K-5 Co-founder Jurgen Schulz On Closing The Chain & 25 Years In Action Sports Retail

K-5’s Encinitas, California location

After more than 25  years in the business, K-5 Boardshop is closing the doors of its Encinitas, Poway, and Oceanside locations. The action sports retailer, headed up by longtime industry vet Jurgen Schulz, was one of the staples in the local Southern California action sports community, hosting events, demos, and giving back to local skaters, surfers, and snowboarders.

This weekend marked the last days the Encinitas flagship store was open for business, and the store was slammed with longtime customers who were sad to see the surf shop of their youth, and even their children’s, close its door, says Schulz. He added that he wished they would have printed T-shirts with the saying “K-5: Where I bought my first board,” since that was the common theme from customers trafficking the shop.

“It’s been crazy, and definitely emotional,” says Schulz. “The follow up question I was asking was where did your kids get their first surfboard? A lot said here. But a lot said Costco. For us, as a neighborhood store, when you came got your first board it allowed us to establish that relationship. Now over time people are getting their first board from places like Costco, and you don’t have the time to establish those relationships. It’s just hard for retail right now especially in our business. That’s the challenge moving forward.”

Schulz said the retail space will be completely vacant by March 1st, and will be working with brands in the meantime to help work out agreements for liquidating remaining product.

We caught up with Schulz Tuesday for a walk down memory lane for the shop owner, lessons learned, and where he sees the future of action sports retail headed.

When did K-5 shut it’s doors?

Our online, Oceanside, and Poway locations closed in January, and the flagship Encinitas store closed this weekend.

What was the main catalyst?

There are so many things that contributed to our particular situation. But I believe over distribution by most of the brands is the main reason.

Do you plan to pursue any other business endeavors besides retail?

After resigning my position as “VP of Extreme Team DBA K-5,” I will take some time off to evaluate my options and heal from some nagging surf injuries.

Wal-Mart greeter comes to mind.

A look back at a shop tour of K-5’s Encinitas location last summer:

What are the main lessons you’ve learned in the process?

Enjoy the ride.

Being a big fish in a small pond is not so bad.

Family is everything.

Where do you think the future of action sports retail is headed?

If the action sports industry continues on the path it’s on, I believe it will be absorbed into the mainstream sports category and just become another department in your local big box sporting goods store.

What opportunities do you think still exist for small business owners?

There are always opportunities out there, but because of online competition, the bar is set very high.

If you don't have a great location, you need to come up with a point of difference. That requires time and money, a luxury most small retailers don't have. Being a small business means your resources are usually limited and the cost of doing business is high. It is all passion, sweat, and tears.

I could feel my fellow retailers’ frustrations and concerns after reading Jay Moore's article on TW Biz’s "Retailer Rant" and the many like-minded responses. It seems some kind of "club" or "buying group" needs to happen in order to help drive the cost of doing business down (can you say insurance?), make "house" brand ideas more affordable, and provide some leverage when dealing with brands.

Unfortunately, getting a group of small independent retailers to agree on anything is like herding cats, it's not going to be easy.

Anything else you’d like to add in closing?

My family and I can only say that it's been a wonderful ride working for K-5. Being a small part of pioneering an industry and making a living at something you love to do is truly special. The business and personal friends made along the way have been priceless and will be missed the most.

The fact that Charlie Anderson was seen on a stand up paddle board, proves that everything changes and nothing is improbable.