This week, Surfing Laguna was stoked to connect with Thalia Street Surf Shop owner Nick Cocores to catch up on life at what is arguably the geographical center of Laguna’s surfing universe.
From the moment you enter these family-run shops (there are two within 50 feet of each other), you get the sense that this is not a typical surf shop.
You’re serenaded by a soothing mix of sounds that lean decidedly toward music from the golden age of surfing "” at just the right decibel levels.
Although you won’t find many of today’s popular and mass-produced shortboards, you will find boards that are nothing short of museum-quality pieces of art. But don’t hang these gorgeous sticks on the wall just yet; these futuristic-retro missiles are ready for active duty. And the threads, those who appreciate unique designs and a bit more quality in their surf wardrobe, have long known about the treasure trove of killer gear on tap at Thalia Street Surf Shop.
CW: Hi Nick, thanks for taking time out to discuss life at the “shop."
NC: My pleasure.
CW: Tell us a bit about the shop’s history. How long it’s been there, who started it and how you got involved.
NC: My family purchased the corner shop from Laguna legend Doug Bunting in 1994. At that time, we licensed the name Toes on the Nose Surf Shop. In 2001, in an effort to expand, we started Thalia Street Surf Shop three doors down from the corner shop. It was at that time when I became really involved. Thalia Street Surf Shop was a success and in 2003, we switched both shops to Thalia Street Surf Shop.
CW: What are some of the things that make the two shops unique?
NC: The difference between the two shops is they target two different age groups and surfers. The corner shop is more mainstream and tourist-driven for a more mature surfer, like you, Chris [he kept a straight face]. The small shop three doors down targets a younger surfer who is into smaller companies and independent artists.
CW: You have some beautiful surfboards in the southern shop. Talk about the boards you stock and what inspires you to carry the selection that you do.
NC: All of our boards are inspired by ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s shapes. They are boards we [shop staff and friends] all love to ride. Every board is hand-shaped and glassed here in California. They are boards that have a lot of soul built into them. The experience of surfing one of our boards is a little different than your average performance thruster. I’m not knocking those shapes, as they work very well; it’s just a different feeling.
CW: The whole strip of shops there on PCH and Thalia has a very complementary feel to it. Can you talk about the relationships you have with the cafe and surf gallery?
NC: Our corner is the best corner in Laguna. We [Nick, along with parents Pam and Jim] have our surf shops, the best cafe and best Surf Gallery. We all get along well and love what we do. Goko Cafe has the killer breakfast and lunch. The Surf Gallery has amazing artists from all over the world showcasing their works once a month at opening receptions for the featured artist. It’s always fresh and inspiring.
CW: What have been the hot sellers at the shops this spring, and what should folks stock up on this summer "” besides good vibes, of course?
NC: We always carry the best gear from the best people. This year, our board shorts and wetsuits are really standing out. Oh yeah, and of course our new Thalia surf shop tees are really good this year.
CW: How would you describe the average Laguna shop grom?
NC: Laguna is a rad place with a lot of good kids that are amped on surfing. I see kids that are more open to all types of surfing, longboards, shortboards, fishes. I like to see that the kids are not just surfing one type of board. They are all going to be well-rounded surfers and represent surfing and Laguna in a good way.
CW: Best thing about owning/running a surf shop?
NC: One of the cool things about owning a shop is that you have the best selection of surf gear and clothes on hand at all times. When I need something, I just go to the shop and grab it [laughing]. It’s really nice. More seriously, though, it’s the people I get to work with and meet. They are some of the best people in the world. I love my job.
Thalia Street Surf Shops is at 903 and 915 S. Coast Hwy. For more information, call (949) 497-3292 or visit www.thaliasurf.com.
CHRIS WILLIAMS is a surfing coach and Laguna Beach resident, and father of four surf-crazy sons. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (949) 497-5918.