THIS FAMILY-RUN BOARDWALK MALL CELEBRATES 40 YEARS
CREATIVITY, courage, and consistency are the keys to success, and the 40th year anniversary of Ocean City’s Surf Mall is living proof.
Before Alex Kazmarck’s purchase of the space in 1979, the Surf Mall was originally the Surf Theater; and although this entertainment proved to be successful for many years prior, Alex’s efforts to increase profits fell short. Quickly, he recognized the need for a change and exploration outside of movies.
After developing a successful blueprint, Alex found retail of great interest, thus the vision of the first Boardwalk mall in Ocean City quickly turned into reality. By 1982, business began booming; selling apparel, jewelry, records, and more, where the ultimate goal was to have a little bit of everything.
As each summer afterward concluded, the mall’s prosperity was becoming more evident, and it was not long before the business became a family affair. As Alex’s time for retirement closed in, his sons Wes and Chris Kazmarck knew they wanted to keep the one place that not only meant a lot to them, but to their father.
“From as long as I can remember, my brother Chris and I grew up in my dad’s Surf Mall, working from high school into college,” said Wes. “We always had an interest and we knew how hard it was to build this up. Our dad worked really hard, and my brother and I take a lot of pride in that. There are big shoes to fill and we plan to keep things rolling.”
Passing down the baton to those next in line was only one piece of the puzzle, as every year began to hold new challenges.
“The trickiest part is that no summer is ‘business as usual’, every year we have to change the playbook if we want to stay on top of the latest trends and see success,” said Wes. “You just have to hope you bought right, and when it does work out, it is the ultimate reward.”
Although a family run business, there would be no celebration of 40 years without the team itself.
“There is a lot to keep track of here, and it is far from a two-man job,” said Wes. “So much goes into the whole process, it is impossible to do it alone. All of our tenants have been with us since the ‘90s, and not only are they super awesome workers, but also amazing humans. Although the field can be overwhelming, the Surf Mall family that we have created is one the biggest motivations. My brother and I stay in touch with people who started working here at the mall when they were 15, and now they are adults with children. It is really cool to still have those relationships, and it is something we always liked.”
Each employee has their own niche, which is fundamental to the diversity of what the Surf Mall offers.
“The variety we offer is what sets us apart. We have shops covering beach apparel, t shirts, henna tattoos, hair wraps, jewelry, records, and other collectables,” said Wes.
Wes owns the fashion boutique, Birdcage, named after his parents first store on 6th Street, as well as T-shirt World and Lollipop Kids, a beach supplies shop. On the other side of the business, Chris runs the more ‘vintage’ aspects of the mall itself: a collectable shop, and Rock Star Headquarters.
“The idea of the mall is we always want to have every base covered.
Our customers should walk in here and feel like they do not have to go
anywhere else, because we have it all,” said Wes.
To celebrate 40 years of business (and countless memories), the Surf Mall will be continuing its tradition of Tie Dye Tuesday nights, where the entire staff suits up in their employee t-shirts and the mall blasts retro throwback music for its customers. Additionally, Throwback Thursday nights will be starting up as each employee will be repping the original staff tees from the 1982 movie theater.
“We will also have all sorts of specials throughout the year and will be doing everything in our power to emphasize the importance of this anniversary,” said Wes. “We are in a business where the failure rate after the first year is 90 percent, so this achievement means a lot.”
The Kazmarck family keeps the business near and dear to their hearts.
“My family has always been in Ocean City,” said Wes. “Coming from Chester, PA as tourists, my grandparents picked a perfect spot as they went on to build numerous hotels on 9th Street; The Sifting Sands, Coral Sands, Tradewinds, and Pebble Beach. Now, with our Surf Mall, it really is a traditional family Boardwalk business. Going on the third generation, our kids are already so involved. My daughter has been here since before she could walk, and now works for me.”
Although the future is unpredictable, Wes knows some things will always hold true.
“My brother and I are not exactly the retiring kind,” said Wes. “We have no idea where our kids will take this place, but we do know that there will always be a Kazmarck in the building.”
To stay up to date with the Surf Mall’s latest trades and trends, check out the following: Instagram: @surfmalloc • Facebook: @surfmall • Birdcage website: www.shopthebirdcage.com • Birdcage Instagram: @shopbirdcage
Photos provided by the Kazmarcks.
Read this and more in the August issue of Ocean City Magazine