By Robb Bailey
Take a walk or a bike ride down the boardwalk in Pacific Beach and you’ll no doubt pass by the South Coast Wahines Store with little or no recognition. The signage says South Coast Wahines in plain view, but it’s not until you actually step into the store that you realize what a haven this small store is for female shoppers.
One of South Coast’s lesser known stores, the all-girls surf shop is located in Pacific Beach, right on Crystal Pier. With tourism accounting for a large percentage of business, you’ll see no blinking lights or crazy tag lines out front; just a modest sign with a local surf shop feel.
With so many choices for guys in surf shops, and only a small area traditionally dedicated to girls apparel, South Coast felt the need to open a shop with more of a boutique feel. The concept was to have a store where a girl could walk in from the boardwalk, have lots of fashion selection, and be comfortable in a female-staffed environment. In September of 2000, they opened their doors just steps away from Crystal Pier.
“Women love to shop whether they’re happy or sad, or it’s rainy or sunny out. Guys don’t do that.” said South Coast buyer Heather Lamb about the concept. “I love that store.”
San Diego’s tourism plays a huge part in the Wahines store’s success according to Heather. “Our location is key. It’s been a great success for us. Even girls who don’t surf wear our stuff.”
Assistant manager Allison Bonesteel agrees that most people don’t know the Wahines Store is a South Coast shop, but they still have lots of regulars who come in on a consistent basis. “We even have some regulars from Arizona who make it a point to come in our shop when they’re here on vacation.”
The reason for so much repeat business? Assistant manager Heather Ward explains that hard-to-find items, like beach dresses, are always in stock at Wahines. “I really like the stuff in the store. In other shops the girls section gets overshadowed, and most of the time our selection is way better.”
It’s not uncommon for the South Coast Windansea location to send female shoppers on a short walk over to the Wahines store if they can’t find what they need there. Heather Ward explains, “Usually it’s better to try on bikinis over here because we have a better selection and our girls know more about sizing.”
With plenty of dressing rooms, an insane flip-flop selection, and a newly renovated store, it’s easy to see why the South Coast Wahines store is becoming a staple in the surfing community.