Corolla Surf Shop

Corolla Surf Shop

Corolla Surf Shop Owner Gary Smith hferas been surfing the Outer Banks since 1968, but it wasn’t until 1996 that he finally settled in Corolla, a sleepy town 30 miles north of Kitty Hawk, and found his own slice of heaven.

Corolla Surf Shop was the area’s first surf shop, and when Smith told friends he was opening a shop in the boonies, they thought he’d lost his marbles. “People thought I was crazy to develop a business in uncharted territory, because back then no one really surfed there,” Smith says. “Now it’s become a surf destination.”


Rather than making a beeline for Hatteras off the causeway, now many visiting surfers head north on Highway 12 to check out the surf in Corolla. And many of them also stop by Smith’s shop.

“Last year was a killer year,” says Smith. “This year matched last year, which were good numbers considering the down economy and lower occupancy rate in Corolla.”

In 1998, Smith opened a second shop in Corolla. That shop is also thriving, and Smith is quick to tip his hat to his dedicated staff for the success of the two stores. Smith lets his managers Jason Mailand, Janette Shacklock, and Craig Purkiss do the buying, because he admits his taste is a little out of touch. “I call it management by consensus,” Smith says. “I don’t know what’s cool, but they do. I think Metamucil and vitamins are cool!”


While Smith lets his employees handle the buying, he still takes the process seriously. Before each show, the entire staff has a powwow to discuss buying strategies. “Forget what brand name you like,” he tells them. “Look at each item and say, ‘Is this something that will sell in the shop?’ Just because it’s got ‘XYZ’ label on it doesn’t mean it will sell. The last thing you want is the very worst of a good line.”
For Smith, one of the most important things surf brands can do is create products that tie back into the hardgoods side of surfing. He also stresses the importance of co-op ads because they funnel customers to the ‘core shops. “Your surf shop has to be able to tell a story and have an identity,” he says. “You’re going to buy a T-shirt from a surf shop because it reminds you of surfing. Our vision is to keep that feeling alive.”

Window Brand: HIC
Major Display Brand: n/a
Strongest Categories: Surfboards, bodyboards, visors, sunglasses
Weakest Category: Girl’s swimwear
Strongest Brand: Rip Curl
Best Rep: Brad Williams (Rip Curl)