Niceville-based military apparel store The Crab Zone has found a unique niche in its market by specializing in the needs of members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal units across all four branches of the military.
NICEVILLE — Mark Fogle was a self-described military brat growing up and didn't really call anywhere home right up until he enlisted in the Air Force following his high school graduation in 1991.
That's when he found a home — and a career — as part of the ultra-tight network of members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal units stretched across all four branches of the military.
And when he retired from the military in 2014, as an officer, he realized that the EOD community wasn't something he wanted to leave behind.
RELATED: ‘I kept trying to push myself’
"Being faced with the idea having to enter the workforce, I'd been kicking around the idea of opening up an EOD paraphernalia store for awhile," Fogle said. "Stuff that had what our guys wanted and good, quality products they deserve without the price-gouging that goes on."
It wasn't in Fogle's nature to just think about something and not act on it, so in January 2015 he opened The Crab Zone with his wife, Angelia, who he met while they were both EOD technicians stationed in San Antonio.
The Crab Zone, named for the EOD badge referred to as "The Crab," sells military apparel with a special focus on the EOD community.
FROM OUR ARCHIVES: ‘I was the one screaming’
The Fogles moved the business from their home to its first brick-and-mortar location in February 2018, at 1603 John Sims Parkway, quickly grew out of that space and opened the doors at its new location at 1009 John Sims Parkway in January.
"We outgrew that first location, pretty much, in about the first six months," Fogle said. "This new location, in Palm Plaza, is going to get better traffic, is better for our customers and just suited our needs much better."
Not surprisingly, there's been more than a few people who have stepped through the door at Fogle's store thinking they were about to enjoy some seafood. They end up with a quick education on EOD units and one of the driving forces for Fogle, The EOD Warrior Foundation, which provides financial assistance to active duty, Reserve and National Guard, retired and Veteran EOD technicians and their families.
RELATED: A local soldier reunites with the puppy he cared for in Syria (2019)
Portions of every sale at The Crab Zone go to The EOD Warrior Foundation.
"In the fall of 2016, we were approached by the EOD Warrior Foundation and asked if we would consider signing a licensing agreement with them and operate their store," Fogle said. "It was a humbling experience to be asked and we gladly took on the role."
There also couldn't be a better location for the store, with the EOD school for all four branches of the military located at Eglin Air Force Base.
FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Two EOD instructors receive Bronze Star Medal (2018)
"Though our main focus is on the EOD community, we'll help anyone we can who walks through the door," Fogle said. "I didn't have any background in running a business or how to make shirts or mugs or anything like that when we started. Anything we do is custom, so we've learned along the way and it's all been self-taught."
The Crab Zone is open on weekdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and is closed on Sundays.