Turning out pro surfers “like a revolving door,” Eastern Lines surf shop in Belmar, New Jersey, has been a pillar of the Jersey surfing community since it opened in September of 1981. The 5,000-square-foot shop not only provides its customers with the best boards and apparel the industry has to offer, but Eastern Lines is constantly working to grow the already striving surfing community in the area. The shop is hosting and sponsoring events like the Belmar Pro, offers surfing lessons and providing free weekly clinics for kids yearning to thrash the waves during the summer. The free clinic teaches about 30-40 kids every week.
The surfing community is not the only building Eastern Lines has participated in; They just finished renovating their entire shop. In October, 2012 Eastern Lines was hit by Hurricane Sandy causing massive destruction to the store. Waves carried the Belmar boardwalk through the storefront leaving the first floor completely engulfed in water and sand. But this did not deter store owner Don Tarrant to close up shop for good. Tarrant took eight months of renovations to get the shop back in business in May and it has been smooth sailing since.
We caught up with Tarrant to ask him some questions about the shop and life after Sandy.
Why did you open your own surf shop?
The real reason was to be able to surf whenever I wanted to.
Did you have any prior experience of running a retail shop?
I didn’t have any experience with the business aspect but my family owned a number of coin and stamp stores growing up, so I grew up in the retail world. I also had a lot of help from my dad who showed me how to manage the books and showed me the structure of retail.
When did the online store launch and how are online sales compared to in-store purchasing?
I believe we went online in either 2000 or 2001. Online sales are increasing every year. I think we are doing about 90 percent of sales in-store and the remaining 10 percent online.
What is the break down of sold inventory at Eastern Lines?
I’d say its about 40 percent surf boards, 40 percent clothing and accessories and 20 percent wetsuits.
What has been your best selling brand since you opened in May?
Is the shop working closely with any particular brand?
We work very closely with O’Neill.
What’s your impression of the local market over the past year?
Well we’ve been closed for the past eight months doing renovations due to Hurricane Sandy, but from what I’ve seen the economy is still pretty weak and people are holding back in terms of buying. Things aren’t as bad as last year though.
How bad did Sandy wreck your store?
The boardwalk went straight through the front of the building leaving about six feet of water on the ground. The whole first floor needed to be gutted and renovated.
What does the future look like for Eastern Lines?
Trying to do a little better purchasing as far as closer to season orders. We’ve also gotten into buying standup paddle boards. It’s an untapped market for us and non-surfers are really into it.