Thursday, June 5, 2014
Village Surf Shoppe is an icon. It guards the entrance to the Garden City connector and offers ample supply of skate and surf gear.
It is the real deal local surf shop amid a booming business of chain beach stores on the Grand Strand.
Locals know it well. When it comes to boards, Village is a staple. Owner Kelly Richards even designs and shapes his own line of surfboards, aptly called Perfection.
Since Village opened in 1969, it has become synonymous with the local surfing culture. Even the mural that wraps the building is an homage to Garden City surfers past and present. It depicts the life of the shop from the original owner Eric Eason and his first logo to local surfing gurus and legends.
To Richards, each one represented is a huge part of Village. Each portrait has a story. There is local surfer Keith Strickland who was instrumental to Richards when he first started surfing. Cindy Fitzgerald, one of the first women to start surfing the pier, who always wore her white bikini. Brad Turner who is still one of Richards best friends. Cliff Hawkins who is now a well-known metal artist living in New York City. The list goes on, even including his own two sons, Cole and Cam Richards, as infants, though now both well-known East Coast surfers.
The sentimental value is rich. That’s why it came as a surprise to many when the shop announced this week that it was painting over the mural.
“We’ve had a lot of folks go, ‘Don’t do it! Don’t do it!’ but the mural’s done its job for a long time,” Richards said. “There is no way to get it redone and it is well worn.”
It was not an easy decision for Richards who commissioned local artist Gaston “Buddy” Locklear to paint the mural nearly 20 years ago.
“The ironic thing is I told him I would pay him $800 to paint it, but it took him two weeks so I paid him $1,200,” Richards said laughing. “Now he’s this big name surf artist and his small paintings go for that much. Probably, to get him back now, would cost a fortune.”
The mural’s worn and familiar presence offers a laid back vibe that allows bathing suite clad customers to feel comfortable stopping by still barefoot and sandy from the beach. Unfortunately Richards is finding it may be a little too casual.
“It’s like the local bar,” he said, referring to the building’s aging exterior. People who have never ventured inside are often intimidated by the vibe it gives off.
One recent customer said she moved just down the road over five years ago and was always afraid to come inside. Finally her son convinced her to stop by and she was shocked to find how neat and clean the shop was. She is not the first to customer to admit she was wary to enter.
Richards spent last winter revamping the inside of the shop, but finds visitors and some locals are still intimidated by the exterior’s chipped cinder block outer walls, sticker covered door, and poster filled windows. New comers are never quite sure what they may be walking into.
Not all of the mural is being covered, however. Richards was quick to point out that the wall featuring Eason’s picture and original logo, as well as the opposite end wall showing Kelly’s van driving into the sunset, will stay intact.
Richards and his crew are keeping the new look a secret. They want to surprise everyone with their new look. The makeover will take about a week and should be done in time for the 45th annual surf contest.