CLEARWATER — It just might be the ultimate Florida tourist destination all rolled into one building: a Ron Jon Surf Shop with a Hooters on top, combined with a rooftop bar with a view of the Gulf of Mexico.
Ron Jon fans can get a look at the free-standing store at 377 Mandalay Ave. this weekend in a special opening that includes free giveaways and a chance to win $50 gift cards. This is the 10th location and first full-fledged bay area store operated by the legendary Cocoa Beach surf supply retailer and apparel brand. It also operates a small shop at Tampa International Airport.
Hooters, along with a new rooftop bar called the Lookout, is scheduled to open June 4 and will seat 250. It's one of 12 local Hooters franchises in the area.
When it opens, the Lookout menu will feature sharable foods, including mahi and buffalo sliders, steak and buffalo chicken flatbreads, wine, craft beers, frozen concoctions and boat drinks. The Lookout has been designed to capture the ambiance of nightly sunsets, offering couch seating on its outdoor patio as well as inside bar seating with views of the gulf.
The 3,600-square-foot Ron Jon store is the main part of a $5 million project that's near Pier 60 and just north of the roundabout entrance to the beach. It will be the smallest store in the Ron Jon chain.
Since 1997, Ron Jon has grown from a pair of surf shops in Cocoa Beach and New Jersey into an empire of 14 company-owned or licensed stores in three countries, a surf school, a timeshare resort, and four airport terminal outlets.
The chain was founded in 1959 by Ron DiMenno, a Jersey shore surfer who was advised to get in business when he wanted a custom-made California board. His father told him to buy three boards so he could sell two and get his own free.
Once the first shop opened in Long Island Beach, N.J., DiMenno in 1963 pursued better waves near Cape Canaveral, where he opened what's touted as the world's largest surf shop.
The four-story, 52,000-square-foot Cocoa Beach store is a tourist attraction in its own right, complete with its own indoor waterfall. It attracts nearly 2 million visitors a year.
Ron Jon has broadened its surfer lifestyle to the skateboard crowd, too. The store will have plenty of competition in Clearwater Beach when it comes to beachwear. However, more than half the chain's sales are of its own store brands.
Information from a story by Times staff writer Mike Brassfield was used in this report.