Summers on Long Island have forever been associated with the beach. For many, thoughts of gliding across sleek, rolling waves on surfboards are also not far behind.
For Brian Keane, the owner of Ahloe Cal Cruz Surf Shop, surfing has come to mean even more than a summer pastime. It's been his business for the past 24 years.
"I was always a surfer, even as a young kid," Keane said. "Even then it was my dream to have a surf shop. I was working as a bartender, and I was like, 'I've gotta do something with my life.' So I opened a little 500-sq. ft. store in Merrick with $5,000 and a lot of hope."
That was back in 1986. As the business grew, he moved to his current, larger location on Merrick Road in Bellmore, and soon expanded further by taking over the vacant store beside him and knocking down the wall to double his space. The shop now also sells skateboards and gear.
At first Keane just sold typical surfing gear.
"We used to just sell surf stuff - surfboards, rash guards, etc.," he said. "Now our main things are sunglasses, dress shirts, board shorts, and sandals. That's where our money is."
Keane shed some light on the amusing play on words that constitutes the name of his shop.
"It's short for 'local cruise,' which is what the local hangout was called back in the 60s," he said. "We just played with the words a little to give it that Hawaii/California feel. Besides, it was a way to stand out."
For an independent store to survive in these troubled economic times, you need to be adaptable to market trends. Keane's adaptability even extends into the time of year you'd expect a surf shop's business to be at its worst: winter. Instead of simply riding the season out, Keane takes it head-on.
"When summer ends, we turn around and start selling winter clothes," he said. "We bring out hooded sweatshirts, jeans, jackets, thermals...the same things you'd find in a winter clothing store, you'd find here."
Keane made a point of mentioning Ahloe Cal Cruz Surf Shop's strong ties to the community of Bellmore, and how important his local customers are to keeping his business afloat.
"People support the shop because we support the town," he said. "We give to every church, every school, every needy kid; we never turn a good cause down. We've always given something."
Bucking the trend of Internet sales, the only thing you'll find for sale on Ahloe Cal Cruz's website are T-shirts with the store's logo...and even then, the site instructs you to call the store to order them.
Lastly, Keane wanted to stress to the public that there's a lot more to Ahloe Cal Cruz than just surfboards.
"We're not just for surfers," he said. "Our store's really for everybody. We have a lot of people coming in who are surprised by the variety of stuff we carry. Little by little, people are finding out."