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Portfolio: The Boathouse, Orlando, Fla.

Disney Springs debuts a waterfront, maritime-themed retail and restaurant concept, transporting visitors to a luxury 1950s boating experience



When Walt Disney World (Orlando, Fla.) decided to rebrand its shops and restaurants bordering Florida’s Lake Buena Vista waterfront and transform them into what is now known as Disney Springs, the amusement park called upon Schussler Creative Inc. (Golden Valley, Minn.) to spearhead the project.

Dubbed The Boathouse, the concept attracts guests of all ages with its upscale, nautical-themed dining and retail experience. Apart from the dining room, the retail annex entices guests with a classic feel and a range of unique merchandise.

“It’s art deco meets nautical,” says Steve Schussler, ceo, Schussler Creative. Complementing its maritime theme, the retail space’s design enables guests to feel as though they’ve been transported to a luxury 1950s boating experience.

Rich mahogany displays cover the store’s interior walls, and vintage boat motors adorn high and low mounts. Light sparkles off of three crystal chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, illuminating glass cases and stainless steel accessories.

“Disney [requested] upscale, unique and thoroughly researched merchandise,” explains Schussler.

According to Rae Olson, vp of design, Schussler Creative, The Boathouse sources its merchandise from more than 80 different manufacturers and vendors, offering products like high-end jewelry, antique signs, customizable souvenir boat paddles and apparel from signature water sport and leisure brands Tommy Bahama (Seattle) and Lakegirl (Detroit Lakes, Minn.). The classic toy company, Rubba Ducks (Minneapolis), also sources collectible rubber ducks, which are merchandised on shelves to charm guests, both young and old.


The creative process wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. Disney’s approval process requires lengthy quality and safety testing for all of the products it carries. And of the complex’s 22,000 square feet – comprising a store, restaurant and boat ride attraction – only 1000 square feet was available for the retail portion.

“We had to work in a small footprint with many codes to follow,” explains Brittany Johnson, associate, Cuningham Group Architecture Inc. (Minneapolis). “We tried to be creative [by] maximizing how much was going to be on the floor rather than in back rooms.”

Surrounded by the thoughtful retail, shelving and displays, Johnson says, is like being in a museum. Guests can even peek out of store windows to see restored boats perched on the waves, further capturing the authentic maritime feel.


The Boathouse Orlando, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Walt Disney World, Orlando, Fla.

Schussler Creative, Golden Valley, Minn.


Cuningham Group Architecture, Minneapolis

Cubic Visual Systems, Burnsville, Minn.




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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