22 Aug 2014
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Surviving the Season at Ocean House Surf

Diversity is the key, says owner Tim Oviatt.

Surviving the Season at Ocean House Surf Surviving the Season at Ocean House Surf
Through the surf shop's big windows a distant paddleboarder rakes the water, cruising parallel to the shore.

Inside the Humphrey Street store's windows, coffee and tea drinkers lean over iPads and laptops, a big lemon-colored sun drenching them in light.

It's a lazy Sunday afternoon in mid-January at Ocean House Surf Shop, one of four new businesses in the Gateway building across from Kings Beach.

Boards and coffee and a surprising boost from holiday sales have sustained the Ocean House — named after the erstwhile grand Swampscott hotel.

This is the first off-season for the fledgling surf and cafe business.

Owner Tim Oviatt, 33, a UMass finance and economics major who hails from Ohio, has his eyes on busier days.

He thinks his business is well positioned to invigorate the North Shore surf culture and make Swampscott a surf shop shopper's destination.

"The big trick is turning it into a year-round business," he said.

To that end he is relying on the store's cafe, its gluten-free bakery goods and soups, and its sandwiches.

Regular Meredith Knight, who lives down the street, has been frequenting the cafe since she discovered it in September, retunring for the view, the relaxed atmosphere and the people. 

Owner Tim Oviatt is also broadening the House line of apparel. Augmenting Ocean House brand shirts, sweatshirts and such with more women's attire and active wear like yoga pants and walker and jogger's gear.

He sells sunglasses and jewelry with surf-appeal. He sells longboards, which hang from high on the sidewall. He sells wetsuits.

The store is well stocked and arranged making full use of its long, high space yet leaving room for people to sit at tables or wander. The shop has outside tables, too.

The owner lives a half-mile away, in Swampscott, and rides a longboard (skateboard) to work. He had his eyes on the 128 Humphrey St. location long before he opened, May 5, 2013.

His foray into surf sales started as a mobile venture. He sold items online, storing products in his rental apartment's basement and a garage. Later, he opened a shop in Beverly but saw Swampscott's seaside space more fitting for his plans.

For one, Swampscott's nearby beaches at Kings and Nahant offer boat-free space for surfers and paddleboarders.

Kings' waves serve up good rides for surfers in storms and Nahant's beach is prime for unbroken ridable waves, ideal for beginners and seasoned surfers, he said.

He also sees his shop filling a void. Six or so years ago, Marblehead had a surf shop but it closed. Surfers from the North Shore and Boston often travel to Hampton Beach in New Hampshire to shop their sport.

Now, they have a surf store in striking distance.

There was a time, he has been told by surfers from the 60s and 70s, that this area had a sizeable surfing community. 

Oviatt hops to restore the community, introducing beginners and reintroducing former surfers to the sport though lessons and camps.

In the meantime he is working seven days a week, as many as 15 hours a day, to make the dream a reality.

Ocean House Surf Shop
128 Humphrey St.
(781) 593-1020

Winter hours:

Monday thru Friday 8-5

Saturday 8-8

Sunday 8-5

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