Although the dot.com bust wiped out many young online companies from the Internet landscape, Surfwarez.com continues to ride the wave with its kitschy collectibles and vintage surfing memorabilia.
17 years ago, James Frangella and Dan Clark-longtime friends and Monterey Peninsula natives with more than 80 years combined surfing experience-decided to take kooky surfing collectibles to the mainstream public by founding Surfwarez.com, "Cool Stuff for Surfers."
Amazingly, their hula dolls, woodies, and dashboard wigglers have been a hit with folks from Los Angeles to Virginia Beach and just about everywhere in-between. With occasional bulk sales for marketing and public relations promotions, weddings, other special events, and sales to celebrities and professional surfers- you never know what might happen next. Surfwarez even shipped a 50-pound concrete tiki statue to a customer stationed in Guam! Loyal international customers hail from across the globe including Italy, Nova Scotia, England, Germany, Japan, and Australia.
What started with about a dozen products in 1999 has grown to literally hundreds of different contemporary items. "We get wholesale inquiries all the time," Frangella said. "We're always sourcing new products...the kookier the better."
And Surfwarez' timing couldn't be better. After a 30-year hiatus, the tropical style has returned in a big way. "Polynesian Pop" offers a peaceful, tranquil brand of escapism, Frangella noted. "If you can't visit the Islands, we can bring the Islands to you."
In 2004 Surfwarez unveiled "Collector's Bay," one of the largest online collections of vintage surfing memorabilia ever assembled. It's a living history of surfing, including an extensive library of vintage magazines, books, movie posters, decals, and other rarities. "It's like the InfoTrac® of the surfing world," Frangella said. "Nobody else is crazy enough to do what we've done," referring to thumbnail cover images, detailed summaries, and physical descriptions of literally thousands of historical surfing collectibles.
Of particular significance is a nearly complete collection of SURFER Magazine, which features several issues worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars each. No other vintage magazine enjoys such an incredibly high resale value. In February 2007 Surfwarez made history by selling an extremely rare issue of SURFER Magazine for $3100, perhaps the most ever paid for a surfing magazine.
And, according to Frangella - who is also a licensed real estate broker - buying vintage surf mags is akin to buying real estate because "They're only going to continue to get more valuable over time."
The duo was also featured in the October 2000 issue of Shutterbug Magazine, which detailed how they learned to produce photographs for their website. The four-page article serves as a model for other online retail businesses.
Because of a niche market, it has been challenging to reach its intended audience through advertising and promotions alone with a limited budget. Surfwarez currently advertises in Longboard Magazine, Surf Life for Women Magazine, and Woodie Times.
Surfwarez also created an Ebay store in 2004, which has become an invaluable source of new customers and reflective advertising. A near-perfect feedback rating of 99.7 percent positive after more than 1200 transactions hasn't hurt either. Additionally, they have expanded their links page, re-introduced their guestbook, and offer featured items, seasonal specials, and deep discounts to keep visitors interested in the website. Friendly customer service has been pivotal to their success, with a simple, secure online checkout process and a "No Worries, No Problem" return policy.
"Through our enjoyment, it's kind of done it on its own," Clark said. "It's riding a wave."
"As Danny says, the worst-case scenario is that we have gifts for life," Frangella added.
Surfwarez.com has a vintage and contemporary surfing collectibles retail outlet located in sunny Sand City, California on Monterey Bay.
8042 Moss Landing Rd. #522
Moss Landing, CA 95039
(831) 394-SURF (7873)