30/30: ZJ Boarding House

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Main store front. Courtesy of ZJ Boarding House

Owner Todd Roberts Shares ZJ’s 25 Year History

Described as a “hole-in-the-wall” surf shop when it was first established in 1988, ZJ Boarding House has grown into a local Santa Monica hot spot dedicated to providing their customers with the best boards, gear, and action sports knowledge on the coast. Started by friends  Todd Roberts and Mikke Pierson, ZJ Boarding House has since expanded to not only surf boards, but skate and snow as well, with Billabong and Hurley retail stores flanking the main ZJBH store.

TransWorld Business spoke with Owner Todd Roberts to get the lowdown about the shop, retail sales from a brick-and-mortar and online perspective, and even his most memorable Indo wipeout.       

Number of locations?         

3 doors side by side run as one store.

Square footage?    

10,000 sq. ft.

How long has your store been around?    

25 years.

Experience before opening your own shop?

Started out as a competitive surfer NSSA in the early 80′s. Then I managed a surf shop for a few years and then became a Sales Rep then opened ZJ with Mikke Pierson in 1988.        

Do you have an online store?        

www.ZJBH.com/skate

If yes, what percentage of your business is online vs. brick and mortar?

99% online.   

What are your top three most profitable product categories?     

ZJ PRivate Label categories.

What has been the single best-selling brand over the past six months?            

Hurley.

Who are the top three reps that service your store and what makes them special?

Nelson Phinpathya-Larry Block, Pat Murphy-Rip Curl, Paul Naret- Lost Surfboards.

What is your overall impression of the local market over the past six months?

Stoked! Business is better for sure but not all the way back. The unemployment locally is still pretty high but the energy is good and people are starting to spend a little more.

What store (or multiple stores) are your closest competition?  

All the vertical stores on the 3rd Street promenade. It’s a half mile from our front door. Quiksilver, Ripcurl, Vans, Sanuk, O’Neill, Pac Sun, Converse, and Tilly’s to name a few.

Overall expectations for your business over the next 6-12 months?     

Very optimistic.

Most memorable wipeout?

G-land, 1995. I paddled out before sun up. It was foggy and very big. I was with 2 other guys, and we paddled out for over 30 minutes duck diving endless exhausting white water. When it was light enough to see I paddled for my first wave of the trip and got evaporated. My short john got torn below my knees. At first I was laughing under water, hogtied by my suit but it wasn’t funny when I surfaced just to get smashed by another set wave. Shaken and humbled I sat at the end of the point for the rest of the session and learned a big lesson before paddling up the point the next morning with new respect for Indo.

Favorite skate/snow/surf film?

Litmus and Glass Love for Surfing, and That’s it That’s All for snow.

Most memorable day at the shop?

The very first day with my buddy Mikke laughing how our brand new drop ceiling tore open and the rain had soaked our new carpet from the over night storm. What a beginning!

Favorite surfer?

All the men and women surfers that have come before us and shown us what a gift this industry is to all of us. Everyday, I count the fact that I don’t wear a tie or hard leather shoes as a blessing.

 ZJ Boarding House
2619 Main St.
Santa Monica, Ca 90405