ugg coquette slippers s 7th Street Surf Shop rides wave of change
Friedel grew up in Ocean City, where his father and grandfather ran amusements on the Boardwalk, including Pigadilly Circus, a game that featured piglets trained to slide down a chute to get a treat.
Friedel ran his own arcade, Palladium, through the 1970s. A surfer himself, Friedel decided to open a surf shop on Seventh Street in front of a popular surfing beach in 1986.
Ocean City has had surfing stores since the 1950s, but many were owned by surfers and catered to their friends with an insulated culture that made it intimidating for newcomers, Friedel said.
That was long before surf shops opened in landlocked strip malls.
I thought if I could bring the sport of surfing to a mass market, it would succeed, Friedel said. What if you make the customer feel welcome? Introduce them to the sport and make them feel comfortable?
He decided to offer surfing lessons on the beach in front of his store. It was not long before the classes became hugely popular with tourists who always wanted to surf but never had the opportunity or confidence to try.
Meanwhile, his wife, store co owner Becky Friedel, worked on the fashion side of the business, keeping the shops racks stocked with the latest brands that had become popular with trendsetters.
I like doing the buying, she said. And I like working with customers. Its my favorite part of the business.
The surf culture has always had a broader impact on pop culture. Friedel noted that it was surfers visiting Australia who were the first to introduce their friends to Ugg boots.
Today, 7th Street Surf Shop has two locations downtown and two on the Boardwalk that sell surfboards, skim boards, boogie boards and all manner of beachwear. Improvements in wetsuits have eliminated the need for rash guards, the form fitting shirts favored by surfers. But rash guards remain popular as fashionable outerwear for surfers, she said.
The essence of what we do is still surfing, he said. Its a lifestyle. We try to convey that to our customers.
Lately, his business has evolved yet again to take advantage of New Jerseys fixation with stand up paddleboarding. The store took stock recently of a new shipment of paddleboards that are expected to sell quickly.
Its really blowing up, he said. A lot of days, the sea is calm and the water is clear. Seeing the sea life under your feet is amazing.
Stand up paddleboards accounted for 9 percent of surfboard sales in 2010, according to the Surf Industry Manufacturers Associations biannual survey. Americans bought $14.5 million in paddleboards that year. With an average price of $1,105, paddleboards represent the more expensive end of the market. The surf industry is valued at $6.2 billion.
Surfing with competence can take years of practice, but anyone can paddle a paddleboard, he said.
The learning curve is so amazingly quick, he said. Once we show you how to stand up on a paddleboard, youre off and paddling and having a blast. Its a sport you can stand up and do well the first time you try it.
Paddleboards are starting to occupy more wall space previously occupied by surfboards in the stores.
If youre afraid of change, youre probably not going to last. Your best feedback is your customer. Theyll let you know if its a good idea, he said.