Heritage Surf & Sport, New Jersey
Editors Note: On the tail end of back-to-school and heading straight into Fall/Holiday, we thought it was a solid time to check in with the backbone of our industry: core specialty retailers. If you haven't already heard, each year we talk to 30 different shops over the course of a month, as a way to gauge the overall health of the marketplace and hear what new initiatives, brands, and products are moving the needle. Stay tuned this September for a complete look at shops across North America. This profile of Heritage Surf & Sport originally appeared in our Summer Issue of TransWorld Business.
IT'S A CLASSIC, FEEL-GOOD TALE OF THE GUY WHO TURNS HIS LOVE OF SURFING INTO AN ICONIC FAMILY BUSINESS THAT SPANS GENERATIONS AND LEAVES A LASTING LEGACY ON THE LOCAL SURF COMMUNITY. Dan Heritage founded what would eventually become Heritage Surf & Sport back in the early '60s when he opened Little Wave Surf Shop in Southern New Jersey. Today, Heritage operates four Garden State storefronts in the towns of Sea Isle City, Margate, and Ocean City. In early 2015, the business was honored with SIMA's Surf Shop Gold Wave award, reserved for iconic specialty surf retailers who have been around for 50 or more consecutive years.
I don't know if people have any idea what kind of juice this little state has in the overall surf industry," says veteran journalist Jon Coen, who lives in New Jersey and has covered the surf industry extensively for publications like The Surfers Journal, ESM, and Men's Journal. "There are a handful of core retailers here that, as far as the brands are concerned, do similar numbers to shops in Southern California.
"I don't know if people have any idea what kind of juice this little state has in the overall surf industry," says veteran journalist Jon Coen, who lives in New Jersey and has covered the surf industry extensively for publications like The Surfers Journal, ESM, and Men's Journal. "There are a handful of core retailers here that, as far as the brands are concerned, do similar numbers to shops in Southern California."
Heritage is clearly one of those retailers on brands' radar. Dan's son Brian Heritage literally grew up in the surf industry, working at the shop with his mother and sister, and learning to shape boards from his Dad. These days, Brian carries on the family tradition, making sure that credibility and leadership remain a priority. "We are cutting edge on all things and pride ourselves on our knowledge and customer service," he says. Catering to a mix of customers that range from the most dedicated year-round core surfer to the most cliché Jersey Shore tourist, Heritage has found a way to strike a successful balance and product mix. "We carry all the majors," he says, "and throw some new, up-and-coming lines in the mix." He credits Rip Curl and Vans with being the best long-term partners. Stance continues to gain traction, while customers have been asking about Rainbow and Toms the most lately.
Realizing the strength of its own brand name on apparel and surfboards since the beginning, Heritage has placed more emphasis on its private label business over the past few seasons, which now accounts for 10-15% of total sales. The most profitable overall product categories have remained the same over the past year (men's swimwear, women's apparel, and footwear) with footwear trending down. Although he shares some common concerns for the industry, like "online companies giving insane discounts," Heritage remains optimistic overall and says he's expecting an upswing in business over the next 6-12 months.
Throughout its history, Heritage has also distinguished itself by placing a lot of importance on hosting events and supporting a strong team. "They are one of two, maybe three shops in New Jersey that has invested actual money into their surf team," says Coen, "You just don't see that on the East Coast —a shop owner writing checks to support multiple shop pros, year after year." The current roster boasts over 30 indigenous surfers, including standouts Zack Humphreys, Andrew Gesler, Jamie Moran, and Ian Bloch. A former pro surfer himself, Brian Heritage has seen his investment pay off through strong influence and connection with the local surf scene, as well as bragging rights that include multiple trips to the finals of Oakley's Surf Shop Challenge. "It's always been a family belief that we are blessed to live the lifestyle we've created, so it only makes sense to pay it forward so that others can experience that feeling," he says. "And we want to give East Coasters and promising New Jersey surfers a shot at making a go at the sport they love."
Heritage Surf & Sport Locations:
9223 Ventnor Ave. Margate, NJ email@example.com
Ocean City (+ Seasonal Location)
Ocean City, NJ
Sea Isle City
3700 Landis Ave. Sea Isle City, NJ firstname.lastname@example.org