An ex-pro snowboarder, a fashion manager, and an art director walk into a combination cafe and surf shop. For Josh Rosen (left), Morgan Collett (center), and Colin Tunstall (right) that’s not the beginning of a bad joke, it’s the day-to-day reality of their hip store, Saturday’s Surf NYC. The shop boasts La Colombe coffee in the front, surf apparel and casual menswear in the back, and an outdoor patio for swapping stories about that gnarly tube ride last summer. While New York isn’t a major surf spot, it is a fashion capital, and the guys have earned praise from the likes of GQ and nabbed the cover of Monocle last year for their breezy designs.
The shop, tucked away on Crosby Street like a hidden beach with the perfect break, opened in August 2009 and became the go-to place for the city’s diehard surfers, and those who want to look like them. The trio is following up last year’s original Saturdays collection with their first fall/winter line full of sleek jackets, sharp button-downs, and chinos. "We’re downtown New York kids and we like classic men’s style done well," says Rosen. "We saw a gap in the market for a brand that embraced the cleaner surf style of the ’50s and ’60s, but had the energy of modern-day New York." And now that they plan to open another location in New York in 2012, followed by an overseas outpost, you can expect to see Saturdays styles every day of the week.
Where are the three you of you originally from?
JR: I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. I went to school in San Diego and have lived in New York City for the past 10 years. Morgan was born in Newport Beach, California and moved to New York four years ago. Colin was born in Fairfield County, Connecticut. He went to school in Savannah, Georgia and has resided in New York City for the last eight years.
What were your interests when you were younger?
JR: We all come from very different backgrounds. Geographically, we could not have grown up further away from each other but we share similar passions: skateboarding, surfing, and snowboarding. As we grew into adulthood, each of us was inspired by elements outside of the sports we loved. Music, art, fashion to name a few. It was these things that lead each of us to New York City.
How did you first cross paths?
JR: I met Morgan through a company we both worked for about 5 years ago. Morgan worked for them in LA and I worked in the NYC office. Shortly after, Morgan moved from LA to NYC. He briefly worked for the brand in New York before taking a position at Acne. Once Morgan was in the city we quickly met Colin and became friends. We were part of a crew that worked in several different aspects of NYC life—fashion, publishing, marketing etc. but anytime there was a wave, we left the city behind and got into the ocean.
How did the concept for Saturdays come about?
JR: Morgan gets credit for the original idea of opening a surf shop. He brought up the idea and Colin and I just gravitated to it. It made so much sense to us. The three of us surfed all the time but had no outlet in the city to be surfers. We didn’t want to hang out at a traditional surf shop that represented a lifestyle we didn’t lead. So we decided to build one around our own. The clothing we wear, the coffee we drink, the boards and gear we use. It turns out that people all over the world identified with our lifestyle and wanted to be a part of it too.
Why Saturdays Surf for the name?
JR: Colin, the art director of our team, came up with the name and the typeface. It was the first name he came up with and we loved it immediately. It felt right. For most people who work during the week Saturday is a day you look forward to. Just hearing the word reminds most people of good times.
Who oversees what specifically, in terms of clothing design, the business side of things, etc.?
JR: When we opened in August of 2009 we all did a bit of everything, from making coffee to selling a tee and so on. As the brand grew into a full men’s wear collection and the coffee bar started to get consistently slammed our roles became more defined. Two years later Colin is our art director, Morgan handles sales, finances and manages our production and I take care of operations and marketing. We all work together, along with Jeremiah Griffiths our design and production coordinator, to create each collection.
Anything crazy happen when you guys were trying to get the shop up and running?
JR: We financed the store with our own money. Without saying too much, it was not a lot. We needed to start selling products and coffee as quick as possible. I was working 20-hour days managing the build out. Pretty much killing myself. We were getting pretty close to opening and a good friend of mine came in, Darrel Nah, who is a life coach, a professional BMX rider, and one of the sweetest people I have ever known. He saw that I was probably close to hurting myself, moving huge beams and using power tools on almost no sleep. He casually said “Josh I’m going to take a quick nap,” and preceded to lie down on the floor and fall asleep. At first it seemed very strange but I kept looking over at him and he seemed so peaceful. I walked over and lay down next to him and just passed out for an hour. People working all around us, just two big dudes napping on the floor. I woke up super refreshed and finished the build-out full of energy. Great life lesson about how you can help a friend in need. Thanks Darrel.
Why did you guys decide to include a café in the front of the store?
JR: When we first saw the space we were taken by the way the left wall gracefully came in three feet, half way down the space. It almost looked like it could have been a diner at some point. It almost begged for a counter top and a coffee machine. After seeing the big back deck it just made sense to give people a reason to hang out. It’s a very good cup of coffee.
Why did you guys decide to launch an original Saturdays collection?
JR: The shop is really based on our world. Our world does not include baggy surf trunks with skulls all over them or flip-flops. We are downtown New York kids. We like classic men’s style, done well. We also saw a gap in the market for a brand that embraced the cleaner surf style of the ‘50s and ‘60s but had the energy of modern day New York. Designing is almost always, the three of us agreeing on the styling and direction. The brand just feels like the best of all of us.
Proudest accomplishment so far?
JR: Cover of Monocle was awesome. Jim Moore from GQ’s endorsement of Saturdays. Global love for the brand, every person that leaves the shop with a smile.
What’s an average day like?
JR: Each day brings new challenges and adventures. The best days though, start at 5am, meeting at the shop to go to surfing. We are always back at the store by 10 a.m. to sell the collection, work on design, answer a million emails and have a few solid chats in the shop, then call it a day. Of course there are plenty of other things that go on but that is a pretty average day.
When you’re not working, you’re…
JR: Skating, surfing, drinking , biking, DJ’ing, high-fiving, bullshitting, cliff jumping, girl chatting, sleeping.
What do you enjoy the most about running the shop? The least?
JR: As we grow we have to give responsibility to people we hire. It’s always a challenge to let go. Sometimes it’s not done the way you would have done it and you need to be able to let go and embrace the employee’s style. Other than the occasional differences it’s been a really great experience.
What’s the secret to your success?
JR: Be honest with your direction. Do it from the heart, work hard. These and every other cliché statement about success should do the trick.
How often do you guys surf? What’s your favorite spots in NY and around the world?
JR: We surf every time there is a wave. We can’t really talk about local spots, but we love surfing Mexico, Hawaii, and Central and South America.
Favorite NYC spots?
East coast or west coast?
JR: East is a beast but west side is the best side.
Josh, you used to compete professionally as a snowboarder—why focus on just surfing with the shop?
JR: I grew up in Seattle and started skiing when I was two years old. I was drawn to the speed and grace. At 11, I started snowboarding and from the first few turns I knew it was what I was meant to do. I still love snowboarding. Getting paid to travel the world with your friends and snowboard will always be hard to top. I began surfing at a young age and had pretty limited access to it, but knew at some point I would spend time figuring it out. After an injury, it left me pretty much doing nothing for a few months. I moved to San Diego and found the ocean to be the only physical therapy I could handle. After a failed attempt at a come back in the snowboarding world I found the challenge of surfing was way more fun and generally more enjoyable. I also love the history of the sport. The imagery is beautiful; the calmness of the beach meets the power of the ocean.
Morgan, what skills from your days at Acne did you bring to Saturdays?
MC: Acne was very specific in how they distributed their brand and the structure they followed on an everyday basis. This structure went from design, to production, to sales. It helped establish a strong future for the brand and that is one of the things I am trying to do for Saturdays as we grow.
How does the surf culture in NYC compare to your native Orange County?
MC: I think there are a lot of similarities. The difference is the speed of the surrounding city. NYC is 24 hours a day—top speed that never stops, just keeps accelerating. California is incredible, surrounded by nature and much more relaxed. I think those are the largest differences I see. The surf scene and the people who are involved in NY and California are very similar, but of course there are way less in NY.
Colin, you’ve had a pretty extensive career as an art director—what were some of your favorite past projects and what experiences have you been able to bring to Saturdays?
I’ve really enjoyed the challenges each job has offered. Helping Esquire produce their first iPad app was fun. Taking the content and aesthetic of the Esquire brand and re-purposing it for an interactive experience was fun. Not having anything to follow. It was what ever you could think of. Having limitless ideas and making them work somehow.
What’s up next?
JR: Fall/winter is all about Saturdays launching its first fall collection. It’s available in the Saturdays store as well as online and at better retailers globally. Look out for the new Porter Japan collaboration and a new soap with Baxter of California. We are very excited to offer new colors of the very popular tote as well as launching a new piece that we can’t really talk about yet.
Do you guys have any plans or aspirations to open another location?
JR: We will open another store in NY within the year and one overseas. We are in the process of signing on both so I have to be a little vague.