How’s this for a niche claim to fame: “We are the longest-existing surf shop in Orange County at the same address,” says The Frog House Owner T.K. Brimer.
Sure, it’s a little bit like calling The Learning Channel’s Trauma: Life in the E.R. the most-watched reality television show based on life in the emergency room (isn’t it the only one?), but in the surf industry — especially in Orange County — The Frog House’s title holds a lot of clout.
After all, The Frog House has been around before there even was a surf industry. It opened in 1962 on the premise that a surf shop was just that: a maker and purveyor of surfboards. Today, while most surf shops focus on moneymaking softgoods, 70 percent of The Frog House’s business is from hardgoods. “There’s no such thing as apparel and soul,” says Brimer.
But Brimer’s not entirely jaded. When he first started working at the shop in 1967, The Frog House was a place where local surfers would come in, hang out, drink beer, and shoot the bull. Today, almost 40 years later, he’s happy to say that not much has changed. “We’re not the best-looking shop,” says Brimer. “Our carpet’s old, we don’t have the newest displays — but that’s not the point.”
For Brimer, who bought the shop in 1978, owning a surf shop is all about having fun. If the surf’s good, he’ll let his employees take off for a session — that is, as long as he’s already had his. The feeling in the shop is more homey than businessy. “It used to be all about the lifestyle and having fun,” he says. “Now a lot of people are just motivated by money.”
Of course, Brimer does realize he’s running a business — and a successful and influential one at that. In many ways, The Frog House is the make-or-break account for many brands. Succeed here, and you’ll likely make it. Flop, and it’s back to the drawing board.
The strongest category at The Frog House is O’Neill wetsuits (“We’re a wetsuit shop,” Brimer says), and the shop is deep in Volcom apparel. Billabong and Hurley goods also do well.
While Brimer likes to revel in the past, he’s not stuck in it. “The industry should not be as it used to be,” he says. “Time marches on. I tell them, ‘You really missed it.’ But it’s still good.”
Window Brands: VolcomMajor Display Brands: O’Neill, VolcomStrongest Category: O’Neill wetsuitsWeakest Category:Wovens, juniors’Strongest Brands: “None, but we’re deep in O’Neill and Volcom.”Best Reps: n/a