Retail Wednesdays: Surfy Surfy

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our Retail Wednesdays series profiles a different specialty retailer each week, in an effort to spotlight success stories and gain insight from shops that are continuing to grow in the face of a challenging economy. This profile is powered by our friends at Building The Revolution.

Surfy Surfy

JP St. Pierre of Surfy Surfy.

Retailer: Surfy Surfy
Location: Leucadia , CA
Years in Business: 7
Interviewee: JP St. Pierre, CEO & Janitor

9'4" Gary Hanel longboard, all shiny for ya! #surfystock #garyhanelsurfboards #surfysurfy

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You opened Surfy Surfy in 2010 with the vision of a classic, old-school style brick and mortar surf shop. Seven years later, and quality surfboards are still your No. 1 focus. What are some of the positives and negatives of keeping your focus on handcrafted surfboards in today’s retail climate?

Honestly, there is no real negative to having a shop stocked with amazing surfboards. It can be challenging to keep the wall rack stocked up with all the models in all the sizes and dims that customers want.

We are actually a pretty small shop, only 1,200 sq ft. Over the past few years, we’ve really loaded people up with surfboards. Your average serious surfer has at least a dozen surfboards in their quiver at this point, so it’s a matter of people refining what they’ve got and what they are riding.

Customs have always been a big part of our business, at one point I felt like I just had too many customs orders going and it was hard to manage. I was overwhelming some of our shapers with orders, so in 2017 we took a breath and scaled back a bit.

The vast majority of our boards are 100% handshapes and I don’t want to blow out our shapers shoulders and elbows just yet.

All of of boards are shaped and glassed in California, we don’t indulge in any of those Monsanto container boards.

I think the surf industry at large would be shocked if they knew how many surfboards our weird little shop in Leucadia has sold in the past 7 years.

The Surfy Surfy blog launched in 2005 receiving worldwide recognition. Your online store is currently sold out of Surfy Surfy Hats and T-shirts. You actually only have 1 sweatshirt available online. How quick does Surfy Surfy product sell out online? Has that recognition helped online sales?

Yeah. Overall, my post Labor Day private label stuff is pretty much sold out. The online store is pretty sad right now. We’ve always had a big presence online with social media, but we are not exactly Amazon.com. It will be restocked soon, but for me, the online store will always stock smaller exclusive limited edition runs of product. My friends think I’m crazy, but that is how I like it.

What led you and the crew to open Coffee Coffee next door?

It was always part of the plan! I wrote my business plan for Surfy Surfy in the 1990’s and Coffee Coffee was in there from day one.

The alliteration thing has been a running inside joke since high school, “Wakey wakey, let’s go Surfy Surfy, but first let’s get a coffee coffee.” I know it’s silly but it’s fun. I liked the idea of getting a cup of coffee before or after a surf and checking out surfboards and meeting your friends. Coffee Coffee opens at 6 a.m. and sells surf wax alongside the donuts.

In the original concept, the coffee presence was smaller but it evolved into a full blown coffee shop in the 11th hour. Our friend Dan, who grew up one street over from me had a roaster and he needed a spot to put it, so we dedicated space to that. As it turns out, people really, really love coffee.

Your father, Peter St. Pierre opened Moonlight Glassing along with Gary Struber, Kenny Mann, and Mark Donellon. How has growing up around Surfer Labor affected your approach to life and retail?

Moonlight Glassing was born out of Sunset Surfboards in Encinitas. The downstairs was this tiny surfboard factory, the upstairs was retail. To me, that’s a real surf shop.

I have strong memories of slipping on wet resin walking under the racks at Sunset when I was a kid. I was 9 years old in 1979 when my dad and his crew moved the factory to a much bigger space. The factory is only 7 miles inland, but it felt so far from the beach! Moonlight merged with Chris Christenson a couple years ago and now the factory is even bigger. It’s a great space. I worked there for a solid 25 years sanding and polishing.

It wasn’t exactly classic retail training, but in my early twenties I worked nights at a small grocery store and developed customer service skills. I had actually never truly worked the sales floor of a retail shop until we opened Surfy Surfy. I did ding repair in the back alley of Sunset when I was a teenager. I would hang around the counter all dusty and grungy talking to girls until I got chased back to the alley where I belonged.

For me, it’s an ethos that surfboards be built by Surfer Labor, meaning that everyone working on your board from start to finish needs to be a surfer themselves. For some industry robber barons reading this, that is a cute antiquated ideal. I don’t care though. It’s important to me, and obviously a lot of customers agree.

What should we look forward to seeing out of Surfy Surfy in the future?

I actually have a new business model that I’m working on that I think is going to blow some minds in the industry, but I’ve already said too much. I’m excited to see if I can pull it off.

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