Business

Thursday, Jan 07 2010 07:56 PM

Wavelengths surf shop to close with possibility of reopening

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    By Casey Christie

    Casey Christie / The Californian Chad Hoggard, manager and part-owner of Wavelengths stands in front of the store Thursday. They are in the process of closing their Bakersfield operation.

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BY HILLARY HAENES, Californian staff writer hhaenes@bakersfield.com

Even as Wavelengths manager and co-owner Chad Hoggard faces the closure of the iconic local store where he's worked half his life, he's holding onto his usual upbeat spirit.

"People in my position would be freaking out. ... It's not a bad thing that it is closing -- it's an opportunity," Hoggard said with a smile Thursday.

The locally owned surf/skate shop has served a wide array of customers for nearly 25 years.

The original location opened in the early 1980s on the coast of Morro Bay, and shortly after Bakersfield and Fresno stores opened in the valley. Hoggard said there was a need for a surf/skate shop in town because people in the valley flocked to the Central Coast to buy apparel, surf and skate boards. Only the Bakersfield store is slated to close.

Parents shop for their kids, guys from ages 15-25 mostly purchase apparel, while older men in their 70's will buy a pair of sunglasses, said 41-year-old Hoggard.

"It has been a big part of my life. I will miss my partners -- it is sad, but now I have an opportunity for a great rebirth if it all works out," said Hoggard, who is telling customers there is a chance the shop may reopen with a different name.

"I will miss the fact that it is closing, but I know Chad will make it work again in his own way," said 58-year-old Skip Chandler, who has shopped at the store since it first opened.

The loyal customer credits his support for the business to Hoggard's enthusiastic personality and great customer service.

Chandler described Hoggard's relationship with his business to Norm's character on the old TV show "Cheers" because he is always there to greet his customers when they walk inside.

"He portrays what businesses should be more like -- it's a personal touch and Chad brings that," Chandler said.

The store will close near the end of the month and everything is being liquidated. Hoggard said it is a good time for customers to take advantage of sales because everything is 25 to 50 percent off.

Sales were almost a mirror image of the previous year, the hours of operation have been reduced and inventory has been scaled back.

For the past four years, it's been tough times for many businesses. According to the 2008 Surf Industry Manufacturers Association study, the U.S. surf/skate industry increased from $6.52 billion in 2004 to $7.48 billion in 2006. However, between 2006 and 2008, this retail industry declined 3.5 percent to $7.22 billion.

"I definitely think there is a national economic impact. Credit is not what it used to be -- there are challenges across the country right now," said SIMA executive director Sean Smith, who did not have numbers for 2009 yet.

Surfing is resilient because it has a large customer base of people who are not in the sport for the fad, Smith said.

"These are true surfers and it is part of their everyday lives. They purchase surf products because it identifies who they are and it is a part of their overall lifestyles," Smith said.

There is a passion in this industry from the manufacturers to the retailers, Smith said, who continued, "People involved in it can't imagine themselves not working in this industry -- surfing becomes a part of their fiber," Smith said.

Since Hoggard began his career with the company at age 21, he said he has worked with some guys for 20 years and his younger employees are like his kids.

"I have a strong believe in faith and I give it to God -- whatever he wants for me -- that's where I'll go," Hoggard said about his future.

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