Retail Wednesday: Killer Dana

Editors Note: As part of our Retail Wednesdays series, each week we’ll profile a different core specialty retailer. Most would agree these guys are the backbone of our industry, and deserve serious credit in evolving to fit the needs of a rapidly changing market.

Killer Dana was founded in 1991 and served as one of Southern California’s favorite surf shops on PCH. It’s no secret, though, that the surf industry has changed quite a bit since the ’90s. Through the ups and downs, Killer Dana has managed to maintain its original name and location, albeit not avoiding some change in ownership along the way.

In 2008, the economy took a toll on brick and mortar retail and Killer Dana was forced to sell. But this year, the iconic retailer has returned to the hands of original owners Chris “Ralphie” Andrews and Steve Dunn.

To celebrate, Killer Dana hosted a grand re-opening party to re-connect with the Dana Point surf community. We checked in with Ralphie at the event, and had him fill us in on the shop’s history and how Killer Dana plans to compete in today’s ever-evolving retail world.

Retailer: Killer Dana
Type of Business: Surf Shop
Location: Dana Point, CA
Opened: 1991
Interviewees: Chris “Ralphie” Andrews
Job Title: Owner

How was the turnout of the party?
The turnout was great. We were hoping to get around 100 people to show up throughout the day and have it wrapped up by 6 p.m. About 400 people showed up and the party went past 7 p.m.

Killer Dana Re-Opening
Calm before the storm in Killer Dana’s parking lot.

What chain of events led you to sell and then reclaim ownership of Killer Dana?
We sold ownership to the La Jolla group in 2008 when the economy went south. They didn’t want to renew the lease this year so myself and 15-year customer, Steve Dunn partnered up to reclaim the business.

What are you doing to evolve with today’s retail market?
The main thing we did to evolve with today’s retail market was making the shop smaller. With a smaller shop, we are able to hit better margins. And in today’s retail world, the aesthetic and consumer experience of your shop can be equally important to the products you sell; which is why we are focussed on selling private-label brands.

Killer Dana Re-Opening
Killer Dana’s softgood shop.

What opportunities do you see with brick and mortar retail? Does Killer Dana have an e-commerce plan?
There is still a lot of people that head into surf shops despite the move towards e-commerce. With that being said, we are currently developing a website, kdsurfshop.com. Our plan is to start small by selling our shop’s best sellers.

What is (in your view) the future of surf shops?
Like I said before, people still head into surf shops, so I don’t think we will ever hit a point where surf shops are completely taken over by e-commerce. I think smaller shops with good product and great customer service will continue to do well. Simply put, if people have a good time in your shop, they will remember you and continue to shop with you.

More from TRANSWORLD BUSINESS:
Retail Wednesday: Vacancy Coffee
Retail Wednesdays: The Neighborhood
Retail Wednesdays: Levitate