September 6-8, 2013
Orange County Convention Center
Board Demo Day: September 5
As some of the youngest surf shop owners in the industry (Matt just turned 30 and Ben is still in his twenties), the San Diego natives fell in love with the small neighborhood full of kids, dogs, great waves, but zero surf shops in the immediate vicinity.
La Jolla, California
By Shelby Stanger
Most people have heard of La Jolla, a town of famous surf breaks like Windan’sea and Black’s Beach. Or they might know of Pacific Beach, a college town in San Diego full of beach cruising boys, bikini-clad girls, and lots of bars.
Smack dab in the middle of these two towns, there on the coast, lies a quaint area less known to the public called Bird Rock, home to the booming Bird Rock Surf Shop, founded by brothers Ben and Matt Murphy in 2007.
Both brothers attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for college. Ben cut his retail chops working at Wavelengths in Morro Bay, while Matt shaped surfboards out of a garage. After both graduating and moving back to San Diego―young, a little crazy and gutsy―they opened Bird Rock Surf shop at the beginning of the recession when most people said they would fail.
“The first six months were just the two of us working all day, everyday without any income,” says Ben. “We had to make a lot of sacrifices and chose to reinvest any and all profits back into the business in order to grow inventory levels.”
It also took them a few moves to get a solid location. They started in a small 800-square-foot boutique, then moved to a bank where they kept surfboard blanks in the old vault. Just last year, they moved to a 5,500-square-foot corner building with plenty of room for racks of merchandise, a parking lot perfect for skateboarding groms and hosting big barbeques, and a location that gets a lot of lookyloo drive-by traffic.
They even caught the attention of MTV’s popular show The Real World which filmed a few episodes at their shop last summer.
Today the store carries brands like Rusty, Rip Curl, Reef, Hurley, Billabong, Olukai, Toes on the Nose, Honolua, Hippy Tree, and more.They also boast more surfboards per square foot than the average surf shop, and have a large shaping bay where customers can order personal boards, or even take a lesson shaping a surfboard themselves.
“We’re big on customer service,” says Ben. “If anything, we go out of our way to really educate customers about equipment, whether it’s a wetsuit, a new board, or even the right leash or traction pad.”
The shop will also let customers demo from a fleet of boards. There is usually an array to choose: small and asymmetrical―boards Dane Reynolds might ride―to big and everything in between.
While the owners are young, they have a wide array of customers, including many families that come in every day just to see the shop mascot.
Cooper, a seven-year-old golden retriever, stands at the foot of the shop every day, frisbee by his feet. He is perhaps one of the most well-behaved dogs on the planet. “Parents love him,” says Ben. “They can basically leave their kids with Cooper and go shop and not have to worry for a few minutes,” he adds laughing, but serious.
Bird Rock Surf Shop continues to expand and is rearranging sections to hold more merchandise as well as local art and jewelry. The owners are also currently constructing a smoothie shop in a corner of their lot. “We think it’s cool,” shrugs Ben, as a slew of groms follows him around in the shop.
With the go-with-your gut business attitude that has already landed them a nomination as Breakthrough Retailer of the Year by SIMA, we’re pretty sure a lot of others will think it’s cool too.
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