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Surfers Supplies: Still Stoked After 54 years

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The Iconic Surfers Supplies Store on Asbury Avenue

The question is posed across the front of a classic Surfers Supplies t-shirt.

“Where were you in ’62?”

Well, John F. Kennedy was in the White House. Astronaut John Glenn was orbiting the earth in the Friendship 7 space capsule. And Wilt Chamberlain was in Hershey Pa., scoring 100 points in an NBA game against the New York Knicks.

And though many if not most of Surfers Supplies’ customers would answer the query “I was still decades away from being born,” Ocean City’s original surf shop was in the exact same place it is today: 3101 Asbury Avenue. The iconic building doesn’t look much different than when the store founder, the late George Gerlach, opened its doors shortly after one of his first rides on a wooden long board that Gerlach built himself.

Surfers Supply is continuing George’s legacy by providing friendly, knowledgeable service from a staff of committed surfers headed by the current co-owners Greg Beck and Andrew Funk. They are surfers who get out in the water every chance they get, and former longtime employees of Gerlach, a member of the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame.

 

“It’s very important to never lose sight of our core values,” said Beck, who has worked in the shop for more than 30 years and co-owned it with Funk for 12 years, “but at the same time we must keep pace with the ever-changing aspects that affect retail.”

That means embracing a wide range of marketing tools from social media to on-line ordering and re-designing the store’s website. The shop also offers high tech services including a 30th St. Beach web cam, online and telephone wave reports and weather forecasting.

Funk is the wave-forecasting expert who provides long term outlooks on the website www.surferssupplies.com and daily reports on the “surf hotline.”

“Andrew knows what those swells out in the ocean mean for our own coastline,” Beck said. “He has the overall knowledge and the ability to say what that means locally.  There are a lot of different services out there that will provide highly technical information, but Andrew knows how to talk to surfers.”

The real secret to Surfers Supplies’ success is its helpful customer service, which helps the store stand out and keeps it relevant in a highly competitive market that includes not only other surf shops, but also big box stores and of course cyber-shopping.

Surfers Supplies enjoys a unique niche catering to all things surfing: all types of boards, long and short, new and used and stand up paddle. They also carry a complete line of clothing, surf fashions, skate supplies and other gear.

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George Gerlach founder of Surfers Supplies

The building itself is a customer draw. Back in the day, Gerlach needed a place with 10-ft. ceilings to accommodate long boards because “that’s all there were back then,” Greg says with a laugh. “The building dates back to 1915, so it already had a lot of character to it when George first opened.” And now those ceilings come into play again as retro boards have increased in popularity. Even the sign above the storefront windows add to the charm: a wooden landmark in its own right, hand-crafted by Gerlach.

Beck said this winter has been a solid one for area surfing beaches and offering a full line of wetsuits and wetsuit accessories is “a priority”. However, he and Funk are “stoked for some new boards and product lines” they will be offering for the spring and summer season.

They also offer surf lessons and surf camps through the Ocean City Surf School. More information is available at www.oceancitynjsurfschool.com or by calling 609-736-0131.

“When people come in our shop it’s a vibe. Again, it all goes back to what George started. “He was a very honest businessman who could make anyone feel comfortable.  It can be intimidating coming into a surf shop as a non-surfer, for example a parent trying to buy something for their kid.  George made surfers and non-surfers alike feel great. He always said that if you take care of the people who come in, the business part (will take care of itself).”

At the corner of 31st and Asbury, it’s been that way since ’62.