Leadership Change Coming to Ron Jon
Long time Ron Jon Surf Shop President Debbie Harvey announced this week that she is retiring and that there will be a new leader at the top – Michele Goodwin, the current VP of Operations and Human Resources.
Ron Jon is one of the industry’s highest volume accounts with 13 large stores on the East Coast. We asked Debbie to reflect on her 20 years at Ron Jon, including what she is most proud of. We also asked her about how she thinks business will unfold in 2021.
Why did you decide to retire?
Ron Jon President Debbie Harvey: I have truly enjoyed my 20-plus years at Ron Jon. We have an incredible group of team members who I am going to greatly miss. I will also miss all the great people in our industry. I’ve made many friends. While I have loved every day at Ron Jon, time marches on, and I look forward to the next chapter of my life.
In early 2020 I told the board of directors and Ron (Ron Jon Owner Ron DiMenna) of my plan to retire by the end of 2020. When COVID hit, it made sense to delay my retirement because of the challenges. Now as we see more normal times ahead, it is a perfect time to transition to new leadership. I will remain on the Ron Jon Board of Directors after retirement.
I look forward to the next chapter of life which will include extensive travel and time with friends and family.
What are some of the things you are most proud of during your tenure?
Debbie Harvey: The company and culture we have built. When I joined the company we had four locations. We have expanded the number of stores, the brand reach and the business level at Ron Jon greatly over the years. And we have done that all while maintaining the integrity of the brand.
We are laser focused on a business model that works for us – we know who our customers are and provide a great customer experience. We have great looking stores and product assortments. Incorporating the unique Ron Jon brand into our assortments sets us apart from other retailers.
Our expansion has provided growth opportunities for long term employees and new additions to our roster alike. As a business partner, we are also respected for our business ethics which is very important to all of us at Ron Jon.
Who is replacing you and why is she the right person for the job?
Debbie Harvey: Michele Goodwin, who is our current VP of Operations and Human Resources. Michele has worked closely with me over the years and is a key member of our management team. Michele has been with us for over 30 years and has helped build our company to where it is today. She has a true understanding of our business model, our culture, and our brand. Our owner, our board of directors, and I all believe she is the right choice to lead us to the future.
I know 2020 posed many challenges, especially given some of your large stores are in tourist destinations. How did the year turn out?
Debbie Harvey: 2020 certainly had its challenges for our entire industry. 2019 was a record year for Ron Jon, and all signals pointed to a continuation in 2020. As we headed into the busy spring break period, COVID appeared. When we shut down in March we had no idea when we could reopen.
My team was incredible during this time period as we dealt with the unknown and got ready to resume business. As we reopened, we were surprised, as many in the industry were, by how quickly business rebounded especially in our beach locations. COVID proved the resilience of our brand, our business model and our team!
We all learned to pivot quickly and respond to ever-changing business conditions and customer demand. I could not have been more proud of everyone at Ron Jon during this time. Our vendor partners stepped up to provide product quickly in spite of their own challenges.
For 2021, we are cautiously optimistic, and we feel we are well positioned. We know it will be a year of continued uncertainty and surprises. While travel will open up more, it will take awhile before cruise travel and theme parks rebound to pre-pandemic levels, and international travel returns.
So while our central Florida stores may not see 2019 business levels for a couple of years, we expect our beach locations to continue to build on a strong 2020. We are seeing challenges in the supply chain which concern us, especially if business really explodes.
But after 2020, I believe the Ron Jon team is the equipped to handle whatever challenges come our way!