New Rusty licensee opens store in Laguna Beach

Rusty apparel display

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Rusty just opened a shop in Laguna Beach, the first Rusty Surf Shop for the Happy Shovel Group, the new licensee for Rusty apparel in North America.

SES spoke with CEO Charlie Setzler about Happy Shovel’s first shop, why they chose Laguna, and how retail fits with the Rusty brand under the new Rusty North America structure.

Rusty hasn’t opened a new U.S. shop for years. Why now?

CEO Charlie Setzler: I have no idea! Seriously, we did not have retail in our plans when we formed Happy Shovel and took over Rusty North America.

It came down to both the opportunity and convenience. Rusty Australia opened a flagship store in Manly earlier this year and sent us pictures. It looked great! They created a retail manual because other territories were looking at opening stores. That got us thinking a little about retail, but we weren’t looking for a location or anything. It just happened that a location found us.  

Why Laguna?

CEO Charlie Setzler - Shop-eat-surf file photo

Charlie: This is where the opportunity and convenience come in. We moved our office to Laguna Beach on Laguna Canyon Road at the end of last year. So for the last 10 months or so, I’ve driven PCH to the office through Laguna Beach every day.

In May, I drove past this corner location on Cress and PCH that had a “For Rent” sign in the window. I probably drove past this store for a month before doing anything about it.

We had a board meeting at the end of June where I brought up the opportunity and location, and we were all in favor of pursuing it. We called to inquire and, next thing you know, we signed a lease in August and opened.

Conveniently, it is very close to our office. It’s also close enough to our warehouse where we can deliver product on the same day if needed.  Opportunity-wise, we felt the location was good – on a corner at a busy intersection. The store has amazing windows that are worth the marketing investment alone. 

I don’t think we could have opened anywhere else other than Laguna at this stage of the brand transition. Too far from the office, and it would be difficult to manage. Too close to existing accounts wouldn’t work either. And, most importantly, Laguna Beach has tremendous roots in surf and surf culture. There is a group of surf retailers in Laguna that do a great job, and they all offer something unique. I believe the Rusty store should fit right in and complement them. 

See Page 2 for what Rusty Laguna Beach carries


What are some of the design elements that set the store apart and how is it different from other Rusty shops in La Jolla and in Del Mar?

Charlie: This is the first Rusty apparel flagship store in North America. First, we wanted the store to showcase the Rusty brand with both apparel and surfboards.

When Rusty apparel became independent at the beginning of the year, our primary goal for 2014 was to change the perception of the brand. We introduced the women’s brand, expanded the size of the men’s line, elevated our product and introduced a more progressive and forward assortment. We can merchandise the product and present the brand to both the consumer and the industry in a way that we haven’t been able to before.  

The Laguna store is different from Rusty Del Mar and Rusty La Jolla in that those stores are multi-branded apparel retailers. The Laguna store only carries Rusty apparel and surfboards. We offer an assortment of surf accessories from Modom and Creatures and fins from FCS and Futures. As we get further along, we’ll consider offering other products that complement Rusty apparel and boards.  

Our focus is to do a great job telling the Rusty story. So there are some categories we are not participating in like wetsuits, rentals or surf lessons. The other retailers in Laguna do a great job already in those areas.  

Did you take elements from the shop in Australia?

Charlie: Yes we did. Rusty is a modern surf lifestyle brand and we wanted the store to represent this. We’ve incorporated wood elements and kept it pretty simple. The store definitely has more of a boutique feel where we highlight product or categories quite a bit. We used imagery representing the lifestyle of the brand through our athletes like Josh Kerr and Noa Deane, and women’s images featuring some friends of the brand.

We have a few action shots in the store but kept them to a minimum. We do have some images that tell the incredible history of the brand that include Rusty at his craft, and at various points in his and the brand’s iconic journey.  

Are there plans to open more stores?

Charlie: We have no plans to open more stores. We have our hands full with this one. 

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