By Justin Swanson | LB Indy
First conceived as the only surf shop at the tip of Baja, Mexico, in 1987, Costa Azul grew by one and set up shop in Laguna Beach in 1991 by founder, owner, surfboard shaper, and native Laguna resident Rod Greenup.
Then in his early 20s, Greenup began shaping boards in 1985. Though he originally wanted to be a landscape architect, as he says, “surfing took over. It was a creative endeavor and something I was passionate about.”
Indeed, board repair and shaping is something that still grips his curiosity. “You never stop learning about something when you are doing design,” he says.
As for his career, it all began on “$500 and a handshake,” as he set up shop in Mexico.
“It was more a lifestyle than a moneymaking venture,” he recalls, surfing and camping on the beach above the high tide mark, reflecting on how he has turned it into a retailing career.
Now, located at 689 S. Coast Highway, Costa Azul is again expanding its borders, taking over the building next door vacated by a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in 2011.
The shop will effectively subdivide: the original store will be retain CA Surf Shop name and will handle lessons and board rentals, while the new store will be christened CA Surf and Paddle and will sell water related merchandise. It should open by summer.
“The opportunity arose,” says Greenup. “We had grown out of this place as you can see.”
Indeed much of the current store is cramped from the inventory of boards, clothing, wetsuits and gear. Some of the store inventory is already inside the new shop, though not in its intended state of display.
After opening up the second shop in Laguna, Greenup again expanded, this time in the Santa Barbara college town of Isla Vista. At the time he was already bringing up boards and shirts to his friends that lived there, when it dawned on him that he could start a store. He since closed it when his rent was raised.
Now but one Costa Azul remains. Greenup continues to shape boards, both custom and stock, receiving “blanks” from a fiberglass manufacturer in San Clemente. Boards themselves range between $350 for a small short board, to $750-950 for a standup paddle board.
Greenup says his store is the only full service surf shop in Laguna, as he provides rentals, lessons, repairs, and custom boards to customers. CA was the one of the first local shops to offer standup paddle lessons, rentals and sales, as well as private surfing lessons. Greenup competes for customers with other home-grown surf retailers, such as Laguna Surf & Sport, SUP Co. and Hobie’s, and enjoys an enviable spot near the Cleo Street Beach access.
As for the property, the 44 year-old KFC franchise closed its doors in August 2011, and the until-recently empty building has seen little action since then.
Within days of the fast food restaurant’s closure, a new lease was signed by David Maniero with the intention to open an all-natural burger joint. For unexplained reasons, Maniero balked and instead reworked another closed Laguna Beach restaurant into Neapolitan, a pizzeria and birreria in its first year of operation.
“They signed the lease and didn’t want to honor it,” says Michael Kinsman, who represents Harry Wallace, the sub-lessee of the KFC property. Pine Alley LLC, or rather Susan and Joseph Jahraus, a local family, owns the property.
Changing the use of the property from fast-food joint to surf shop does not require any new conditional use permits because the property exists in a commercial zone, says the city’s principal planner, Monica Tuchscher.