Who said you can’t mix business with pleasure? At The Pit in Nags Head you can have your cake and eat it too — literally.
Five years ago Co-owners Steve Pauls and Ben Sproul concocted a most outlandish concept: a bar/restaurant/club/surf shop. “The original concept was coffee, finger foods, and to bring in some acoustic acts — an after-surf hang out and surf shop,” says Pauls. “But it took us about two weeks to discover there’s no money in that, and all the money was in beer. Rock and roll and people pounding beer was the way to go!”
The Pit consists of two separate buildings. Curbside is the original Pit, an old log cabin that serves as the restaurant/bar/club. In the back is the brand new, custom-built surf shop where all the retailing magic goes down.
Getting the 3,200-square-foot restaurant/bar/club half of the Pit up and running was no small feat. The effort included a month-long process of shimming and steel-beam retrofitting that raised the bottom floor to ten feet to give enough head room for a legitimate dance club. A lot of elbow grease was also required to bring the tired cabin up to snuff — and to city ordinance.
As the Beastie Boys say, the inside of the cabin’s “Got more flavor than Fruit Striped Gum.” The staircase handrail is made from a string of old mufflers and tail pipes that were intricately welded together, and on the third floor there are pods of vintage crushed-velvet theater seats for billiards and foosball spectators.
A lot of natural light floods through the oversize windows and skylights, making the 3,000-square-foot surf shop seem cathedral-like. (Of course, when you look down and see the leopard-print carpet you realize you’re not in church.) Sproul and Pauls also spent thousands on custom light fixtures to add to the ambience. The displays are clutter free and generously spaced apart. [IMAGE 3]
Having a club and surf shop makes for a great cross-promotion opportunity. Sproul says they’ll hand out discounts for the surf shop at the restaurant and vice versa. In the summer, The Pit becomes an under-21 nightclub three nights a week, which has been a great way to grow the shop’s customer base.
“The kids will shop here because they came and saw a killer show or they came to dance their butt off and met a cute guy or girl,” says Pauls, who then briefly pauses. “Hopefully they’ll all turn into beer drinkers!”
However its customers spend their money, whether on suds or duds, The Pit will continue to carve out its niche as the only surf shop/nightclub/bar/restaurant in town. Chew on that.
Window Brands: Counter Culture, Rip Curl
Major Display Brand: Quiksilver
Strongest Category: Skate hardgoods
Weakest Category: Boardshorts (especially women’s)
Strongest Brand: Quiksilver
Best Reps: Brad Williams (Rip Curl), Alan Brown (HIC)