Sometimes you meet someone who has so much passion and drive, you know they will succeed. That is the case with Rikki and Remy , owners of Sand Surf Co who both have a passion for swimwear, surfing, and community. These two amazing women felt there was a surf community void in Tampa and have filled the gap. We talked with the sisters about their road to Sand Surf Co and opening a 2nd location in December.
BTR: Did the two of you always dream of owning a surf boutique? How did you get your start in Surf and Swim retail?
RR: I don’t think we ever planned to open our own shop but honestly we were and still are so young I don’t think we had a clear vision of our destination at the time. We grew up working in Cinnamon Rainbows in Hampton, New Hampshire. At CR we were loyal and dependable employees who consistently stepped up as leaders alongside the amazing owners & team. Our parents wanted us to go to college and see something outside of the surf shop but when we arrived to study at the University of Tampa we realized that our new community lacked the sense of community that a surf shop brings with it and we also could never find our core surf brands or bikinis anywhere in the city! From there Rikki went on to work with Billabong and another shop that had just began but had no true ties to the industry while Remy went and explored the globe finding inspirations around each corner and visiting local surf towns all around the world. It all fell into place authentically and we decided that it was something we’d love to do, knew how to do and needed to be done to keep surf in the hands of surfers within our city.
BTR: Prior to owning your own store, you helped build another store. The store was sold to corporate suits and they took the “community” out of the shop, with visions of selling majors sportswear brands for high profit. Eventually this led the store to close. You were not a fan of the new owners and quit long before it closed to open Sand Surf Co. Without naming the store or people, what happened and what did you learn?
RR: I (Rikki) had met the owner right as they were opening and said that I had experience and grew up in the industry, he verbalized to me that he was interested in building a business but couldn’t get an email back from any core surf brands as he had not been a part of the surf industry before then. I brought the brands, the community, the marketing and the team building from my experience and built a very successful store within Tampa’s community. Unfortunately a corporate business saw the numbers and location and the owner secretly sold the company, shortly after new leadership arrived & I was told they didn’t plan to keep the store as a surf shop but transition it to a running store. After firing all the local kids who had worked in shop for years or who were in the midst of experiencing their first passion project they advised me that “they had more money than I could ever imagine and no one will ask where I went” and fired me. Thankfully for our amazing industry, majority of brands left with me and cheered me on as I started down the path as a store owner. The biggest lesson I learned was that authenticity shines brightest, they may have had all the money but I had all the passion and experience. Although they made many attempts to hurt our business when we first opened – even turned back into a surf shop with the original name – we stayed focused on our path and trusted our ability to grow a healthy and happy surf shop from the dirt up – whether it was a single step or a crawl forward we show up day in and day out because we love this culture and we want to spread the safety, love & connection that the surf culture brought to our childhood and continues to give us to this day.
BTR: Speaking of community, Sand Surf Co has built a great community around the shop. You have even made a chill zone in the store where people can come relax or work on their laptops with the free wifi you provide. What does community mean to Sand Surf Co?
RR: Community is fucking everything. Growing up in Cinnamon Rainbows we always had a safe space, a place to go on our good days or our bad days and that is what we want to bring to Tampa too. The surf community is a special sort of community because you are all connected through the loving and fierce interactions with the ocean – teaching you to flow with the ebbs and flows and to appreciate every moment. Community to us can be compared to the guiding push you feel as you glide into a wave. Surf Shops aren’t about sales but about connection – a town with a surf shop helps guide a community that is connected to nature, the basics of life and the fulfilling feeling of being fully alive.
BTR: You’re moving to a bigger location in December. Tell us about the new store and what we should expect?
RR: As of right now we will be keeping both locations, one on South Howard & one in the new Marina District. We will be the official surf & swim store of the new Marina District which will bring us back to being directly on the water. This district isn’t just going to be our new forever home but it is going to change the city of Tampa. It will have the first deep water docks of Tampa, Jet Ski & SUP rentals, a sunset culture & residents on site as well as other retailers and restaurants that are all local small business founded in Tampa Bay. Marina Pointe will tie Tampa into an even deeper relationship with the water lifestyle while connecting us with St Petersburg too. Within this location we will welcome our first board room alongside our retail and a vibed out nook for our groms & community to sit back and soak up the good vibes within the shop.
BTR: In a time when most clothing retailers are holding tight your moving to a space 3x bigger than your current location. How has the pandemic been affecting your business?
RR: Sounds crazy doesn’t it? We are just riding the waves of the world right now & staying positive. We had to close for six weeks during the pandemic, during the months we wait all year for, but luckily we had an online site built from the very beginning of our shop opening so we didn’t get delayed by the need to convert online. With the reopening of the city we were able to begin appointment based shopping and contactless pick up through our site. We didn’t know what to expect when we reopened and every week is definitely a different energy and flow, but overall we have been doing well thanks to our amazing community & ability to consistently evolve and adapt.
BTR: Retailers get a lot of interesting characters walking through their doors. What is the funniest or strangest thing that has happened at Sand Surf CO.
RR: Woooo that’s a tough one to pick haha. When we first opened we had a wild man come into shop – he would pause and ask us to look him deep in the eyes because he could see something in us. . . wild and strange but in a good way? He came back every day the next week praising our good vibes and hard work. He’d share songs that he thought could match our good vibes, we even had a little dance sesh and he ended up nearly buying us out of our entire men’s section and after that he disappeared and we’ve never seen him again (he was not from Tampa)!
BTR: Any last advice or comments for the Surf Industry?
RR: Stay sandy, stay salty & stay authentic, we are so grateful for an industry and culture that is deeply connected to the basic beauties of life & we cannot wait to continue to share the beauty of the surf culture with the people of our city and worldwide!