By Stephanie Manley
SEA BRIGHT – Jake O’Donnell – at just 21 years old – has taken a leap of faith in more ways than one by opening a new surf store called Jake’s Surf Shop.
With the help of his girlfriend, Abigail Eastwood, O’Donnell opened the 1096 Ocean Ave. shop on July 13 and business already has exceeded expectations.
The idea for opening a surf store was sparked by the destruction caused by Super Storm Sandy. “Abby and I were driving around Sea Bright over winter break and there were a bunch of storefronts available to rent and we thought we could open up a store in one of (them) because they were probably cheaper than they typically would be,” O’Donnell says.
Both Eastwood and O’Donnell were students at the time, attending the University of California San Diego. O’Donnell graduated in June, one year early, as a communications major and a member of the University’s Surf Team.
“We kept the idea in the back of our heads,” he says and they went ahead and took the necessary first steps.
They looked at some real estate and contacted the owner of Island Style, a surf store that existed pre-Sandy, to see if he would be reopening. Eastwood and O’Donnell knew that if Island Style were to come back, a new surf store could not compete.
After a meeting with the Island Style owner, O’Donnell got the OK to open his shop. “That was the best thing ever when I got the go-ahead,” O’Donnell says.
Business has been good so far, according to both Eastwood and O’Donnell. “A lot of local people” come in and “a lot of people come in off the beach,” Eastwood says.
That doesn’t mean it has been an easy process. Eastwood and O’Donnell have experienced some challenges. “Neither of us has ever worked in retail before,” Eastwood says, which undoubtedly lead to unexpected obstacles. Keeping enough inventory on hand and deciding on which products customers want has been the biggest struggles, says the owner.
“The worst is when people come in and want something we don’t have,” Eastwood adds.
Other concerns include worries about another storm but O’Donnell is thankful that his store is elevated. “Unless there is another Sandy, I’m not too worried about (flooding),” he says.
Though he has competition from such stores as Billabong and Brave New World, O’Donnell feels he is definitely competing. “People associate beach with surf shop so we have an advantage being closer to the beach,” he says.
O’Donnell is extremely optimistic about the future of his shop and is grateful to have Eastwood helping him. “We couldn’t have done this unless we did it together,” he says.
Eastwood was essential in performing many of the tasks needed to establish the business and now assists customers and helps place orders.
Jake’s Surf Shop carries surf needs such as surfboards, fins and boogie boards in addition to women’s and men’s clothing and accessories. For the fall, the store will add Patagonia, Quicksilver and Roxy brand lines and O’Donnell is hoping to add Ugg products. The addition of the brands will “be a good way to keep people coming in during the winter,” Eastwood says.
The couple works hard with the store being open seven days a week. In the future, O’Donnell hopes to hire some employees and add even more inventory. But for now, he loves what he’s doing. “I hope this is something I could do for the rest of my life.”