Kahuna Dave, left, with MARKETING IMMORTAL John Brown. 

By David Horsfall
Interior of Alki Surf Shop.

A few years ago, I asked the ancient art director when he was going to retire. Pshaw, he sputtered. Never!

He plans to go out with a T-square in his hand.

But most of us eventually escape the ad asylum and look for something else to do. Some people golf. Others travel. And if you’re a talented storyteller like Ron Elgin, you write books.

Me. I opened a surf shop. Where there’s no surf. Cowabunga!

When I first proposed this idea to my wife, Terri Nakamura, a top graphic designer and marketing director, there was rolling of eyes.

“Favorite customers” Natasha, left, and Danielle.

She scoffed. “What do you know about retail?”

The answer was, nothing. I’d spent 40 years in advertising, working at agencies such as Publicis, EvansGroup, Mogelgaard & Associates and Ehrig. But I’d never swiped a customer’s credit card. Didn’t know how to work a cash register.

So, what could go wrong—other than bankruptcy and utter despair?

I designed some T-shirts and hoodies and launched Alki Surf Shop online. Even registered a trademark, based on the shop’s initials (i.e., Genuine ASS Brand). My wife said no one is going to buy a shirt that says ASS on it. Especially women.

Seahawks guard Mark Glowinski with Lexie White.

Six months later we opened a retail store in the heart of Alki Beach. Within an hour, we had our first sale. A hostess from Duke’s Chowder House grabbed an ASS T-shirt. “I love this top,” she said.

I tried not to gloat. Too much.

Since then, we’ve built the business, become part of the local retail community and enjoyed meeting people from around the world, who get a royal Hawaiian sendoff—a blast from the conch shell when they leave with their purchases—heard up and down Alki.

It’s a job that takes me on vacation every day.

Steve Mayeda showing the colors on Maui.

If someone were to ask if I miss the agency life, I would say I miss the days when the ad biz was rowdy and robust. Before the Internet stole print advertising’s lunch and legendary characters roamed the hallways in search of big ideas and booze.

So much fun. And most of it legal.

But I don’t miss the deadlines, the politics or the elaborate pitches for new business. Here, new business just walks in the door.

Occasionally, the ancient art director stops by the shop. I pour him a cup of coffee and we sit and admire the view. The water, the mountains, the bikinis.

Wow, he says. I just smile. Life is better on a beach.

David Horsfall is a former copywriter for a number of local agencies. You can reach him at kahuna@alkisurfshop.com.