Retailer Spotlight: ZJ Boarding House

ZJ Boarding House kicked off as a hole-in-the-wall surf shop in 1988 in Santa Monica, California. Since then, it’s been sharing its passion for surfing with the local Ocean Park community and beyond, making it a point to empower staff, customers and the local community. They pride themselves on selling their customers the right products to help them enjoy the lifestyle and culture that we are a part of.

ZJ Boarding House carries all kinds of gear, clothing and accessories from the top brand names in the industry. They’ve got surfboards, SUPs and skateboards lining the walls of the original store—and since they ride their boards everyday, the demands only the best performance from the goods they carry.

We caught up with Mikke Pierson, the Boss-man of ZJ Boarding House, earlier this month to chat about specialty retail, merchandising and how the industry’s evolved since ’88. He’s an awesome dude and has quite the personality. Check it out!

What pulls you into a store? 
Great products and great people.  I’m a lousy shopper, so I need both!

What brands are impressing you or incorporating out of the box designs or promotions that have caught your attention recently? 
Hurley has probably done the best job at helping us sell their products here—the way they merchandise their products and organize their events really gets people’s attention. They’ve done a great job with outreach: they ask our key employees to come to their campus, and it’s overall a very good relationship. Lost Surfboards is also another company that has worked very hard with us to improve sales, including having Matt Biolas come to the shop once in a while to do special events.
How do you reward your customers?
We do quarterly sales and have for years so our regular customers know all about them.  And also recently we started using a rewards program as a way of connecting directly with our key customers, which is super important for us.  Takes a lot of training with the staff, but really works out well.

How do you keep momentum in the off-season? 
We use the off-season to train our staff and even do bonding events, like our annual surf/camping trip and our annual snow trip to Mammoth.  We bring the whole staff in shifts, and it’s always a blast!  We also focus on surf, skate and movie events to keep our customers engaged.  Or even an art showing in the store or a local school fundraiser.

What’s your most memorable or proudest moment in the water/snow?
Todd and I have been blessed to surf and snowboard all over the world over the last couple of decades.  From Tavarua to first descents in British Columbia…so many golden memories.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard in your store? 
SO many of those!  Right now I’d say the “kitty” prank we pulled on Todd many years ago.  We hid a walkie-talkie in a box on the shelf above his desk and I set the volume very low.  Different employees took turn meowing like a kitty in the other walkie-talkie, and Todd could just barely hear it.  As he would be suspicious of me (wonder why?), I was always in the office with him when they did it, and the volume was just right so I couldn’t hear it from even a few feet away.  Well Todd went nuts looking for the source for about three days.  He looked on the roof, he looked through his computer (thinking it was a virus we has somehow put in his computer) and he even started hearing it when we weren’t doing anything.  He got so paranoid and skittish I finally started slowly turning up the volume until he found it.  We laughed so hard about that one!

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Great question, but I love my life so I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

If you could travel anywhere this weekend to (surf, skate, snow, wake, etc.), where would you go and why?
I think a weekend of surfing in the Mentawai’s would really fill my soul.  Then next weekend off to Northern Escape in BC to make some first descents!

Check out what ZJ Boarding House is up to on Facebook and Twitter, and drop them a line!