Make us your home page
Instagram

FlowRider surf machine resurfaces at Clearwater Beach Surf Style store

Surf Style store manager Edel Gonzalez catches some air Thursday at Clearwater Beach as he rides the waves of the FlowRider.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Surf Style store manager Edel Gonzalez catches some air Thursday at Clearwater Beach as he rides the waves of the FlowRider.

CLEARWATER — The Adrenalina store in International Plaza closed months ago, but its artificial surf machine roars back to life for land-bound wakeboarders next week on Clearwater Beach.

"It's going to be a real attention getter in a better location," said Avi Ovaknin, president of Surf Style Retail, a chain of 40 beachwear superstores the stretches from Miami to Gulfport, Miss.

Most FlowRiders are in water parks or cruise ships. Purchased and installed for $1 million, the used model will be a drawing card in Ovaknin's first $10 million megastore. It's another attempt to create a magnet for gawkers and the surfboard/skateboard crowd that might spend more money in the store if they linger longer.

The Labor Day launch of the FlowRider will feature 30 percent discounts on a $20-a-half-hour ride on the jet-propelled sheet of water.

But it's just one part of how the entrepreneurial Ovaknin, 48, figures to shake things up on an often-crowded beach notorious for a shortage of parking.

While his typical Surf Style is the size of a Walgreens, this megastore is as big as a Publix. It's designed to function like a baby Grand Central Station.

Ovaknin built a 350-space parking garage atop his latest Surf Style store that deposits visitors exiting the elevators in the middle of his store en route to the beach across Gulfview Boulevard. Located just south of the Hyatt Aqualea Resort, parking will be free for the opening weekend before returning at an undetermined date to a standard $1 an hour.

Inside, the sprawling two-floor layout packs an expanded selection of beachwear, a 300-seat Britt's Restaurant, a fudge and candy shop and a convenience store twice the size of a 7-Eleven. The Chamber of Commerce staffs a rent-free tourist information booth.

The place will be open around the clock, 365 days a year.

Out front, the new store boasts a colorful Guy Harvey sea life mural 44 feet tall (T-shirt versions are sold inside) and an outdoor esplanade with a beach view Ovaknin hopes to enliven by inviting Zumba groups to exercise there.

Whether Ovaknin pulls it off is another matter. Highly seasonal, tourist retailing is tricky business. Weekend crowds may be free spending, but weekdays and the doldrums of fall can get lonely. Beach hotel customers won't walk far for T-shirts and tanning lotion, so big players must saturate pricey beach real estate with multiple stores.

But it's hard to dismiss an immigrant who parlayed his sales rep job with a Fort Lauderdale T-shirt wholesaler into a retail empire. Ovaknin persuaded his boss to help him set up shop on Florida's Gulf Coast in 1990. He put his first store, called Way Cool, in an old Clearwater Beach mom-and-pop motel. He leased two rooms with a view of the beach for 15 years, then remodeled them into a shop.

Renamed Surf Style, the business today touts eight stores in the bay area, four of them on Clearwater Beach. Surf Style competes head to head with Wings, which was also launched by Israeli immigrants.

"My education in this business came from experience," he said. "And the business model continues to evolve."

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

FlowRider surf machine resurfaces at Clearwater Beach Surf Style store 08/26/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 29, 2011 11:26am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Citigroup agrees to pay nearly $100 million fine for Mexican subsidiary

    Banking

    NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering.

    Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering. 
[Associated Press file photo]

  2. Goodbye Tampa Bay Express, hello Tampa Bay Next; but toll lanes aren't going anywhere

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Express is dead.

    But it's replacement — Tampa Bay Next — will likely include many of the same projects, including express toll lanes on the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. DOT officials say there are still re-evaluating the most controversial aspect of the old TBX plan: spend $6 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area highways - Interstates 4,75 and 275 - that are currently free of tolls. But TBN will keep the plan to add express toll lanes to the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  3. Trigaux: Tampa Bay lands on Forbes 2017 ranking of best places for young professionals

    Working Life

    Consider this one more notch in the belt of Tampa Bay starting to win serious attention from millennials as place to live and build a career.

    Mike Griffin is a senior managing director in Tampa for Savills Studley Occupier Services, which provides integrated real estate services. He is also chairman for 2017 of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the first of the next generation of leadership emerging in this metro market. [Courtesy of Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce]
  4. Leaders of Tampa Bay's top workplaces share insights, suggestions

    Business

    TAMPA — Nearly 300 people gathered at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday morning to hear tips and insights from leaders of the highest-ranked workplaces in Tampa Bay.

    Bays Florida associates (From left) Robert Patterson, Amanda Boser, and Kellly Banchak talk during the reception before the start of the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces Live! program at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times