There are very few destinations aside from Southern California where one can snowboard, surf or boogie board and skate all in the same day. ZJ’s Boarding House has taken a love for boarding and has created a place where locals and tourists alike can take full advantage of the perks of living here. A mere two blocks from the beaches of Santa Monica, ZJ Boarding House is a long-standing destination for quality boards, clothing, and a genuine enthusiasm for boarding sports. Since the store’s opening in 1988, the only things that have changed is their addition of a women’s lounge next door and a website complete with links to surf and snow reports.
Walking into ZJ Boarding House on a quiet Monday afternoon, The Mirror met with Mikke Pierson and Todd Roberts, long time friends and co-owners of the popular Santa Monica board shop. Mikke began surfing in 1970, Todd in 1975. But little did the two know that they would open up not only a business, but a community hangout, a place where ambitious surfers, skaters and snowboarders of all ages could find friends and mentors. Humble, kind and extremely compassionate, the two were more than happy to sit down and talk.
Opening their store on the corner of Main Street and Ocean Park Boulevard ZJ Boarding House started off with roughly 1,400 square feet and expanded to nearly 7,000 square feet today in three separate buildings, their success a product of a great partnership and loyalty to their customers and community. Compassion brought the two owners together when they bonded for the first time during a surfing day with Braille students. They have continued volunteering for over 20 years by donating time and money to those with visual impairments, autism, and working with Casa Colina, a non-profit rehabilitation center.
Although there weren’t many good surf shops in Santa Monica at the time, they still had a rocky start with ZJ Boarding House, opening up before Main Street was the popular restaurant and retail-lined street it is now. “We didn’t have a great plan when we started, but we each gravitated towards different parts of the business. I started doing more financial work and Todd more of the branding. Partnerships are a rare thing here,” Mikke explains of their history and thriving business. With a solid store in place, the two decided to open up a women’s lounge just three years ago right next door to the surf shop. “We felt that our customers would appreciate a store dedicated to women’s surf clothing and fashion.” And the result of this fairly recent addition? “Business has been very good.”
Operating such a successful store and having a great presence in Santa Monica, I wondered why they didn’t expand, open up more stores. Todd answered, “All the board sports have become a business. But it’s your intention of business. And what you want from business. We want to grow and be healthy. Yet it’s very difficult to give this experience on a mass scale.” They have become friends, teachers and mentors to all those who walk through ZJ Boarding House and more likely, the many who have found a second home there.
Mikke and Todd’s success all leads back their priorities in business as well as in their personal lives. The ability to turn a business into a family atmosphere makes ZJ Boarding House a unique shop and experience. They offer private surf instruction, with rentals for surfboards, boogie boards and wetsuits. Mikke confidently concludes, “I think at the end of the day we are participants. We like to travel, we like to surf. We have an incredible crew. We have great lives.”