Marsocci, vice president of Fast Break.
A Family Legacy
Franklin Daniel Marsocci Sr. was the manager of Okeechobee’s first Winn Dixie store, which opened in 1973. His son, Franklin Daniel Marsocci Jr. (Danny), began working for Winn Dixie at 16 years old and became a troubleshooter by 20, traveling to and revitalizing poor-performing stores around the lake. In 1992, Danny and his wife, Linda Marsocci, purchased their first convenience store, Bill’s Mini Mart.
The following year in 1993, Frank, Danny and Linda purchased a foreclosed property containing a Fast Tracks convenience store and gas station.
The trio changed the store name to Fast Break, a tribute to the original name and the fact that they only had 30 days to correct the problem of the tank registration not having been renewed when they bought the store.
The existing store was established with a 1,200-square-foot layout.
With a prime location next to the lake, the store began to attract fishermen, especially once a few pegs of tackle were added to the store.
“The vision for the store’s future became clear. Grow the tackle offerings and become a one-stop shop,” said Rebecca Marsocci.
After running both stores for 16 years, Danny and Linda let their sons, the current president of Fast Break, Daniel Marsocci (Chase), and Blake Marsocci, buy into the business in 2010. They expanded it to 2,800 square feet.
Lifelong residents of Okeechobee, Chase and his wife, Rebecca Marsocci, became sole owners of Fast Break in 2016. Fast Break grew to boast 6,000 square feet of retail space.
The convenience store is open 16 hours a day, seven days a week to capture customers going to and coming from the lake.
Fast Break has grown as a supporter of Lake Okeechobee’s health and vitality, as well as outdoor recreation and youth in the outdoors.
Local and Welcoming
The Marsoccis’ goal was to create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere that coincides with Okeechobee’s history.
“The 1993 movie, ‘Grumpy Old Men,’ comes to mind. (Characters) John Gustafson and Max Goldman always visited the beloved Chuck’s Bait Shop, where they would purchase their supplies and swap fish stories with the attendant,” said Rebecca Marsocci.
This was the type of inspiration used to help curate the vibe of the store, and locals and visitors both tend to stay and visit for a while.
Fast Break uses natural wood accents and tarnished corrugated metal. It displays taxidermy such as fish, ducks, deer and alligators, as well as images and artifacts relative to Okeechobee and Florida.
Upbeat music is played throughout the site and an HVAC aroma system wafts a light fragrance of citrus and key notes of Florida throughout the space.
“Given that Okeechobee is highly seasonal for tourism, we strive to give our customers an experience that is representative of Okeechobee’s heritage — an experience that is unique, pleasurable and memorable,” said Rebecca Marsocci.
Fast Break’s logo shows the outline of Lake Okeechobee with a Large Mouth Bass jumping from the center, primarily in red, white and blue colors.
“We are proud Americans chasing the American dream, and we wanted to make sure our brand is reflective of that,” Rebecca Marsocci elaborated.
The store’s large hand-built Costa (sunglasses) display tends to stand out to customers. It’s built with four solid wood posts, meant to capture the look of barnwood, which support a pitched rustic metal roof. Two large LED Costa displays are situated underneath the hut. Industrial rods attached to each post display clothing, and the entire setup resembles a small vintage bait shop, reminiscent of one featured on “Grumpy Old Men.”
Additionally, Fast Break has grown its gifts and women’s offerings with Backlash, a branded lifestyle section created by women, for women. A sub-brand of Fast Break, Backlash was designed to be more appealing to the store’s female clientele. Gifts, apparel, bags, hats, jewelry, home goods, etc. can be found in this department.
Fast Break operates six gas pumps and is Marathon branded. It carries Aviation fuel for the air boaters as well as Unleaded, Diesel and Rec 90.
Developing Food & Tech
Fast Break offers a full hot foodservice lineup, which includes pizza, burgers, chicken sandwiches and more.
Additionally, the store has a three-pot pour-over coffee maker. Its Keurig K4000 system, which is a single-serve coffee maker, is great for the late-night coffee drinkers.
In terms of technology, Fast Break runs the Verifone Ruby 2 Commander system with updated touchscreen registers. It has a larger back-office software system with expanded capabilities and the Square POS system, which is an alternative method for accepting payments.
“Since Marathon processes all credit card transactions, they have dollar limits on purchases made at one location. We are a dealer for marine electronics and other high-dollar tackle items that require another credit card processer for those purchases,” explained Rebecca Marsocci.
Skupos is used for grocery and tobacco loyalty discounts, in addition to the in-house loyalty punch card for live minnow purchases. For every 1.5 pounds of minnows, customers get a quarter pound for free.
In addition to standard convenience store items, Fast Break carries full lines of tackle products, both top-shelf and value items. According to Rebecca Marsocci, customers say the store is “like a mini Bass Pro Shop.”
In terms of tackle, visitors can expect to find rods, reels, terminal tackle, lures, soft plastics and more. The store also offers large lines of marine electronics and accessories as well as alligator hunting and frog gigging gear.
Fast Break boasts its large women’s and kid’s selection, localized gifts and souvenirs.
“An important thing to know about our fishing and tackle business is that we are proudly self-made. We have the local, small-business atmosphere, but with the same high-quality merchandise that is commonly thought to only be found in chain retail stores — and at competitive pricing,” said Rebecca Marsocci.
Another reason Fast Break’s fishing business does well is due to Chase’s status as a lifetime fisherman, both competitively and recreationally, and his knowledge of Lake Okeechobee’s unique ecosystem. He stocks gear that’s appropriate for Lake Okeechobee’s shallow water, heavy vegetation and water that is dark in color, such as stouter rods, shallow baits and lures that are darker in color.
Fast Break attracts veteran and competitive anglers, as Lake Okeechobee hosts 500-plus tournaments annually and is a common stop for several national competitive fishing organizations. However, the store also benefits from Florida’s many other tourist attractions and can be found hosting novices, as well.
“The goal is to not only make sales, but to equip our customers with the knowledge and tools to make their fishing experience an exciting one, and one that they must do again,” said Rebecca Marsocci.
Fast Break doesn’t only sell the gear; it gets involved in the sport.
It has a group of USCG-licensed boat captains that take fishing charters and offer four-, six- or eight-hour trips. Customers choose the type of fish they’d like to catch, such as bass fish or pan fish (blue gill, shell cracker or crappie) and their preferred type of bait: artificial or live.
When clients arrive at the store, staff members use the state kiosk to purchase their Florida fishing licenses.
The store has 16-20 individuals on its team, comprised of men and women of all ages with diverse backgrounds, experiences and ethnicities. Customers and team members identify with one another, Rebecca Marsocci said.
Fast Break also offers saltwater fishing charters near Fort Pierce, Fla.; Alligator Hunts; Duck Hunts; and Wild Hog Hunts.
Fast Break is involved with many fishing competitions and hosts a fishing tournament once a year, typically outside of tourism season to drive foot traffic during slower months.
This strategy also serves as a promotional statement for Lake Okeechobee, as it shows fishing is prominent year-round.
Growing the Brand
In the future, Fast Break plans to expand its level of convenience, particularly by incorporating VeriFone-compatible handheld POS systems to allow drive-through or drive-up services.
It hopes to further develop its loyalty programs and increase public recognition through social media and on-premises signage, especially during fishing tournaments.
Fast Break attains new customers and develops loyalty with current customers by understanding its consumers, tailoring its interactions toward them and extending an unmatched level of appreciation for their business.