30/30: Family-Owned Surf Ride Recognized As Hardgoods Retailer Of The Year

Oceanside, California’s Surf Ride boardshop has been in the business of selling board since 1974. Fast forward more than thirty years later, and the shop has not only gained a loyal following in its local Southern California community, but this year the shop was recognized at a national level when it was named TransWorld Business Hardgoods Retailer of the Year in our annual retail and industry awards issue.

Josh Bernard, CEO of Surf Ride in Oceanside, California
Josh Bernard, CEO of Surf Ride in Oceanside, California

With its headquarters along Highway 101, and with a second location just south of there in Solana Beach, Surf Ride is headed up by Josh Bernard, who now serves as CEO after his brother Dustin—now general manager—passed the torch after nearly three years at the helm. Combined, its two shops employ more than 50 staffers  and cover more than 25,000-square-feet of retail space. Surf Ride prides itself on having the best selection of boards and a knowledgeable staff to assist customers with making the best choices, according to Josh Bernards.

“A lot of times customers come in not knowing what they want, or what is even out there,” says Bernard. ” When I have the opportunity to show them all the new technology in a wetsuit for example, then get them all dialed in for just what fits their budget and needs and that customer leaves stoked knowing he didn’t get ripped off and that he got the best that is available from Surf Ride.”

That strategy has been paying off for the retailer over the past few years, as the shop has recently received recognition from the industry for its support over the past three decades, says Bernard: ” We’ve just been doin’ what we’ve been doin’, and it’s working. We are finally able to work with the big brands on a bigger level and make it happen.”

We were able to catch up with Josh Bernard recently to get his reaction to winning this year’s top honors for hardgoods retailer, and find out the philosophy behind the shop’s success.

What's your philosophy on the role of core retailers?
I believe that core retailers are what make the industry go around.  We are the ones that have supported the big brands when they were the little brands and we are the retailers that legitimize brands.  It really sucks from a core retailers point of view when we are loosing out on sales of brands we helped grow and legitimize in the surf industry to stores like Macy’s and other mall retail locations that want a piece of the surf industry.  We are surf, that’s what the Core Retailers are and it’s what we do.  We are all in this because we love surfing, quite frankly retail is downright hard!  Support your local Core Retailer next time you need items other than your wetsuit and surfboard.

What makes your shop different?
I feel like there are a few major things that make our shop different from the others.  First off, we have the most surfboards available than any other surf shop.  Secondly, we have the best hardgoods selection of anyone.  Finally, we’re not afraid to be nice to customers— Kooks or not, everyone deserves to be treated the same.  Oh, and last but not least, we’re not scared to have a clean shop.  By that I mean, we vacuum the carpets every day, we go through more Windex than should be allowed, and on any given day, you will see one of the owners or managers scrapping gum off the parking lot while sweeping it clean.  We’ve been looked at as a big corporate store in the past because we have a clean tight operation, but the truth is, we’re still a small, family business and we just like things done proper!

Surf Ride, Oceanside, California
Surf Ride, Oceanside, California

Why do you think your brands nominated you for this award?
I think that the brands have finally realized that we have put a solid amount of effort into this exact project of being the premier hardgoods retailer, and it finally paid off.

What have been the biggest highlights and lowlights of 2010?
Biggest highlights of 2010 include this— Retail hardgoods of the year from Transworld Business— plus our nomination for women’s retailer of the year, and just having an all around good time at work! Lowlights?  Probably credit hold.

Dustin Bernard, Surf Ride General Manager
Dustin Bernard, Surf Ride General Manager

This year was tough for core retailers. What have been the keys to your success through the recession and what have you done differently than in year's past?
This year has been very tough indeed.  The only thing we’re really doing different is watching our inventory levels a lot more closely and cutting back where needed.  We’re taking it back to the basics this year, and just selling what people want to buy.  I feel like the key to our success throughout the recession is just to focus on the customer, what they want, and give them service that will far exceed their expectations and make them come back for everything else they need in the future.  Lastly, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the bumpy ride through this recession because it may not be a recession at all— it may be our new economy.

What are your predictions for 2011?
I think that 2011 is gonna be epic. We got all this horrible coastal weather out of the way this year, and people are gonna realize that the beach is the least expensive thing you can do and that surfing is awesome.  I also think that SUP’ing is gonna become an Olympic Sport. People will realize that smiling gives you a lot more satisfaction than yelling at someone in the lineup, and wearing a 4/3mm suit in SD will be the cool thing to do!

Anything else you'd like to add?
I would just like to add that this recognition is a huge blessing to our family and the business.  This is something that Dustin set out to do 3 years ago when he took the role of CEO and it is just now coming to fruition.  Now that it’s my turn to give this whole running a business thing a shot I hope that I can be half as successful as my brother was!  One last thing I want to add is from the Bible:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6