ZJ Boarding House

ZJ Boarding House
Santa Monica

“On September 15 we had our annual sale and we were so nervous,” recalls ZJ Boarding House Coowner Todd Roberts. “We would have been happy if we did half what we did the year before. It ended up being the single biggest day in the history of our store. It was an amazing day.”

That day restored some hope to the staff and owners of ZJ Boarding House, which has been a leading store in the L.A. surf, snowboard, and skate market almost from the year it opened in 1988. But the current economy has hit hard. “During the first few months of the year, we actually felt a little lost,” says Manager Mike Campbell. “There were a lot of dot commers in the area, so when that market crashed it hurt us. We were down all the way until June, and then September 11 happened.”[IMAGE 1]

Campbell says there are a few bright spots within the store, however. “Wetsuits are still a checking, and O’Neill is still on top. Rip Curl is right behind them, and then Body Glove has made a nice resurgence. They have a whole new attitude and a great pro team.”

The shoe market, however, remains challenging. “We have a real problem with shoes,” says Campbell. “We don’t have the room. It’s always been out Achilles heel.

However, Campbell says the store will soon be taking a new approach to the shoe category. “Two years ago we got new a buyer and he’s aware of fashion trends and what’s hip and what’s cool,” says Campbell. “We’ve bought into some different brands because of that. For instance, we’ll bring in adidas for the spring. That blew me away. Puma? adidas? Who ever thought they’d be in surf? But people are hyped that adidas is coming in. Go figure.”
[IMAGE 2]
But being in one of Santa Monica’s most upscale and trendy shopping districts mandates a creative approach. “Our clientele is so different,” says Campbell. “You never know who’s going to come in through the door. Santa Monica’s Main Street has also transformed itself in the last two years. It’s beautiful and there some great stores down here, so we get a lot of walk-though traffic looking for cool attire. The tourist business is also very important because we’re so close to LAX.”[IMAGE 3]

It’s been a tough year at ZJ’s, but Roberts says he’ll stay the course and hopes his surf-apparel vendors remain focused on what the surf industry is all about. “When the surf industry gets nervous, the designers tend to jump on whatever is hot. But the only way surf can reinvent itself and not be derivative of other categories is to go back to more retro styles.”

Window Brands: Rip Curl, Salomon
Major Display Brands: Rusty, Billabong, Volcom, Hurley, Quiksilver, O’Neill, Ezekiel
Strongest Category: Wetsuits
Weakest Category: Shoes
Strongest Brands: Quiksilver, Volcom
Best Reps: Lee Westfall (O’Neill), Chris Schmidtchen (Rip Curl), Darren “Dagwood” Madrigal (Volcom), Brett Coats (Stüssy), Dale Rhodes (Hurley)