East Coast Retailer Ron Jon Surf Shop
Locations: Cocoa Beach, FL; Ship Bottom, NJ; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Orlando, FL; Key West, FL; Ft. Myers, FL; Myrtle Beach, SC; Panama City Beach, FL; Clearwater Beach, FL; Ocean City, MD; Orange Beach, AL
# of storefronts: 12
Ron Jon Surf Shop was founded in 1959 on the New Jersey shore. Young grom Ron DiMenna had just discovered surfing, and was hitting the beach with his homemade fiberglass boards. A business man at heart, DiMenna followed his father’s suggestion on how he could afford purchasing a custom surfboard from California: “Buy three, sell two at a profit, then yours will be free.” His dad was on to something. Not too long thereafter, Ron Jon Surf Shop was born.
The original storefront, opened in Long Beach Island, New Jersey, in 1961. Despite its limited space, DiMenna increased his sales exponentially, eventually supplying former customers with surfboards to open their own surf shops on the East Coast. When he headed to Florida two years later and opened the “one-of-a-kind” Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, he sold even more.
Today, the name Ron Jon has grown into a world-renowned brand of its own. A four-level surf emporium now stands at the original New Jersey location, filled with a massive selection of apparel and boards. In addition to its original shop presence, Ron Jon’s also has several licensing agreements that have opened up doors for them in Orlando, Tampa, and Miami, as well as JFK International airport, Cozumel, Mexico, Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, and Las Vegas, Nevada. The Ron Jon Surf School by Craig Carroll in Cocoa Beach is also an extension of the brand.
We caught up with the crew at Ron Jon’s to hear more details:
How would you describe your shop? What makes it unique? What do you think you’re best known for?
The Ron Jon brand name and our large flagship store in Cocoa Beach, Florida, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
How many employees do you generally have at one time?
Approximately 250. That number increases during the spring/summer seasons.
How do you recruit, train, and retain good employees?
Competitive pay and a strong benefits package
What have been some key milestones in the shop’s history since you opened?
The huge growth of the Cocoa Beach store location in the 1980’s and 1990’s helped developed it into our flagship store. The expansion started in the late 1990’s, and that that has grown the company from 2 store locations to now 12 company owned Ron Jon Surf Shop locations, as well as licensed locations.
Do you have an online storefront (e-commerce)?
Yes, at www.RonJonSurfShop.com
If so, what percentage of your business is online vs. Brick and Mortar?
The majority of our business is through brick and mortar locations.
Do you operate a private label brand? Are your private label sales a significant percentage of your business? If so, what percentage?
Yes, the Ron Jon brand is a major element of our business. The percentage varies by store but is significant at each of them.
With over 50 years in business, we have now seen multiple generations of families visiting our stores. Many started coming to Ron Jon Surf Shop with their family as kids and are now bringing their own children to visit.
Describe your typical customer. If you don’t have a one specific type of customer, please define or break down your customer base.
Our typical customer would be a family that enjoys the beach. With over 50 years in business, we have now seen multiple generations of families visiting our stores. Many started coming to Ron Jon Surf Shop with their family as kids and are now bringing their own children to visit.
How have you altered the way you buy over the past few seasons?
We always try to leave open to buy available to pursue emerging trends.
Are you altering the way you buy for next year?
We continue to analyze previous year and adjust strategies and plans accordingly.
What are your expectations for your business over the next 6-12 months? 1-3 years?
Cautiously optimistic that business will continue to be slightly up.
What’s one key lesson that you’ve learned through running this business?
The importance of great customer service and the quality of the guest experience.
One is your top concern for your business and/or the industry as a whole right now?
Over-distribution of hot trends and/or brands.
What makes you optimistic about your business and/or the industry right now?
Stores located in beach locations that continue to be popular and strongly visited.
What are the standout events that you host or programs that you run for consumers?
Ron Jon Beach ‘N Boards Fest, a 3-day festival during Spring Break in Cocoa Beach featuring surf, skate, beach volleyball and more. Also, the Special Olympics Florida event sponsored by Ron Jon Surf Shop. We have developed one of the only surfing programs in the world for Special Olympics athletes.
Do you expect your business to grow over the next year?
Yes, we are adding a new store location in early 2016. Our 13th store is in planning to be located at the Florida Mall in Orlando, Florida.
Do you sponsor a shop team? Who are some of your standouts?
We currently have 14 sponsored Ron Jon team riders, including Caroline Marks who most recently won the Junior Pro event at the Vans US Open.