Where Business Becomes Family
by Cash Lambert
Photos by Ben Hicks
On Ocean Blvd (A1A), next to a tiny sect of land known as Briny Breezes, sits a piece of history within the community. But the property isn’t a museum, and it doesn’t require payment for admission.
The exterior of Nomad Surf Shop, the oldest running surf shop in South Florida, does look a bit quaint but such adds to further the mystique of the shop. According to Ryan Heavyside, who helps run the store with his brother, Ronnie “We keep the store itself rustic so it doesn’t ruin that authentic vibe.”
So how did the storied Nomad Surf Shop first start in 1968?
“The whole shop today is in the same location where it all began,” said Ryan. “My grandfather had a TV repair store where the front of Nomad is now, and he gave my father a 75 square foot space, which had a round rack of board shorts and roughly 10 boards that were named Nomad surfboards. Where the shaping bay is on the property today, that was actually the cottage where my dad lived.”
Post the initial idea and backing by his father, Ron Heavyside began selling his boards up and down the coast, and in the 1980s, he, along with the help of his wife Beth, decided to expand the operation to full blown retail.
“They purchased the backside of the property, which used to be a big rock and roll bar called Dante’s Den,” said Ryan. “For some time, we’d have old school guys wandering in, asking where Dante’s was and we’d say ‘you’re standing on it’. The place was the most known rock and roll bar throughout the area.” The notorious bar gave way to what is now one of the most well known shops within the surf community up the entire coast.
“We had families coming through and shopping with us from the 1960s to the 1990s, and when they became parents, they brought their kids. It’s an example of the evolution of being such a staple spot in the same location for so long,” said Ryan. “We’ve always done a lot with the community, charity, board giveaways, sponsoring surf events. We’re always supporting local events and local people.”
After all the time and changes within the surf industry, the core and the foundation of Nomad remains. “A lot of stores today have company build outs with labelled brands, but we haven’t gone for that,” said Ryan. “We still do custom boards, not just stock brand name boards, to this day.”
So what is it like to look back at the location’s humble roots so many decades ago? “We’re grateful, especially for being grandfathered not next a strip mall where any other shop can pop in. My father, being one of the top surfboard builders on the East coast, he’s built the place with his time and effort over the years.” And Ryan and Ronnie, with their firsthand global surfing experience, continue to further its name and reputation.
Churning a profit in retail is difficult enough, but that difficulty seems like a tall order in surf retail, something that Ryan recognizes. But it has yet to deter any of the Heavysides. “T-shirts are a big section of our business, and we bring back designs from the 70s by printing limited runs,” he said. “We carry over 200 boards, and cater to the traveler, the local around town who wants a custom board, and we also cater to not just the core surfer…but everyone from families to young kids to grandparents. Everyone can find something in our store. We also carry all major surf brands and a huge selection of womens’ apparel and bikinis. And of course we offer rentals, lessons and surf camps.”
Focusing on both the core surfer or the entire family is exactly what the future is for Nomad, according to Ryan. Along with supporting all things local, and scoring great waves as a community.
“We want to keep that authentic feel without it being too commercialized, and continue to grow our private branding,” he said. “The industry has evolved, basic board-shorts now can range from $39 to $100, so we’re staying on top of the new school aspect of surfing. Surfboards built our name, and after all these years we’re still family owned and operated and we’re looking to continue to pass things down to the next generation.”
Visit Nomad Surf Shop at 4655 N. Ocean Blvd. Boynton Beach, FL 33435
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