By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
You can call him the Jimmy Buffett of Beachwear, or you can call him the Entrepreneur of Escapism. Just don’t call him late for his mojito.
Founder and creative director of Island Company, Spencer Antle recently celebrated the 15th birthday of his upscale resort-apparel/lifestyle brand by diving figuratively into a barrel of rum. Selling out only eight weeks after breaking into the competitive spirits market, Island Company Rum has capitalized on his taste for the spirit of the islands — specifically, the distilled variety — which predates the rum bars he designed into his stores before the cocktail concept was adopted by major retailers.
Recently scoring Caribbean Journal’s Best Gold Rum Award and Double Gold at the Caribbean Rum Awards, the 80-proof libation has become quite the distinctive label — with zero carbs, sugar and gluten — and its success has sparked Antle’s upcoming branded bar launch in the Bahamas’ Harbour Island as well as Island Company Rum Cake.
After studying creative writing at the University of Miami, the Hawaiian-born Antle took off as a screenwriter and award-winning TV commercial director in LA before he started designing and selling bikinis store-to-store out of his car. Fast forward to today: The West Palm Beach-based company is carried by over 300 high-end boutiques and five-star resorts around the world, with eight freestanding locations in Florida (including Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach), the Northeast and the Caribbean. Now Antle directs commercials for his own company.
“I’ve always wanted Island Company to be more focused on giving our customers, or ‘guests’ as we refer to them, an experience in their interactions with us,” says Antle, 47, who lives in West Palm. “They have to walk into our store and be entertained. The products then become an authentic representation of the experience. Much like Disney does. Ours is just more beaches, bars and cocktails!”
Antle recently squeezed out a few moments to take our standard Quote UnQuote interview — not surprisingly, from the back of a single-engine plane halfway between the Bahamas and Palm Beach.
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Aside from the weather, what do you enjoy most about living in South Florida?
Proximity to the islands.
Aside from the weather, what do you dislike most about living in South Florida?
The traffic isn’t getting any better. When I left the University of Miami in the ’90s, there was barely anybody on the highway. Now it feels like LA … which is why I left LA.
Are you a beach person or a pool person?
Both. If you’re a sun-lover like I am, they both have their moments.
When in your life are you or have you been the happiest?
When I was teaching scuba diving in St. John when I was 25. I had no car, no bills, I was barefoot all day, I hitchhiked to work and rum was $2 a bottle. That was pretty damn good!
What do you do when you’re stuck in a traffic jam on I-95?
I try to stay off my phone.
What music are you listening to now?
I just designed a TV station for our new bar in Harbour Island that has the most random music in it, so you’d have to go there to see for yourself. It’s insane.
Are you a fan, and if so, of what?
These days it seems to be rum. But I have to be careful because some days rum doesn’t always seem to be a fan of me.
Do you do social media?
@spencerantle. I’m not sure I would have social media if I didn’t have a branded lifestyle company that requires it. The kids in my office tend to disagree because, they say, I’m on it all day long. Maybe that’s the filmmaker in me.
Who is your real-life hero or heroine?
I’ve still got a thing for [Island Records founder] Chris Blackwell. There aren’t a lot of people who have done this island thing well that I have to look up to.
If you had to choose: Rocky or Raging Bull?
Rocky. Raging Bull is depressing. Plus you’ve got to admire Stallone for writing the first one and managing to pull off starring in it. I really don’t know how he got that to happen.
What car are you driving now?
A supercharged Jeep Wrangler that I designed.
What do you like most about yourself?
Probably my perseverance. Some might call it stubbornness, but I’ve started to realize how difficult things are in the world, and to get all of this done you have to set incredibly high goals for yourself if you’re gonna pull off the cool things.
What places in South Florida do you recommend to guests visiting from out-of-town?
Our stores. I mean come on, they have open rum bars in them where I’ve been giving away cocktails since 2008. Who wouldn’t want to be there?!
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Being more dedicated about getting up and going to the gym — but after long days in an office full of amazing people and lots of rum, 5:30 a.m. is awfully painful.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The perseverance in me would probably tell you that it hasn’t happened yet. At least that’s how us hard-working island idealists get through the day.