Surfing Laguna: Shop owner speaks

Laguna Beach's Thalia Surf Shop made national headlines this week in response to it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday sale that offered a "20% discount on all black items."

The surf wires were buzzing with energy and eventually led to the mainstream media picking up the story. Reaction to the promotion has been everything from lighthearted to extreme anger, with notable personalities weighing in on both sides of the matter.

Having known Thalia shop owner Nick Cocores since he was a young shop grom, I decided to get his take firsthand on the promotion and the ensuing media storm that followed.

CW: So Nick, you and the crew at Thalia St. have been known in the surf industry to come up with creative marketing ideas over the years. It's one of the things that sets your shop apart.

NC: Yes, we are always coming up with new and exciting promotions and sales. It's what keeps our customers and employees stoked on the shop. Without good marketing we just get lost in the surf community. It's what drives our business, especially in the winter.

CW: How did the MLK promo come about?

NC: We run sales on all national holidays. I was trying to think of something creative to do for MLK day. I had no intentions of disrespecting anyone.

CW: Garnering reactions and clicks is obviously the goal of successful marketing campaign. Did it ever occur to you that this might rub folks the wrong way?

NC: Yes, I knew some people were not going to like the ad. I did not know it was going to get as much attention as it did. Live and learn.

CW: As the national and international press have picked up the story and negative reactions started coming in, what went through your mind?

NC: I was very concerned. We are a small surf shop in Laguna. I addressed all negative emails that came in expressing my concern. We've had more positive than negative feedback. I think a lot of people understand that we were not being malicious. We were just trying to create more business in our slowest time of the year.

CW: What steps did you take to address the concerns?

NC: We posted an apology stating, "In no way did we intend to hurt or offend anyone. For those that took offense or disrespect, we truly are sorry. We took down the ad for our sale to hopefully calm the waters and in the future will be more careful in our selection of promotions. We appreciate the support from customers and patrons of Thalia Surf that know us and know that we meant no harm."

CW: There has been substantial support for the shop via blogs from Laguna locals who know you guys. What's your message to other folks in the community that may still be forming their opinion on the matter?

NC: I feel so lucky to work in such a beautiful city with great people who support local shops and understand our sense of humor. We have received so much positive feedback and support from all our Thalia fans as well as Laguna locals. I hope everyone understands that we love everyone and meant no harm in this matter.

CHRIS WILLIAMS is a surfing coach and Laguna Beach resident, and father of four surf-crazy sons. He can be reached through his blog:

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