Two years after opening their doors on Crosby Street, the pack at Saturdays Surf NYC is still riding a wave of loyal enthusiasm. Tucked into a quiet, cast iron-wrought block in SoHo, the surf shop and espresso bar hardly speaks to SoCal. Yet the wood-paneled shop and collection of men's trunks, shirting, chinos, and surf gear has grown from a cult following to become an internationally acclaimed brand.
Between founders Colin Tunstall, Josh Rosen, and Morgan Colletta, Saturdays Surf has a former art director at Esquire and two wholesale executives from Acne and J. Lindeberg between them. And from the surf-faithful group of New Yorkers who drive out to the break at Rockaway Beach to Mickey Drexler and the men's merchandising team at J.Crew, Saturdays Surf has caught people's attention. Pay attention to the fall collection, now in store.
Sitting on the back patio of Saturdays amidst coffee-sipping friends, shoppers, and passersby, Tunstall filled me in.
ALEX HOWARD: What was the impetus to open Saturdays? Did you start by carrying your own collection?
COLIN TUNSTALL: When we first opened in August '09, we had pretty organic growth. We thought it was something we needed to do, but rather than talk about it, we said, let's jump on this. We found this space, and the space was one of things that jump-started the whole thing. We worked to get the coffee bar open, and while we knew we wanted to produce our own line, we just didn't have the time to have everything ready to go at the point. So we opened with all third-party brands... surfboards, leashes, the coffee bar. It was pretty sparse at first, but we got it open, started defining who we were and inviting people from the neighborhood in starting our little clubhouse.
HOWARD: How do the founders' backgrounds and experiences help define Saturdays?
TUNSTALL: Morgan grew up in Newport Beach, Josh came from the Northwest, and I'm from the tri-state metro area. All those kind of three blend and play into Saturdays right now. We're not trying to be southern California, though that's where a lot of history is and where a lot of the surf industry is doing rad stuff. But we all chose to live in New York, and New York is really the essence of our brand.
HOWARD: What is Saturdays' take on surf style, coming from a New York perspective?
TUNSTALL: [Wearing a pair of khakis and a blackwatch plaid shirt from the collection.] It's a little different... surf trends come and go, and it can be more of a seasonal thing. For us, it's a lot of basics and a lot wearable, year round items. We're just getting into jackets, and they're different from what you'd expect from a surf company. We're doing a bomber, a military inspired M1 jacket, and a parka this year.
HOWARD: You talk about organic growth; where do you see the brand in a few years?
TUNSTALL: We're obviously expanding our wholesale business; we sold some clothes to J. Crew, which was great exposure. It was online, too, and friends in Ohio would call us up after seeing Saturdays in the catalogue. We are, knock on wood, hopefully opening a store in Tokyo in March. We think that part of the success of Saturdays has been the feel of the store. You have a cup of coffee, hang out, admire the art work and books, and we're going to take that to Tokyo, as well as hopefully Paris and London.
HOWARD: Would you ever consider opening up a California store?
TUNSTALL: Possibly, maybe LA at the right time. It works well in NYC the same way it would work in Tokyo. Tokyo has a strong surf scene; it's also about an hour from a break. It's not the best in the world but it's consistent enough that you can get good swell. It's the same with London, about an hour or two from a close break, and the same with Paris down to the breaks at Biarritz and St. Sebastian.
HOWARD: So...what does a surf shop in the Northeast do in the winter?
TUNSTALL: This the first season when we've produced our own outerwear, so we're doing that. People do surf year round, but in the wintertime it's not as... sexy. You're putting on lots of rubber, and it's more of a dedication. It's kind of beautiful in its own way—walking through the snow and jumping into the water when it's freezing out. We do sell all that stuff, and we do have the core group of surfers who come in, but at the same time, we're producing our own line as well. If it's not summer here, it's summer somewhere else. We've had a lot of people from Australia working here, and we sell a lot of board shorts and T-shirts year round.