Industrial Profile 6/1/2004

Specialty Retail Shop Owners - TL & SB

INDUSTRIAL PROFILE

Interview with the Owners of 118 Boardshop

Pick up a Happy Magazine (http://www.happymag.com) to see the Industrial Profile in print.

 

It’s a family affair, it’s a family affair.  Your local shop is a great place.  Where did you pick up the magazine in your hands?  At your local shop, right?  If not, at least once you’ve picked up an issue of Happy Magazine there.  It’s like a home away from home. 

 

You might even have gone so far as to think, “I wish I owned a shop!”  It’s the American dream to be your own boss.  Everyone loves their local shop – the people who own the shop, the shop’s customers, and the companies which sell products in the shop.  That shop is commonly known as a Specialty Retail Store, and is a big part of the nervous system of this industry.

 

118 Boardshop is a perfect example of your local shop.  One of the owners is a guy who used to be a customer and a team rider.  The other owner was also first a customer, then an owner.  Travis Lamb and Stephan Berghoff know what its like.  But with the glory of owning a store, comes the overall fight to keep the shop unique, and exclusive from the main stream world.  Stephan (SB), Travis (TL), and right-hand man Teddy Monney (T$) can give us an idea.

 

What kind of products to you carry at 118?

Skateboards, Snowboards, Surfboards and all the soft gods that go along with it.

 

How did you guys get involved in Retail?

SB: In 2001 I bought the store from my family friends. It seemed like a great opportunity for me to fulfill my dream of owning a Boardshop. I grew up skateboarding and snowboarding and always enjoyed going to my local shop.118 was in the neighborhood I grew up in and I wanted to carry on the tradition of what 118 is all about. (Making fun of reps and their bosses)

 

TL: I was 15 and a friend of mine named Ricky Melnik from Simi Valley introduced me to all the guys at 118.  I started wake boarding for the shop, and started working at 118 in 1996.  I started out working part-time, moved to full-time and managing the shop while attending college.  Just after graduation, the shop went up for sale. I wanted to buy it but couldn’t get all the funds together to make it happen.  But Stephan and I were friends at that time, and when he bought the shop he brought me in as an Owner / Partner.

 

So you guys now own a 7,000 square foot shop in Granada Hills, Ca.  What next?

TL: Time to blow it up like 2 Pac. Well we just wanted to revamp the shop and bring back the original (home-like) feel it had when it first opened. It had kinda lost that old vibe since the Dunlaps weren’t actively involved anymore. There were a lot of internal problems we had to fix. Especially employee theft. Then we remodeled and gave the store a face lift. We built the sickest shoe section of any skate shop in the world. We have over 400 skus. It’s dope!!

 

SB: I grew up in Granada Hills my whole life and was stoked on owning the local shop. Me, my wife Arezou and my son Jonah live in Hollywood. I wanted to create the same local shop vibe in the neighborhood where I am raising my son. So him and his skater friends have a friendly local shop. I want to do my part to make sure skating, snowboarding and surfing don’t get completely swallowed up by mainstream America.  

 

We new that Hollywood was one of the hottest skate spots in the nation and we couldn’t believe there wasn’t a good shop in the local neighborhood.  So we brought 118 to Hollywood Blvd, right up the street from Hollywood High. Our focus has been on the locals and their needs, it’s not just another tourist souvenir shop. You can’t get 10 t-shirts for 2$.

 

What’s it like owning & running two locations?  You know the challenges and what-not.

SB: Oh, stressful day today.  Up at 12pm and done working at 6pm.  No really.  Double the store, double the bills, doubles the employees.  Unfortunately, common sense isn’t so common anymore.

How so?

It’s difficult finding reliable employees.  We decided to open the second shop when the economy was sagging and that brought problems.  Our sales were slipping a little and distribution was widening big time. 

 

TL: Up at noon, roast people on the phone all day, drink till 2am.  No, it’s really stressful, Stephan’s got a forehead wrinkle in between his eyes from stress, and I’ve got a big fat belly. I eat everything in sight when I’m stressed.  

 

T$: You wake up in the morning and none of your employees are on time.  Sometimes it seems like I’m the only one working with common sense on my side.

 

Give us an average “work day” you go through, just the basics you know?

TL: Usually roll in (literally) at about 10:00 am. and the day just seems to disappear. It feels like there isn’t enough time in a day.  Constant chaos. Managing employees, writing orders, dealing with reps, and trying to promote the store and plan events all the time. It’s a lot more work than you see on the outside.  When people stop by it seems like all we do is chill, but we really have too many things to do.  Then when we close at 8:00 we finally get to leave around 9:00. Then it’s off to some sort of promotion for the store. Video premieres, industry parties, or even just promoting at the local bars.  Your entire life just turns into the shop. It’s like the shop owns us.  It’s a great lifestyle when your personal life blends with your work. Sometimes it can be tough because it seem like you can never get away or get a break.

 

Stephen, what’s it like being the shortest owner in the industry?

Well, it helps to have the biggest nose in the industry.  I can smell out all the good deals. 

 

Travis, what’s it like being the fattest laziest owner in the industry?

I’m able to eat up the competition.

 

Enter Teddy.  Teddy, what’s it like being the best Manager / Baker in the industry?

As long as I’m not worried about Travis trying to nibble on me, and Stephen not trying to sniff out my baked goods it’s a pretty good gig.

 

Do you guys ever have a chance to be involved in events, or put on events? 

TL: Yeah we sponsor all sorts of contests, riders, and parties especially in Hollywood.  We’re planning a huge grand opening this summer and a surprise event in the near future so keep your ears open.

SB: It’s almost impossible not to, being on Hollywood blvd. Travis is getting his star on the walk of fame next month for being the nutty professor. Check it out on every news channel.

T$: Yeah.  We put on events all the time.  Because we like partying and people like partying with us.  Its to promote the shop, but it’s a good excuse to party.  In May we put a battle of the bands on Hollywood Blvd at The Knitting Factory.  We had 29 bands come out and a shit load of people, gave a ton of free stuff away, and had an open bar.  Battle of the bands = party.  And we have grand have a Grand Opening for our Hollywood store in the near future.  Its going to be huge.  It’s gonna be the biggest party to hit the Walk of Fame in a while.  A regular Black & Pink tie event.  The Stars will be out.

 

Why do this?  What’s the reward?

SB: There’s nothing like working in this industry.  And that’s why we’re so protective of what we have here.  Because you’re able to work with friends and earn a living while not conforming to society’s norm.  The people that own & run all the companies that we sell have roots to their success and we respect where they came from.  And the parties that the companies throw are unbeatable.

 

The relationships that you build with the reps, the company owners are friendships that go beyond doing business itself.

 

TL: Same thing as what Stephen said.  Everyone’s in the industry because we love the sports.  Lots of good parties, events, contest.  We get to wake up at noon, drink beer at work.  B3 cruise.  One of the most fun parts of the job is buying. Buying is great. You get to see the new products so far in advance, and it’s as if we define what is cool.  It’s challenging to purchase merchandise so far in advance and be sure it’s going to sell. Just because something’s hot now, doesn’t mean it’s going to be hot in six months. It’s kinda like gambling in a way. On some things its just roll the dice and hope it sells, while other things you just know will sell. After doing this for so long it like a sixth sense, it just comes naturally.

 

T$: Free shit, not having a boss that roasts you.  And partying.  A lot of laughter.  I smile every fucking day I go to work, and I make a lot of other people smile too.

 

What makes you wish you worked as a Gardner instead?

SB: These days there are stores that carry a lot of the brands that we do, but no hardgoods.  Our competition used to be each other.  We love the competition of independently owned stores, even competing with one on our street.  Now we’re competing against stores like Nordstrom, Macy’s, Tilly’s (modern day miller’s outpost) etc…

 

You want to be different, you want to be exclusive, and you want to back those sports.  We as a Specialty Retail help to legitimize the brands.  Then corporate America deemed it good enough to sell in the stores and the vendors did not really give us a heads up. But if I owned anyone of those companies I would do the same thing, maybe just had communicated a little more with the specialty shops. It’s an extremely tough call.  

 

TL: My life would be a lot less stressful and a lot less fun.  The distribution thing is making it tougher and tougher.  Just because there are more places that sell the merch, doesn’t mean there are more people wearing the stuff. It just makes our piece of the pie smaller. Not good when you fat and hungry!!! Umm pie!!!!!!

 

T$: I can cut down my own crop.

 

What can your vendors do to help, because you know it’s not going to go back to the way it was?

SB: Creating more custom goods that aren’t available in big box.  Creating limited lines.  Something like what Matix has done with their White label line.

 

TL: There are some companies that take care of us like Matix white label. And other companies are starting to do limited runs for the specialty stores. I think it’s the only way we are going to stay around.  We also try to back the new, smaller brands that haven’t opened distribution yet.

 

So what do you do as the owners?  How do you keep it going when you can’t compete on price?

SB: Have fun.  Create a vibe.  When people come to our store we want them to relate to what we’re all about. There is nothing worse than walking in to your local shop and feeling intimidated. We bank on our customer service and our knowledge of the products.

 

TL: On the Journey’s website Osiris is spelled Oserious.  Do we want that to be what our industry has come to? This represents us and the sports we love.

 

So it’s building loyal customers?

SB: No, it’s more like you want to create a home or place for kids and their parents that really back the sports.  We feel an obligation not to whore out the product, and we don’t just buy something because that’s what hot at the time.

 

Do the goods out weigh the bads?  If you could go back in time would you do it again?

SB: Yeah.

TL: Definitely.  I wouldn’t change it for the world. Maybe get a taller partner. I’m sick of looking down on him. I mean doesn’t everyone want to someone to look up to?

 

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about opening a shop?

SB: Good luck. Try and find a remote piece of land somewhere where there are 10,000,000 homes filled with skaters, snowboarders and surfers. 

 

TL: Don’t do it.  It’s hard.

 

Closing comments?  Words of advice?

Next time you’re out shopping, don’t stumble across your girlfriend Tilly while going Beyond the Beach and burning under the Pac Sun along your Journey’s and your hikes up to Sports Chalet and ultimately please don’t get locked in inside your Foot Locker.  Shop 118.

 

We want to thank all the people that have been down since day one!!!!!! You know who you are!