Owner: Mitch Abshere
Date Founded: 2009
Number of Storefronts: 1
Location: 1832 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, California
Mitch Abshere is one of the most creative business owners we’ve come across in the surf industry. Not only does he run a successful brand, Captain Fin, but he also manages and owns a retail location, Captain’s Helm, which opened in 2009 and has been steadily growing into its space in downtown Oceanside.
Abshere says that owning his own shop has been a lifelong dream. Born and raised in Southern California, Abshere spent some time living in Los Angeles and at the time noticed some local retail models that captivated his imagination, and left him thinking he could create something similar only geared more toward the surf and youth lifestyle industry.
“I just thought it would be so cool to open up the poor man's Fred Segal,” says Abshere. “So that was my concept with Captain's Helm, I just brought in the stuff that I really liked.We sell used clothes, we have new clothes, records, wetsuits—it's full eclectic kind of stuff in there.”
We caught up with Abshere recently for an update on what’s been moving at the shop, and a taste of the Oceanside retailer’s vibe.
Photos: Allen Malone
Describe your customer demographic:
Our customers are students and young, employed adults ages 16-30, both male and female. We are geared towards those individuals that are living the southern California lifestyle. They are active, love music, follow current fashion but search out vintage and are conscious of the costs of all of it. They are a bit smarter and a bit more particular and always on the look out for something new.
You have a really interesting model that mixes vintage/resale and new product. Tell us how that came to be, how you merchandise that within the store, and what your current product mix looks like?
I really like vintage clothes , have since I was young. I just wanted to create a store where you could come in a and get a little bit of everything. On the newer side of things we carry Brixton, Captain Fin, Dyer Brand, Cycle Zombies, Plate Lunch, Raen and Electric. In vintage we try to have a good mix of T’s, shoes, dresses, skirts and jackets. Our idea of the perfect offering would be a Brixton hat, a new pair of shades from Raen or Electric, a rad vintage tee, broken in Levis (or a cool recycled skirt) and a pair of vintage boots. We also carry hair products, handmade local jewelry and a mix of new and vintage blankets and pillows.
How are online sales compared to brick and mortar? Percent of sales online vs. in-store?
Our brick and mortar is our strong suit as it allows the customer the opportunity to recycle used product as well as shop new merchandise. We are still building our online store —www.captainshelm.com— and hope to see an increase in sales soon.
Most memorable day at the shop?
When someone rode a segway into our store and our store manager rode out doubles with him.
What are your top three most profitable product categories?
Vintage T’s, dresses, and accessories.
The last time you caught a shoplifter…
Every morning when Ted tries to steal new underwear.
What (brand, product, category) is driving the most growth at your shop right now?
Recycled/Vintage Clothing & Shoes , Brixton
What percentage of your inventory is dedicated to the following?
men’s apparel? 30%
junior’s apparel? 50%
Favorite secret surf spot? C’mon you can tell us…
Snaggle tooth rock – right neck to sizzle chest beach, CA.
Most infamous customer?
Favorite local place to eat/grab a beer:
Privateer, hands down the best spot!
Your best day surfing:
Whenever I'm with my family hanging at the beach.
Favorite surf film?
Any Bruce Brown film.