LEUCADIA — As a way of encouraging residents to “walkabout” the community after traditional business hours to increase area commerce, North Coast Highway 101 was bustling into the night on May 1. Pedestrians made their way through many of the shops that stayed open late for the popular Leucadia Nights event.
One notable crowd gathered at the grand opening of Surfy Surfy. The new surf shop lit up the old Longboard Grotto building as people packed inside to get a peek at rows of hand-shaped surfboards and merchandise.
The new shop is the work of longtime Leucadian J.P. St. Pierre and his business partners. With loads of enthusiasm and elbow grease, the intrepid team has transformed the 1926 building into a modern hub for the community. Rather than strip the building of its history, St. Pierre and landlord Keith Harrison sought to renovate it. “I just think it’s cool the building is getting restored instead of torn down,” St. Pierre said.
While the “Keep Leucadia Funky” logo is a common tagline, St. Pierre said maintaining the site is a way of keeping the quirkiness of the community intact. The Grotto building — as it’s commonly referred to — has been a Greyhound bus station, a motel and Roy’s Market, for those who can remember that far back in history according to St. Pierre.
While ownership has changed hands throughout its history, the ties to the surf community have been consistent. “It has been a surf hub for decades, legendary shapers like Dick Brewer and Mike Hynson lived and shaped there,” St. Pierre said. “In fact you can see in the floor where their shaping stands were.”
In the 1980s it was called “The Stronghold” and a bunch of surfers lived there — squatting illegally — according to St. Pierre. For nearly 18 years it housed the Longboard Grotto, which St. Pierre describes as “a classic and quirky place.”
“My shop is all about locally handcrafted surfboards in rebellion against the flood of cheap imports from China and Thailand,” St. Pierre said. “My wife Yvonne and I are both multi-generational Leucadians and surf industry kids. It’s a full-on deal!”
Indeed, St. Pierre’s father, Peter, started Moonlight Glassing, a surfboard glassing business, in the back of Sunset Surf Shop in the 1970s. He joined the family business and has worked as a surfboard builder for the past two decades.
St. Pierre says he was practically raised in a surf shop and has strong memories of what a surf shop should be.
“Leucadia needs a place where surfers can go and hang out,” said Pete Costas, who was visiting from Florida and decided to attend Leucadia Nights. “If they can make a go of it in this economy and keep it local — all the better.”
An old-school surf shop is like a barber shop where people congregate to swap stories and build upon their love of surfing. St. Pierre hopes to achieve just that — a hub of community activity where people of all skills and abilities, socio-economic classes and experiences can come together. “It’s a cultural thing,” he said. “A surf shop isn’t just a place to pick up equipment.”
Surfy Surfy is located at 974 N. Coast Highway 101. For more information, visit www. surfysurfy.net.