COVID-19 has made it hard for brick and mortar store owners, which also makes it difficult for reps who make their living off commision. What if you were a rep that also owned a retail store? Florida Rep, Craig Frick also owns the Neighborhood Shop in Ormond Beach, FL with his wife Amanda. We caught up with Craig to see how things have been going and why he pushes forward.
BTR: Give us a brief history of your years working in surf shops and how the lessons you learned on the retail floor helps you as a rep.
CF: I started as a regular college kid at Surf Central in Stuart, FL. That’s where I grew my love of surfing from just the act to learning/loving the insides of the industry. I worked there for 5 years moving my way up from sales guy, to category buyer, finally to manager for the last year. From there I moved to Daytona and worked as the Manager of Maui Nix’s main location. There I learned how big our industry actually is, and realized I could make this industry a career rather than a job. After 2 years with Maui Nix I left the industry to work construction, after 3 months I came back crawling and landed a buyer/manager spot with Ocean Magic in Jupiter. After 1 year there I was offered a sub-rep job for North Florida. That worked out perfect because I was still dating my now wife who I met while working at Maui Nix and needed to find a way to get back to North Florida.
The main lessons I learned on the sales floor at all 3 shops are things I remember and use today as a rep.
- Every single shop is as important as the next. No matter how big or small, make everyone feel as important as I felt when I was at Surf Central. Dimitri Kjos was my ‘God Father’ who instilled this philosophy in me.
- Re-Romance the customer. Our industry is SPECIALTY, even though a very small percentage of the people who walk through the door actually surf, show them how amazing our industry is and why they need to buy SURF brands, not Target.
- Get organized and hit deadlines. It keeps a lot of people off your back!
BTR: How did you get into repping?
CF: I applied for every Rep and sub-rep job that I heard about. I did a ton of interviews, applied for jobs that I would have blown if I got them, and kept trying to make it. Then one day Ryan O’leary who I previously applied with but didn’t get the job called me and asked if I was still interested. The guy he hired over me couldn’t hack it! I credit O’leary for teaching me the ropes and he is definitely a big reason I am where I am today. I went Independent and started my own agency after 2.5 years with Ryan. There have had hard-times and great-times but now I have an amazing team and support system. I hired a personal in-house rep (Hailey Nolin) this year and she has made my life so much easier. My biggest piece of advice is always make sure your bosses spoke very highly of my work ethic.
BTR: Florida beaches are back open and retailers are starting to open their doors to the public. What are your retailers saying about the upcoming months and how is it being a rep right now?
CF: I’m hearing a lot more positivity than I expected. Everyone is stoked to be open again, and glad they can see their loyal customers. I went to Sunrise and other accounts in Jacksonville the first day we were able to visit and it was amazing. I got to see the surf industry families I love, and hearing their customer express their appreciation to the shops was great too. A lot of people seem to be worried about a 2nd shut down, but they are conducting business as normal as possible at this time. Fill-in orders are smaller than typical, but sales are there; I personally think the uncertainly of what our government tells us is the issue.
Everyone seems to be very happy they came out of this still able to open their doors and do what we love. Hard-goods are moving the needle for the most part, and Shop’s Private label product has seen a great increase from what I’m told as well.
Being a rep right now isn’t the easiest, but it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I spent 14 years in the food service industry, did construction, and to this day install windows on yachts/ships. Repping might be difficult right now, but I’ll put up with the struggles to have the ability to surf when there’s surf and not get fired for it. A rep legend (Bob Rohman) told me, ‘don’t worry about your job, shops will always need us.”
You and your wife opened the Neighborhood Shop in Ormond Beach, FL towards the end of 2019. Florida was hit by a major hurricane right before you opened and now Covid-19. If you can make it through this first year, you can make it through anything. What drives you guys to push forward when the world keeps pushing you down?
CF: We definitely have not had the most ideal first few months of being opened, but I think that makes us even more optimistic about the future. My wife (Amanda Frick) and I have 3 kids, I do everything I do for my family. I have a part-time job as well as my rep agency that helps keep the roof over our heads, I don’t say no to opportunity that can make my situation or me better. Also, Amanda is a workhorse. I’m crazy proud of the countless hours and work my wife has put in to make our small shop a destination in our community in such a short period of time. My drive other than my family is pride. I want to be considered one of the best reps/friends in the industry when I finally get to step away and retire. I want to be someone for my kids to look-up to and be proud of what their dad did for them.
BTR: Being a rep and owning a retail store gives you a view of our industry that everyone doesn’t see. What advice would you give to the surf industry to make it better?
CF: Support the little companies that stay loyal to our industry. When I started in this industry Surf Shops were TRUELY specialties. If you needed anything surf, a surf shop was the only place to get it. That has unfortunately been a lost idea for many people. Our shop is very small, and we work hard to carry only specialty core brands. We have unique products that you (hopefully) can’t find at a big box store. There are so many awesome brands out there that offer amazing quality and the people running them don’t need a 7-figure salary. We support the surfer!
Educate your customers/community; make sure they know why you sell superior product for the surf/skate industry and why going to Big Box stores to buy foam surf boards, $50 skateboards, and $20 boardies is NOT the best bang for their buck.
Invest in yourself. If you don’t make yourself or your shop better, no one else is going to step in and do it for you. Take chances, you’ll be afraid of the unknown everyday of your life until you go face to face and deal with it. That’s just good life advice!