Surf shop makes mark nationally
Ask Chris Brown whether he’d rather be paddleboarding or dressed to the nines at some swanky dinner, and his response comes easily.
But Brown and wife Kate had to don the gladrags for the national Retail NZ TopShop Awards in Auckland on October 22, because they were representing the lower North Island.
Their business, Ocean Outfitters, on Mana Esplanade, was judged second-best in the country because of its top-notch customer service, honest advice and quality equipment.
Though it was an industry award for retailers, Brown said it showed Ocean Outfitters must be doing something right.
‘‘We had a fair idea who the mystery shopper [the judge] was, but we didn’t pour it on,’’ he said.
‘‘My philosophy is that we treat people who come into the store or who take lessons how we would want to be treated ourselves. It’s quite simple.’’
Stand-up paddleboarding has taken off in recent years and Ocean Outfitters is situated perfectly to cash in.
The calm of Pauatahanui Inlet is contrasted by the wind and waves on Porirua Harbour, off Ngatitoa Domain and in the open sea, and Brown and his employees can cater for whatever level boarders are at.
He and Kate ran the business online until two years ago, when they decided to take the leap and open the shop. They had no retail experience before opening Ocean Outfitters, Brown said.
They do not get huge amounts of foot traffic, but having a shopfront was still proving a fillip for them, he said.
‘‘We still send stuff all over the country, but we also wanted this [ store] to be a destination for people. We can run our demonstration days, clinics, races and events out of the store because people like to have a bricks and mortar place to come to.
‘‘With the bays around the Inlet and Titahi Bay for the surf so close by, this is the most amazing place for us to be.’’
Brown, who lives with his family in Paremata, has roots in surfing and windsurfing, but has fallen in love with stand-up paddleboarding.
The Mana Stand-Up Paddleboarding Club, which he founded, is the first of its kind in New Zealand.
The Saturday women’s group and school groups are examples of the Brown’s desire for the sport to be as accessible as possible to the wider community.
‘‘The magical thing about paddleboarding is you feel like you’re walking on water,’’ Brown said. ‘‘To see the looks on people’s faces when they get into it for the first time is why I do this. You get a clear head out on the water, it’s great for your fitness and it’s fun.’’
All the gear for surfing and stand-up paddleboarding is quality equipment from overseas and Brown said he was choosy about what he imported.
People could rent gear at Ocean Outfitters and a ground- entry board would cost about $1200, he said.
Winning formula: Chris Brown, co-owner of Mana business Ocean Outfitters.