Surf shop celebrates 25 years in business

Bethany Surf Shop made its silver anniversary a few weeks back (Memorial Day weekend), and what more auspicious date to celebrate 25 years than Saturday, June 25th.
Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY: Emmett, Connor, P.J. and Quinn Batley hang out at Bethany Surf Shop, on June 15.Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY:
Emmett, Connor, P.J. and Quinn Batley hang out at Bethany Surf Shop, on June 15.

The event kicks off at 10 a.m., at the warehouse on Town Road, just off Route 26 in Ocean View (just west of the Assawoman Canal bridge, 1.5 miles west of Route 1).

Staff members will converge (the other location’s all the way downtown, Garfield Parkway) at the warehouse to set up the barbeque, live entertainment, product promos, sales and giveaways for the public at large.

Brad Allen, manager at the surf shop downtown, said his band would be performing. Len Janssen, manager on Town Road, said his bud Mike Pinto should be coming down as well, to throw some acoustic action into the mix.

There will be a tent, with promoters from the various surfboard and surf apparel companies manning booths, and the Wave Riding Vehicles (WRV) van is slated to roll up with 20 brand new boards.

Elsewhere around the store, last year’s designs are already marked down, but there will be specials on swimsuits and boardshorts (down to $25), hooded sweatshirts ($20) button-downs ($15) and T-shirts ($9 for industry brands, $5 for shop T’s).

Allen said they’d be handing out a few free T’s, and Janssen expected freebies from visiting industry personnel (from WRV, Quiksilver, Billabong and Volcom, to name a few). “The reps will be doing giveaways, too — especially, for the kids,” he pointed out.

Allen recognized the importance of the new generation as well. He noted his own love for the sport, but also the satisfaction he got from matching up beginners with surfboard that would be right for them.
Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY: Longboards in the warehouse.Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY:
Longboards in the warehouse.

“The sport’s getting to be really popular again, and you get some people coming in — they just want to get on something, anything,” he said. “I know enough about this sport that I can give them some honest advice — we’re geared on functional, not fashionable.”

(And Janssen will be waiting back at the warehouse to repair dinged or damaged boards, in case their new owners run aground or drop them on a jetty.)

Both managers have been with Bethany Surf Shop for about a decade, and Bethany Surf Shop owner Jim McGrath credited diehards like Allen and Janssen, plus Dave Jurusik and Bill Baxter — and his wife Sheila — for the company’s long success.

“The kids who’ve worked for me over the years, and the kids who’ve surfed for me — they’re the backbone of this business,” McGrath pointed out. He recognized a whole list of old-timers, too, many of whom are still around, still surfing 25 years later.

McGrath said he got out in the water now and then — “early mornings and late at night,” he said — but friends visiting the beach didn’t always realize that running the surf shop was serious business.

It’s just serious in a different way — for instance, McGrath makes sure every one of his 40 employees is working with the right motives at heart. “Everybody who works here, I make them go surf,” he said. “They need to be able to talk the talk.”

“Some people want to jump in when the industry’s flourishing — and then there are the core guys, who put their hand out because that’s what they want to do,” he said. Allen suggested the Bethany Surf Shop fell into the latter category, proven by 25 years through the ups and downs — and that’s why he’d stayed around for the past 10 of them.
“And we’re just going to keep on kicking,” he added.

McGrath said he was actually in the surf business, in Virginia, before he opened the shop to Bethany. He and some of his college buddies had been renting a house on Ocean View Parkway back in 1980 — main street was basically the bank, the bank, a restaurant/arcade (now the Parkway), Tulip (now out on the highway, Rhodes 5&10 and Clouds, he recalled.]

Then Ada Hildenbrand moved her cottage out onto Garfield Parkway, and the late Judge Joe Tansey convinced him to open a shop there in town. The rest is history.

Dave Digirolamo drew up the signature crossed surfboards stencils for T-shirts and sweatshirts, and a dedicated staff started putting together 25 years.

And Janssen said performance technology was still advancing, every year, as ultra light foam (cores) came into the marketplace. He reported new models from the old standby companies, plus new editions from shapers Rich Price (Florida) and T. Patterson (California).

Check them out, plus the barbeque, sales, giveaways, promos and live entertainment, at the Bethany Surf Shop warehouse on Town Road (Ocean View), Saturday, June 25, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, call 539-8968 (the warehouse) or 539-6400 (downtown), or visit the Web site,

As Allen pointed out, the industry seemed to be cyclical by nature, following the waxing and waning popularity of surf culture and the sister sports (bodyboarding, skimboarding, skateboarding).