Roots Retailing With T.Patterson

The Body Glove Surfbout is in town this week, and Timmy Patterson is buzzing. It’s 10:00 a.m., and he’s opening the doors of his newly expanded and remodeled retail shop, T. Patterson Surfboards, on El Camino Real in San Clemente. He shakes a cloud of foam dust off his shoulders from a board he shaped earlier this morning and bungies one of teamrider Mike Losness’ used 5’11s to the railing outside.

A quick look in the shop window and it’s clear there are more surfboards than anything else inside, and not just the high-performance shortboards that he’s most known for. There are used team boards, longboards, fish, and even a tow-board hanging on the wall.

The retail shop is a stone’s throw from Patterson’s shaping room and glassing factory, and every now and again you get a whiff of catalyzing resin or foam dust. Partly because of all the surfboards, and partly because of the olfactory reminders that boards are being built nearby, the place has a cool, old-school surf-shop vibe, reminiscent of what the early surf shops must have been like. Indeed, even the walls are the same electric blue as shaping rooms.

The energy seems to be contagious, because the second person through the door is eyeing a shiny new T. Patterson squashtail. The customer takes a 6’1 off the rack, checks out the bottom contours and rails, and carries it straight over to the register. Another board sold.

This seems to be a good indication of how the board business is going for Patterson right now—in a word, booming. So it makes sense that he’s devoting at least 60 percent of the floor space to surfboards and aims to have 150 boards on the floor—that is, if they can just keep them in stock.

While Timmy and his wife Vicki have been running a low-key office showroom in this location for the past three years, the idea to double the square footage and turn it into a more high-profile retail space was more common sense than anything else, especially given their growing customer base. “It was so underground, says Vicki, who’s also the store manager. “Regular customers were coming into the factory to get boards, and so having this retail space makes it easier for families to come in and get stuff.

Plus, the growing sales orders means that Patterson simply can’t stop production every time a customer comes to pick up a board, but at the same time he wants to make sure his customers are serviced. “They’re the main people that I want to take care of, he says, “and by having the retail shop open, they get taken care of.

It all sounds great, but why would a busy, successful boardbuilder want to add another thing onto an already overfilled to-do list? After all, retailing isn’t easy and boards are often regarded as a low-margin product. Patterson responds that he’s the perfect person to showcase his product, and it’s hard to argue. “Some of the shops that were carrying our boards didn’t do the greatest job because they’d go to the newest flavor of the month that summer, he says. “So someone like me—who was really going to promote their shop and take care of them—was pretty much left behind. So I’m over it. I’d rather promote surfboards and surfboard building and my own name.

And the shop does a good job promoting the Patterson name. As of now it stocks mostly Patterson’s private label basics—tees, hats, sweatshirts, and windbreakers. But he says all sorts of vendors are interested in rack space.

While more surf shops are stocking fewer surfboards, Patterson is bucking this trend. The draw of his shop is undoubtedly hardgoods, and he likes it that way. “A lot of surf shops have become clothing outlets, he says. “To do this, to really showcase the boards, is really a tough task for us. But we’re doing it, and it needs to be done. And I think people really appreciate that. I love when people walk in and say, ‘Whoa, a surf shop surf shop. It’s not like a mall shop—this is cool.’