By TIM KELLY
Anyone who knows sisters Candice Kolins of Ocean City and Kristen Vogelbacher of Somers Point isn’t surprised by their success.
The entrepreneurial tennis stars, who played for Villanova and Princeton universities, respectively, grew their Cruise Control Gear franchise from a fledgling producer of tennis and active wear into a business player on the international stage.
Candice and Kristen’s products have been spotted at some of the top tennis tournaments in the world in recent years, just a short time after being found only online and at local outlets.
Again, not surprising.
This year, they took the company beyond dollars and cents to a higher level. They are partnering with the United States Tennis Association’s Middle States region’s Unstoppable Women in Tennis series to spotlight the strong women who are forces on and off the court.
While vocal if asked, the sisters are certainly leading by example.
“My dad works for himself, and that appealed to me,” said Candice, the founder of Cruise Control Gear. “We liked the idea of being our own bosses and working with the sport and people we love.”
It has worked out well. Candice is the main designer, and Kristen, who came on board as co-owner, joined the firm to head up marketing.
Separate from growing sales, Cruise Control Gear is an industry-wide example of how hard work can pay off.
In recognition of its advancement of the sport, the U.S. Tennis Association bestowed its Tennis Industry Initiative award to Cruise Control Gear.
“We are grateful and humbled for our business, but now our role has gone beyond being a clothing retailer,” Candice said. “Now we’re addressing larger issues such as empowerment and entrepreneurship for working women and working moms.”
Both Candice and Kristen were inducted last month in the New Jersey Tennis Hall of Fame. It is the latest example of the sisters living a kind of parallel tennis life. The former Moorestown High School teammates are separated by two years in age. Kristen is a 2001 Moorestown High grad, while Candice followed two years later.
“We played each other for the number one singles position, her senior year,” Candice said of Kristen in a previously published interview. “She won, but it was a close match. We’ve never played each other in a match since then. It could get too nasty.”
The mood will be anything but nasty next month when the sisters will be inducted into the New Jersey Tennis Hall of Fame.
“We’re humbled to be inducted together,” Kristen said. “We grew up loving tennis because of our parents, (Ocean City residents) Adele and Dan Carlin. Our dad is our first tennis coach and we still play with mom, who is always positive and fun. We hope to share the same love with our children and the community.”
Ask the sisters for their inspiration in the game and they will mention Mike Sell, a member of the Moorestown boys tennis team when they were in high school together.
Sell went on to an All-America college career at the University of Georgia and is currently co-head coach of the women’s team at Louisiana State University with his wife, Julia. Sell was also a touring pro for a time.
Candice said one of her biggest thrills in the game was watching Sell play in the U.S. Open when she was still in high school.
Continuing the parallel life theme, the sisters became mothers within weeks of each other. Candice (husband Sean) gave birth to daughter Siena on October 6, 2016. Kristen (husband Bob) brought son Bobby into the world a little over three months later on January 10.
The kids and many other local residents will be on hand when Cruise Control is a lead participant in the Ocean City Health and Fitness Expo. It takes place Saturday June 18 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ocean City Music Pier.
In addition to a fashion show, there will be appearances by local body builder and fitness model Kelly Adams, Miss Ocean City and the other town “princesses,” the Junior Miss Ocean City and Little Miss Ocean City.
The event includes health food displays, fitness classes, speakers and more.
Cruise Control Gear’s Ocean City hometown and local roots have only deepened as it has grown. Different segments of the line are available locally:
- Pappagallo’s, 744 Asbury Ave., Ocean City, carries most of Cruise Control Gear’s women’s line, including tops, tees, skorts and more. There is also a sampling of men’s wear and clothes for the kids.
- Bowfish Kids, 956 Asbury Ave., Ocean City, boys and girls active wear.
- Landing Creek Pickleball, 801 Third Street, Ocean City. Landing Creek is a “store within a store” at Pessano’s Variety, offering a full line of Cruise Control Gear pickleball duds. Pessano’s is seasonal and currently closed, but Landing Creek can be reached for an appointment at its website, lcpickleball.com.
- Bedazzled Boutique, 9309 Ventnor Ave., Margate. A wide selection of Cruise Control Gear for women is in stock.
- Bravo Core Fitness, 8411 Ventnor Ave., Margate. This private, fitness training studio carries men’s and women’s Cruse Control Gear fitness clothing, all customized with the Bravo fitness logo.
- Yes She Can, 50 Tuckahoe Road, Marmora. Women’s selection of Cruise Control apparel is available, including leggings, sports bras and tank tops.
According to April Scannell, Pappagallo’s owner, the store is a “preppy-chic boutique carrying women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, handbags, swimwear, accessories and more. Our unique lines are truly one of a kind.”
Pappagallo’s addition of Cruise Control Gear’s upscale performance wear to its product line certainly fits in with that business model.
The Cruise Control brand may also be found at top retailers and country clubs in Florida and nationwide. The complete Cruise Control Gear line can be found and ordered at its website cruisecontrolgear.com.