Surf City Surf Shop legacy to continue with Lester

Chal LesterAfter 40 years of single ownership, Myrtle Beach’s Surf City Surf Shop has changed hands.

Longtime local surfer, and store employee Chal Lester purchased the store from Mark Allison earlier this year and has begun the transformation process.

Lester, born just 4 years before the first Surf City opened, is excited for the opportunity and the coming changes, “This store is so important to a lot of people in this town. It’s more than a surf shop. All of my friends from different walks of life come in.

“This community is small. Being able to nourish it and give back what it once gave to me, is important. We’re carrying on a legacy,” Lester said.

That legacy began in 1976 when Mark Allison moved from California to Myrtle Beach and opened the first Surf City in the Hawaiian Village retail development in Restaurant Row.

Times have changed since then, “Shopping is different,” Lester said. “We can’t discount what Mark and Laura have done right for 40 years, but it’s different. We’re competing with the online.”

Lester, who first walked into Surf City as a 9 year old, has a renewed energy for the store and hopes to create that feeling of community through little details and events. “It goes along with the lifestyle. Surfing all day and then having that beer or whatever afterwards and sharing with friends. We’ll update the color scheme, the layout, how people shop.  It’s the little things, and we’ll capitalize on what they’ve built for 40 years.”

Lester’s connections to the surfing community run deep. After learning to surf in the 80’s, Lester surfed competitively as part of the Surf City Surf Shop Surf Team and credits Allison with introducing him to surf travel. “Mark did some really cool things with some guys that got invited to the nationals in Huntington Beach, California. This was the mid to late 80’s. Mark and Dan Cox took 18 kids to K38 & Rosarito Beach in Mexico and stayed down there for a week. We really got to surf some nice waves before the nationals. And then they took us all over to Huntington and let us compete. That was one of the coolest things as a 13 year old. It was a quick introduction, but a lifetime of memories.”

World renowned surf artist Drew Brophy was part of that Surf City Surf Team back in the 80’s that included Lester, Mike Hoisington, Reid Cox, Ted Detwiler, and Vissla Vice President of Design Rob McCarty. Brophy is stoked that the Surf City legacy will continue, “Chal and I were talking about where we would be without that access to surfing. Mark made it so easy for us. Chal is a product of that hard work and now Chal will continue on with giving to the community. He’s the perfect guy for it. His personality and his passion for surfing are great for the area,” Brophy said.

Brophy, who has an art show coming to Myrtle Beach in June, was in town overnight earlier this week, and stopped by to see Lester. “Some shops have that vibe. When you walk in, the owner is there and he remembers you and is happy to see you. Chal’s that guy. When I walked in he was happy to see me, and chat. That’s really rad,” he said.

Lester plans to continue being heavily involved in the local surf community. “We’ve jumped on the O’Neill Grom Tour, and there is an ESA banquet that we donated a lot of swag to. We’ve built a back deck and have an open room for surf movies and events. We’re working with different brands like Carve, who does women’s designs. They’re going to do a ladies night,” he said.

Through the process, Lester has had a steady flow of surf reps coming by to present their newest options. O’Neill rep Brad Beach was showing Lester the latest in wetsuit technology, “The Technobutter 3 is a material that we are using that Chal and Surf City will be bringing in next winter, and we’re excited about that,” Beach said. “A store like this, that’s been around for 40 years, that has a heritage, this is part of the community. It’s a destination. With Mark, and now Chal taking over, they’ve done a lot to give back to the sport of surfing.”

Chal’s wife, Stephanie, plans to be heavily involved as well. “If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know if I could have done this,” Chal said. The two have been working tirelessly through credit apps and remodel plans.

Surf lessons, rentals, and in house surfboard shaping will continue. Gary Wilson has been shaping inside Surf City for decades and Lester expects that to continue, “Absolutely. There are some new blanks back there right now.”

The large collection of classic surfboards will still be on view at Surf City. They’ve been removed from the premises while work is being done, but will return in the future. “I’ve picked and chosen a few boards that I really like and put them on display for now,” Lester said.

Lester also sees an opportunity to bring products to a market that was previously under served, including the women’s section, “I’ve bought some suits that fit something other than a 14 year old girl. I’ve got a Carve design that’s labeled toward a fit mother of two, she’s 52 years old. It’s a modest cut, it’s functional, and it’s made in the USA. Those are some of the brands that we are buying. We’ll support the local and regional artists as well, like Fin First, they have a shipment coming,” he said.

The store is still open and continues to operate through the transformation, “I think the cherry on top will be when the awning and sign go up, and that should be in the next two to three weeks tops. So, hopefully by Easter we should be up and running,” Lester said.

Want to wish Lester success? Stop by and see him at 6303 N Kings Hwy in Myrtle Beach or visit them online at SurfCitySurfShop.com

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