Secret Spot Surf Shop
For those unfortunate souls who’ve never been to North Carolina, we’ll put it this way: Secret Spot Surf Shop is the Frog House of the Outer Banks. This grassroots, homegrown shop is dripping with flavor and personality — just like its West Coast counterpart.
At the helm is Owner Steve Hess, who’s been operating Secret Spot in Nags Head since 1982. In his twenty-odd years as a surf-shop owner, Hess has seen a variety of highs and lows in the surf industry, but his mantra’s always stayed constant: “The way we keep it going is our service. That’s everything to us. When a guy comes to us and talks surf, we know what we’re talking about — we can tell him what’s going on. Our R&D is right here at the most consistent spot on the whole East Coast and we do a lot of our testing and developing of boards there.”
The permanent surfing contingent on the Outer Banks is small in numbers but big on commitment, and for many of them Secret Spot is their surf shop — a fact Hess takes a lot of pride in. “A local radio and newspaper voted us as the best surf shop on the Outer Banks, and our ESA team has been number one,” Hess says. The formidable team includes Deannie Fantone, who Hess says is the “best natural surfer to come out of the Outer Banks,” and Leanne Foster, the top female surfer on the island.
Three years ago Secret Spot was half the size it is now. Hess’ mom owned the space next door and used it as a gift shop. Hess was finally able to convince his mom to retire and let him knock down the wall between the two shops. The expansion paid off. “Overall, it’s probably been one of the best summers for us,” Hess says.
However, Hess sees room for improvement in both his shop and from the industry. “The last two years I’ve noticed a lot more companies have really stopped accommodating shops. Customer service is poor; with some of them it’s terrible.
“There are gonna be some companies that will fall to the side,” he continues. “We fully intend on putting money with the people who support us, and the people who don’t will not be getting much from us anymore. And that’s just the way it is. If they support us, we’ll support them.” [IMAGE 3]
Window Brands: Adio, Planet Earth, Rip Curl, Lost, Roxy
Major Display Brands: Lost, Billabong, Planet Earth, Quiksilver, Roxy
Strongest Categories: Women’s clothing, surf accessories
Weakest Category: Woven walkshorts
Strongest Brand: Quiksilver
Best Reps: John “J.T.” Taylor (Rusty), Frank Russell (Lost), Pat Barton (Sanük), Tina Lee (Roxy), Ken Hunt (Oakley), Kevin Upton* (Planet Earth, Adio)
*Kevin works at Secret Spot, so he doesn’t really count.