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Liquid Surf Shop set to close

After 12 years, owner says pressure from online retail forcing change
September 21, 2018

Story Location:
19406 Coastal Highway
Rehoboth Beach  Delaware  19971
United States

After 12 seasons of providing the Cape Region with its boarding needs, Liquid Surf Shop will be closing its doors Monday, Oct. 1. “It really is a bummer, but it really was just one thing after another,” said Mike Ridings, Liquid owner. “Then this summer, I decided it was just time to let it go.”

Like a surfer getting caught in pounding waves, Ridings said except for the first year, the retail store has faced challenges. “The first year was absolutely insane. It was so good,” he said. “Then the crash happened in 2008, and banks weren’t giving money to small businesses any more. It was a real wake-up call.”

Ridings said after the crash and some personnel restructuring, the business stabilized for a couple of years. Then, he said, the state began beach replenishment, and all of a sudden surfboard sales went down 50 percent because surfing spots along the Delaware coast dried up.

“It would be like owning a golfing store and then taking away 90 percent of the golf courses,” Ridings said. “I even went so far as to write a letter to the governor.”

To make up for the loss of board sales, Ridings said Liquid started focusing on soft goods – clothing and accessories. He said that steadied the ship for a while, but then online retailer Amazon began to get more popular, and it’s been hard to compete ever since.  People would come in, try on wetsuits and then order the suit on their phone from Amazon, he said.

Ridings said the final straw was the recent move by large surfing companies – Billabong, Hurley, O’Neil, RVCA, Volcom, Reef – to sell their goods online, direct to consumers. There’s just no consideration for the small business owner, he said; those companies can sell their goods 30 or 40 percent cheaper, when Liquid would have to sell its goods at the manufacturer's suggested retail price because that’s the price they bought it at.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “I’m trying not to sound bitter, but there’s just no room to maneuver. We’ve become such a staple in the community. I just love the vibe we’ve created here.”

Ridings, who still owns the land, said there’s no plan to expand Liquid’s neighbor, The Big Chill Surf Cantina, into the space. He said if that were going to happen, it would have happened years ago, but the process for pulling permits for a move is too cumbersome.

Ridings said there are some immediate plans for the space. He said there’s thought about putting a small indoor seating area for Taco Reho food truck, with some retail space for private-label clothing companies.

Ridings said the Liquid brand will remain visible, but only in online form. He said a new website selling the company’s soft goods will be ready Saturday, Dec. 1.  Ridings said Liquid gift cards will be honored online after the store closes. For more information go to liquidboardshop.com or call 302-227-7130.