Spyder Surfboards opens new shop in downtown Manhattan Beach
By Ed Solt
Spyder Surfboards founder Dennis Jarvis is bringing a storefront back to an area influential in the growth of surf culture, downtown Manhattan Beach, which has not had a core surf shop since Ocean Gear closed a decade ago.
In the late 1940s, Dale “The Hawk” Velzy shaped his heavy redwood surfboards underneath the Manhattan Beach Pier. The city complained about the wood shavings blown up and down the beach, forcing him to move. Velzy, who held the first surfboard manufacturing business license, relocated to a former shoe repair store at the foot of the pier (now a parking lot). The tiny building became the world’s first surf shop in 1950.
For the past thirty years, Jarvis has continued the South Bay surfer/shaper/surfshop owner tradition in Hermosa Beach, opening Spyder Surfboards on Pacific Coast Highway in 1983 and Spyder 2 on Pier Plaza in 1997.
“There’s only like ten of us left in the world who shape surfboards and own surf shops,” said Jarvis. “There’s no more guys like me. We don’t just buy surfboards. We build ’em.”
Jarvis takes pride in the fact that Spyder Surfboards remains a family-owned small business. His three shops staff the most surf shop employees in the South Bay. Over the years, many local surfers launched their careers from behind Jarvis’ counters.
“We have a high standard of customer service that’s key to our success,” he said. “Whenever we lose a manager or assistant manager to a bigger company, it’s a badge of honor. Many of the Spyder crew are in the higher echelons of the surf industry.”
Jarvis’ support of the local economy is further supplemented by his support of other South Bay businesses.
“When you purchase from Spyder, the money stays local instead of going to a corporate office in another town,” he said. “My family spends money locally. We eat at local restaurants, my wife goes to local hair salons, I buy my kids toys locally.”
For Jarvis, opening a third surf shop has been twenty years in the making. Throughout the years, he came close to opening shops in Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach.
“I’ve had friends and colleagues clamor me about opening a surf shop in Manhattan Beach,” he said. “I’ve met with the mayor of Manhattan Beach, Wayne Powell. We needed a win-win situation.”
When real estate agent Mike Rosson suggested an ideal surf shop location on Manhattan Avenue, Jarvis camped out at neighboring Manhattan Beach Creamery. He observed the foot traffic up and down Manhattan Avenue and browsed local businesses and restaurants he had patronized with surf industry leaders, many who eventually persuaded Jarvis to open a Manhattan Beach location.
“It’s a big investment; it’s a big gamble. A lost situation could really harm us as a brand,” he said.
Once he made the decision to open shop, Jarvis turned his attention to making an appealing storefront. His goal was to capture the attention of beachgoers who tend to go to two places “like a magnet — the beach and their car.”
“My wife Crystal suggested the beautiful pocket door that makes it easy to see what’s going on in our shop,” he said. “It is very inviting.”
Ed Leasure, former Billabong president of the Americas, gave Jarvis the advice to not replicate his other stores, in effect “cannibalizing” them.
“Each store will have it’s own flavor, it’s own experience,” he said.
The original Spyder Surfboards will continue to be his core flagship, focusing on his surfboard lineup, wetsuits, surf accessories, and apparel. With only a few surfboards in the racks, Spyder 2 is more fashion oriented. Half the shop is a women’s apparel store. The new shop, Spyder 3, is going to carry the “top of the top,” the best of the brands Spyder features, Jarvis said.
“Each store compliments each other. If we don’t have the specific item at one location, it will be at the other,” Jarvis said. “Most of all, all three locations have a great knowledgable staff that perpetuate the Spyder Legacy.”
Spyder Surf Manhattan Beach is located at 1116 Manhattan Ave. For more info check out SpyderSurf.com ER