San Diego Retail Tour: Liquid Foundation

Liquid Foundation
Mission Beach, California

Finding an empty summertime parking spot along Mission Boulevard in Mission Beach is nearly as hard as finding an empty wave at Big Rock. But in that narrow spit of land between Mission Bay and the Pacific is a growing surf shop catering to local surfers. Liquid Foundation was launched ten years ago by Todd Bartlett and has steadily grown ever since.

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Compared to some of the other high-volume competition in the nearby downtown area, Liquid Foundation is a humble shop carrying brands such as SMP, Gouge, Local Motion, and Freshjive. What sets it apart, however, is a team roster that speaks volumes about local support. With surfers such as Dean Randazzo, Eric McHenry, Rio Flores, Roger Jeffery, Chris Drummy, Charlie Rick, C.J. Watkins, and way too many others to mention, Liquid Foundation might have one of the highest good-surfer-to-shop-square-footage ratios in California.

In fact, on the day of our visit, Manager/Partner Dave Woods was across the street from the shop at the local watering hole Guava Beach, hanging banners and getting ready to celebrate the shop’s victory at the Performance Board Center Team Challenge. “For a smaller business, our team definitely gives us a larger appeal,” says Woods, who goes on to say that Liquid Foundation is happy to serve as a local’s shop: “We want to convey that we’re a surf shop and not a store in the mall.” [IMAGE 2]

Indeed, at least half of the shop’s floor space is devoted to surfboards, with BYB being the best-selling brand. “We definitely saw a sales spike with BYB after Sunny Garcia took the title and Sunny Dayz premiered,” says Woods. Other board brands include Local Motion, Proctor, and a half-dozen additional local shapers. Rentals boards, used boards, and even lessons are also important to the shop — as is the shop’s Liquid Foundation line of clothing.

Overall, Woods says business has been super strong — “A ten-plus,” he claims — although he did say that the springtime weather could have cooperated a little more. All in all, Liquid Foundations identified a niche and is taking a go-slow growth strategy. It seems to be working.

Window Brands: SMP
Major Display Brands: SMP, Gouge, Local Motion
Strongest Category: Surfboards, T-Shirts
Weakest Category: Footwear
Hottest Brands: BYB, Liquid Foundation

Shop Location