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Men’s Wear CEO Summit: Saturdays Surf Carves Stylish Niche

Josh Rosen's SoHo shop taps into an urbanite surf culture.

Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 03/31/2011

Opening a small surf shop on a cobblestoned street in New York’s SoHo neighborhood in the midst of a recession may not sound like the most sure-fire business proposition. But since its debut on Crosby Street in 2009, Saturdays Surf has created a stylish niche for itself in an industry dominated by big players like Quiksilver, Billabong and Volcom.

“It’s a weird thing, I admit it,” said Josh Rosen, who opened the shop with partners Morgan Collett and Colin Tunstall following a stint as a showroom rep for brands like Nudie and J. Lindeberg. “But we thought there was this missing piece of the puzzle in the surf industry. We live and we breathe surfing, spend countless hours going back and forth between the city and the beach, and we didn’t have a surf shop that we could call home. We also didn’t wear surf apparel brands — we identified more with New York brands, with a more modern feel.”

The shop sells surf boards and gear, wet suits from Patagonia and accessories from Dakine, as well as fashion items like Levi’s Vintage Clothing jeans and Gitman shirts. There’s a Saturdays Surf line that started with T-shirts but has expanded to woven shirts, chinos, shorts, sweatshirts, pullovers and outerwear — as well as collaborations with companies like bag maker Porter and grooming brand Baxter of California.

After opening the brick-and-motor shop, Rosen and his partners leveraged the Internet and social media to build the business beyond those four walls. The company operates a blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, videos on YouTube and a just-launched e-commerce site to burnish the brand and grow sales. One video of Collett making his way to Rockaway Beach from the shop, via skateboard and subway, has garnered more than 400,000 views.

“It can be deceiving when you walk into our shop on a rainy Monday morning and there’s nobody in the store,” said Rosen. “It’s what you don’t see, it’s what’s in the back — on the blog and Web site — that’s really allowing us to take this business to the next level.”

The foundation for the business, however, remains the original SoHo store, stressed Rosen. “None of this would have come if it weren’t for the shop. The Web would not be successful without the store. People have to come in and touch and feel. A lot of the original content for the Web comes out of the store,” he explained.

The store has become a hub for surf fans and hipsters in general to congregate and hang out, thanks to a coffee bar and a backyard that are part of the space. “The coffee shop in front is a way to invite people into our world. We have people who come in the middle of the day and we see them until we close,” related Rosen.

Up next for the company is its first shop-in-shop, which will open in two weeks inside the Adam and Rope department store in Tokyo. “Japan makes sense because they love culture and New York,” said Rosen, adding another pop-up shop will likely open on Long Island when the ASP World Tour comes to Long Beach in September.