Liquid Dreams Surf Shop
Owner/Mgr.: Mark Anastas
Number of storefronts: 2
Square footage: Ogunquit 7,000 | York Beach 1,000
Locations: 696 Main Street RT 1, Ogunquit, ME | 171 Long Beach Avenue, York Beach, ME
Opening his first surf shop in 1996, Mark Anastas has been dedicated to the surf industry for as long as he can remember. A sports management major at Springfield College in Massachusetts, Anastas moved to Palm Beach, Florida where he worked at a local surf retailer. While some East Coasters who make the journey south end up staying put for good, Anastas did not fit that mold. Instead, heading back to Southern Maine, the young entrepreneur noticed that the region he loved was seriously lacking a quality surf shop. That’s when Liquid Dreams was born in its first location in Ogunquit.
Eight years later, Anastas opened a second location in the small town of York, and last year, after 16 years in business, the shop owner moved the original location to a much larger, 7,000-square-foot location closer to the beach. Today, Anastas and his wife Rachel, who helps co-run the shop and adjoining restaurant Hooks Chill and Grill, have settled into the new location and are proud to say they are running the largest shop of its kind in New England. We caught up with Anastas to hear more about what’s new at Liquid Dreams, what the recent expansion means for the shop, and his strategy for running a successful surf business in the region’s harsh and often unpredictable climate.
Tour both Liquid Dreams locations, and take a look at what went down during the shop’s surf camps and lessons this past summer:
How would you describe your shop? What makes it unique? What do you think you're best known for?
Now that we have moved into our new location, which is the largest in New England, we have been called the Ron Jon of New England. But I like to think of the shop more as a core shop with the best customer service possible and the best mix of product on the east coast. Also what makes the Ogunquit shop so unique is that there is a bar and grill, Hooks Chill & Grill, attached.
How many employees do you generally have at one time?
Summer – 35, between surf school and both shops
Off Season – Ten in the mix
How do you recruit, train, and retain good employees?
The line-up brah! But most the employees here have been with us since they have been 16. Generally they leave around their mid-twenties, to bigger and better opportunities. It's nice to see the growth of our employees from groms to pros.
What have been some key milestones in the shop's history since you opened?
Opening up the second location in York was definitely a large milestone, but more recently opening the new Ogunquit location in conjunction with a restaurant was quite a large step.
Do you have an online storefront (e-commerce), and if so, what percentage of your business is online vs. Brick and Mortar?
Yes, we do: shop.liquiddreamssurf.com 17.324%. Just kidding, more like 15% and it is still one of those works in progress.
Do you operate a private label brand?
Are your private label sales a significant percentage of your business? If so, what percentage?
Absolutely it is a huge part of our business. People love the name "Liquid Dreams."
Describe your typical customer.
Over the years, the demographic has change from core dudes being the only people rolling through the shop to now, where you can find the most stoked out groms and their grandmothers, to our friends from the north, the French Canadians. It goes back to the cold water core chargers that New England is famous for.
Discuss your current product mix. How is it influenced by your region?
Obviously being in a state where is it freezing 90% of the time, we have a large selection of rubber from your 1mm tops to your 6/5/4's full suits. Every type of boots and glove is a must in this area, so we have all that more than covered. We also carry all the major clothing brands, yet we are always looking for new emerging brands. Also we carry some local brands.
What percentage of your inventory is dedicated to…
Hardgoods – Huge, 33%. I always wanted the stores to be known for having a large selection of surfboards.
Men's Apparel – 25%
Women's/Juniors Apparel – 25%
Footwear – 7%
What brands have you carried the longest?
Quiksilver and Ripcurl
1. Lessons, SUP Tours & Rentals
3. Private Label Program
What has been your best selling brand over the past 6 months?
O’Neill across the board from rubber to men's and women's clothing.
What's your overall impression of the local market over the past year?
Well, there are two different markets; you have the people whom are from here who surf year round. Then you have your vacationers and summer residents. It's quite the interesting mix.
What are some things that brands are doing to help your business?
Clinics, build-outs, and promotional events held at the restaurant.
Are there any brands or programs that really stand out?
I believe that Firewire does a good job. O'Neill and Rip Curl both stand out in the wetsuit and clothing category. Quiksilver and Roxy have been great with in-store support. Most of the brands have stepped up over the year since we have moved to our new location.
What brand(s) has/have stood out as the best overall "partner" since you've been in business.
Quiksilver, O’Neill, Ripcurl
Are there any profound trends that you're noticing right now in your region? Overall?
Summers busy, Winters cold. But that hasn't change in a long time.
What are your expectations for your business over the next 6-12 months? 1-3 years?
Just keep on doing what we do best. Provide the best customer service with the best mix of product around and most importantly keep it fun.
Where are you seeing the best margins?
Private label clothing and fish tacos.
What new brands are gaining traction for you?
Banks and Jetty
Name the top three reps that service your store and what makes them special.
For the most part all the reps have been super supportive but these few are standouts.
-Mark Angulo – Rip Curl, Creatures, Kialoa Paddles (in store … too much)
-Greg Levi – O'Neill, FCS, Surftech (in store once a week)
-Trent – Smith (in store once a week)
-Avert – Electric (in store once a week)
What's one key lesson that you've learned through running this business?
You never know who you're talking to.
What is your top concern for your business and/or the industry as a whole right now?
For our industry to be able to preserve specialty stores like mine so that they stay special.
What makes you optimistic about your business and/or the industry right now?
The business’ continued steady growth.
What are the standout events that you host or programs that you run for consumers?
Paddle to the Point, which is a fund raiser for local charities. Through the summer we do multiple promotional events paired with the store and the restaurant.
Are you currently considering expanding or opening a second location?
I have done all the expanding I can handle for a while, but the gears are always turning.
Last specific moment that really made you love your job?
Yes, LEAVING my job to go surf with my sons.
Do you sponsor a shop team? Who are some of your standouts?