7th Street Surf Shop Coming Back to Life on the Boardwalk

7th Street Surf Shop Coming Back to Life on the Boardwalk

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Manager Colin Devine unpacks merchandise at 7th Street Surf Shop at 654 Boardwalk.
Manager Colin Devine unpacks merchandise at 7th Street Surf Shop at 654 Boardwalk.

The 7th Street Surf Shop location at 654 Boardwalk will ride again.

After a fire gutted the shop last year, a new, improved version of the longtime Ocean City business is set to reopen Memorial Day weekend. And its rebirth is timely, as this year the location celebrates its 30th anniversary.

“It’s nicer and newer than it was before, if there’s an upside to all this,” said co-owner Becky Friedel, with a laugh.

She wasn’t laughing on the night of May 16, 2015. Around 8 p.m., the lone employee in the shop walked into the back room to find a surfboard on fire. The blaze raced to the front of the store, which had been fully stocked for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the summer season in Ocean City. Friedel was at 7th Street Surf Shop’s Asbury Avenue store when she got the call. She arrived at the Boardwalk in time to see fire trucks, and smoke pouring out of the back of 654 Boardwalk. The employee escaped unharmed, and the fire did not damage any neighboring businesses.

Fire officials later attributed the cause of the blaze to an electrical problem.

After clearing the shop of water- and smoke-damaged inventory, Friedel had hoped to quickly rebuild and salvage at least part of the summer 2015 season. But obtaining various construction permits from the city took longer than expected, which slowed the process.

Ocean City Boardwalk Fire Charred 7th Street Surf Shop Inventory
A pile of charred inventory behind the 7th Street Surf Shop after a devastating fire on May 16, 2015.

Friedel co-owns the surf shop with her husband, Larry. The Friedels rent the space from Raab Family LLC, which owns some of the most valuable properties on the Boardwalk.

Jon Rosenkrantz, a Margate-based engineer who represented Raab Family LLC in the rebuilding project, said the contractor hired to do the work couldn’t obtain the required permits until late summer 2015.

“Since we didn’t have a permit until the beginning of August, there was no need to rush,” he said.

The Raabs’ portion of the rebuilding cost was $254,000, which was covered by insurance, Rosenkrantz said Monday. Friedel estimated 7th Street Surf Shop’s cost at $350,000, for new countertops, fixtures and inventory. A significant portion of that cost was covered by insurance, she said.

On May 16, exactly one year after the fire, the city issued a certificate of occupancy for the store.

In addition to 654 Boardwalk, the Friedels own 7th Street Surf Shop locations at 1118 Boardwalk, 720 Asbury Ave., and an outlet at 654 Asbury Ave.

Losing the location at 654 Boardwalk last year was especially tough, since 7th Street Surf Shop ran its popular surf lessons and camps out of that location. Last summer, the lessons and camps operated out of the nearby 7th Street Beach Arcade, which the Friedels also own.

On a recent, rainy Saturday afternoon, longtime store manager Colin Devine stood in front of racks of  colorful board shorts, supervising last-minute work at 654 Boardwalk. The store now has an airier feel, due in part to the elimination of the back storeroom. And one major addition to the store is an overhead door that will open directly to a counter where customers can register and sign in for surf lessons. Previously, surfers arriving for classes sometimes created a logjam when they crowded around the main entrance, Becky Friedel said.

Devine said that although the last year has been tough, he’s looking forward to a sunny future for the store.

“I’ll finally feel stoked once we get the boards back in here and the lessons start moving,” he said.

A ribbon-cutting for 7th Street Surf Shop’s grand re-opening will be held 1 p.m. Friday, May 27, following the city’s traditional “Unlocking of the Ocean” ceremony.