Farias Surf and Sport Looks Back on 50 Years, Looks Ahead with Next Generation

From Inflating Rental Rafts to Leading Surf Retail Biz
By JON COEN | Jun 26, 2019
Courtesy of: Kyle Gronostajski Farias Surf and Sport has become a family legacy.

Ship Bottom — There are a lot of 50th anniversaries happening this year. It’s 50 years since Woodstock, 50 years since Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon and 50 years since Vince Farias opened a rental stand out of a one-car garage on LBI.

Farias was a lifeguard, a bartender at the Acme Hotel and not all that interested in the music festival happening in upstate New York. That summer, his real estate agent, Phyllis Wyatt, called and said she’d had a dream that Vince had bought her building in Surf City and was very successful. Farias was still in college. But he spoke with his father, Mario, and decided it was a sound investment.

His shop started as a beach rental business. He’d blow up inflatables from the 5&10 across the street and rent them to tourists, or sell stuff he found at yard sales. But eventually he began stocking his own inventory to sell and rent, everything from surfboards to baby cribs. Farias bought the current Ship Bottom Farias, formerly Byerley’s Rentals, in 1983.

This Saturday, Farias Surf and Sport will celebrate at the Ship Bottom location with a screening of its new brand video. Brands Dark Seas and RVCA will set up tents with Farias T-shirt collaborations and gifts with purchases. Salty Crew will have a fishing game. There will additionally be a gift with purchases by footwear companies, Reef and Olukai.

Through the years, Farias has had nine locations from Barnegat Light to Beach Haven, as well as Cape May, Avalon and even Manayunk, Pa. Vince Farias met his wife, Michele, when they both taught at Ridgeway Middle School in Edgewater Park. Michele Farias opened LB Islander in the 1980s, selling leisurewear and women’s clothing until 2002.

Today, Ship Bottom is the flagship store, which had a massive renovation in 2007. The other locations are in Surf City and Beach Haven as well as Farias Kids, just across the street in Ship Bottom, Five O Six Surf Boutique in Surf City, and the newly opened Farias On Centre in Beach Haven.

There aren’t any baby cribs at Farias today. But there are still things that families need, as well as the latest surfing hard and soft goods. Farias currently stocks about 475 surfboards among all the shops, not including dozens of soft-tops for beginners.

The Farias’ daughters grew up with the store. Christy Farias Hren now lives in California. Stacey Jordan, who raised a family in Moorestown, still helps manage the stores. She handles some of the bigger accounts with the beach gear. Stacey’s daughter Sarah opened Five O Six Boutique straight out of the College of Charleston. It’s a women’s shop with an emphasis on beach fashion for the active female. Sarah also manages the Surf City shop.

Brian Farias graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in business and economics. Straight out of college, he took a finance job in Philly, and was debating taking another in New York when he decided to return to the family business. He bought out his parents, taking 80 percent ownership in 2012. Stacey took 20 percent ownership.

“It was right after (Superstorm) Sandy. After the disaster, my mom and dad had the confidence that I could handle it,” Brian shared.

Brian Farias set the shop in a more core surf direction. He has relationships with all of the players in the industry, from professional surfers to CEOs. Farias is now considered among the top three surf shops in the state with the likes of Heritage in South Jersey and Brave New World in central Jersey.

“I’m really proud to carry on my family’s business, and there is no greater gift my father could give me than to trust me with a business that was started 50 years ago. It’s a testament to he and my mom’s determination, hard work and sacrifice through the early years to get us to where the store is now,” Brian said. “The organic evolution of the business is pretty cool also. Vinny started it as a beach and rental shop. As the Island and the visitors changed, so did the business. So now as a respected surf shop, I take a lot of pride in what we do.”

Brian is most humbled when such industry icons as Bob Mcknight of Quiksilver or Paul Naude, formerly Billabong and now Vissla, tell him his store is one of the nicest surf retailers in the entire country.

“From the early ’90s, when we were begging surf brands to give us a chance, to currently having these great relationships with every major surf brand and the best surfboard shapers in the world is pretty incredible. I love this Island, the mainland and, most importantly the people that live here. I really believe that this area deserves the best of the best whether that’s a surf shop, coffee shop, gourmet deli, landscaping business, hotel/resorts or restaurant. We really do have some of the greatest businesses here on this island, and that’s 100 percent because they are all family owned. No one puts more passion into their business than someone who is truly invested emotionally into it,” he said.

Through the years, surf legends Robert August, Mark Richards, Mark Occhilupo, Shaun Thomson, Tom Curren, Rob Machado, Ian Walsh, Ace Buchan and Liz Clark have visited the shop.

“From the beaches to the waves to the people and experiences here, they now have a realistic view and appreciation for this zone. New Jersey has gotten a bad rap over the years as a whole, but there is no denying LBI is a little slice of paradise,” he explained.

The shops are known for their vast selection of the notable surf companies. They are one of the biggest core surf accounts for such brands as O’Neill, Vans, Hurley, Electra, Patagonia and Lost, and sell more Jetty gear than any other retailer in the country. They carry surfboards by Channel Islands, Pyzel, Bing, Christienson, Roberts, Lost, Super and Firewire.

Farias gets good support from Gary Grippaldi, who has been with the business for over 20 years and manages the Beach Haven store, as well as Jesse Westmacott, who has been with them for most of the last 10 years and manages the Ship Bottom location.

“We are lucky to have long-term dedicated employees like Jesse and Gary,” Brian said. “They would be an asset to any business, and we are lucky to have them working for us. Trust is a big issue when running an operation as big as ours is now, and that is something I don’t have to worry about.”

Sarah Jordan’s role is ever expanding.

“My experience as a young businessperson on LBI has been filled with ups and downs,” she said. “Working in a seasonal business is definitely challenging, but also rewarding. The thing I love most about this region is that many other business owners and young people are so involved within our community and we all support each other’s businesses and events, trying to make the Island a better place to live, work, play.”

At 24, she has taken marketing initiative, and Five O Six is thriving.

“It is really exciting to see my sister’s daughter, Sarah, now so involved,” Brian added. “She plays such an active role and does the women’s buying, works daily in the shops, curates and runs 506 Surf Boutique, next to our Surf City location. Now into the third generation I think it’s pretty special for my mom and dad to see the labor of love continue.”

This year Farias will be sponsoring Monday night parties at Bird & Betty’s in Beach Haven. They just launched a new website and will have many of surfing’s most influential figures visiting throughout the summer. Vince can still be seen around the shop from time to time, helping out as well.

“I feel like a lot of people can look in from the outside and think things are pretty comfy with running a business here,” reflected Brian. “But others who’ve opened a shop or are continuing family businesses can only truly understand what goes into it, and the pressure and expectations that come with it. Some of my best friends are bringing their businesses to higher levels through innovation, quality and creativity than we have ever seen here, and it is truly inspiring. It motivates me. Every day I wake up to improve my business and become more involved in this community.”

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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