We caught up with Leslie, President/Owner of Aloha Grove, the sweetest surf shop in Long Branch, NJ. They’ve always made a concerted effort to appeal to a wide range of customers, but have everything that hardcore surfers are looking for. That’s the whole point, right? They’ve made it their mantra to make Aloha Grove the place where anyone interested in a surf/skate/beach lifestyle to come in and feel at ease.
Leslie shares: “In the world of “big brick and big click” competition, we understand that we, as independent retailers, have to offer our customers a great experience in our store so that they remember us all year long.”
Aside from awesome insight, another cool thing about Aloha Grove’s story is that it was created by one hardcore surfer and one non-surfer who just loves the beach lifestyle. They appreciate the sand and sun, and are proud to have created an atmosphere that reflects and appeals to us both. Read on!
What pulls you into a store?
The main thing that has been pulling me into stores over the past few years is knowing that I have the chance to support a local business. It is so important to understand that money spent in a local business gets spent many times over directly in my community and 80% of all money that is given to national chains leaves my town, my city, my state immediately. I am really focusing on keeping my money in my local economy.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard at Aloha Grove?
I was helping two young guys earlier this summer during our 10-year anniversary event – one was a fast shopper and picked out what he liked right away. The other was taking more time, trying to match boardshorts to tanks to hats. The one friend was trying to push the other along so they could get to the beach but his efforts were failing. Finally, they were checking out and I remembered we had some hat giveaways from our vendors so I asked if they would like a hat and showed them the selection. Well, this set the whole process back because the giveaway hat had to match exactly what the one guy was buying; he started pulling everything out of the bag and laying it out on the counter, holding the hats up to the outfits! It was hilarious to be with these two very different shoppers – one modeling outfits for me and the other rolling his eyes and checking his watch.
What brands are impressing you or incorporating out of the box designs/promotions that have caught your attention recently?
On the men’s side, the line from Matix has been really well received, and we are loving the new Jetty L/S wovens with the Sherpa lining inside. We also have to give a shout out to L*Space. They not only have the hottest swimwear on the market but they came through with a great ‘gift with purchase’ promotion for us during the month of June.
How do you reward your customers?
Free high fives with each purchase? Yes! We understand our customers want to shop, yes, but they also don’t want to lose precious beach time. We always strive to help customers find things, answer questions and give information efficiently and effectively. As a matter of fact, we actually enrolled our staff in a training course that will help us enhance our customer service.
This past spring we completely re-did our website and added an online store so that customers who love us but are not around the rest of the year can get items from us. This year, we are super excited about the earlier spring 2015 shipments we have coming in. At first, we were reluctant to get spring goods so early (spring stuff in November? Those California-based brands don’t understand the plight of the northeast surf shops!) but we are embracing the early spring deliveries this year.
What’s your most memorable or proudest moment?
We had our 10-Year Anniversary Party this past June and it was a huge success. Nearly every single one of our vendors came through with big support for it, which meant a lot to us. We had live music, palm readings… it had a really fun, all-day festival feel.
If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Our customer! Just to get to enjoy the Aloha Grove experience through their eyes for a day would be magical. Absolutely magical. Haha. Seriously, we would not want to trade with anyone. We are blessed to be in the surf industry and have our work revolves around our passions.
What are you most looking forward to this summer?
At Aloha Grove, we love summer. As always, we are looking forward to tropical swells with no landfall, lots of happy customers and long days with warm temps.