Surfside Casual Furniture

Sep 09, 2016

When Jan Martin of Forked River came on as general manager of Surfside Casual Furniture on Route 72 in Manahawkin last year, she had the gargantuan task of making the wide-open, multi-level, 40,000-square-foot warehouse space feel cozy and inviting. Fortunately for her, she has a knack for that kind of thing.

With her background in the antiques business and interior design, she brings a bounty of expertise to the table. She’s “done a lot of decorating on LBI,” she said – enough to know “not everybody wants ‘beachy.’” The offerings at Surfside range from classic to modern with plenty of eclectic accents.

“It’s the finishing touches that make a house a home,” she said. It’s also the art of arrangement. Break up a great room using a set of antique windows as a partition, or strategically hang a swath of burlap or other fabric to “create a wall” and hang a decorative clock or piece of art on it. “Layering is important,” she said.

These are the kinds of ideas and tips Martin is happy to pass on to customers, along with the savings. At Surfside there’s no “game,” she said, “no big margins.” As the buyer, she gets the best possible prices, and rather than mark up the merchandise, the store keeps it affordable for the end user.

“I want to create something that inspires people,” she said. She wants shoppers to enjoy the experience and not feel overwhelmed.

From an industry standpoint, the whole home furnishing landscape has changed since Superstorm Sandy, Martin said. New home construction and renovations have people starting over, upgrading and modernizing their domestic lives.

In the store, Martin’s vignettes and partial rooms invite shoppers to lose themselves in tiny spaces of suggested groupings that make them forget where they are.

Many pieces in the showroom are of Surfside’s own design, brought in on containers. Specially selected trim colors, accents and hardware give pieces a Surfside signature look.

Martin makes such a point of thinking outside the box, she said, “I don’t even believe the box is there.”

The store itself has a certain chicness to its design, to the credit of owner Robert Himmelstein, who with his parents, Larry and Dot Himmelstein, owns the company that includes the flagship store in Somers Point, a warehouse in Egg Harbor Township and a new store in Stone Harbor.

A central glass-front industrial elevator car, inside a glimmering, three-sided shaft, makes for a sweet ride up to the second floor, to the outdoor living department, the Serta mattress gallery and youth bedrooms, featuring that staple of traditional beach house living – bunkbeds.

The first floor is all indoor furniture, where Martin has invested her pride and passion in setting it up just so. Even the business counter is elaborate and inviting, with stools lined up at the wraparound counters of fossil stone. The overall effect of the showroom is “comfortably coastal,” awash in every conceivable tint and shade of blue and beige, with splashes of muted reds and yellows, and copious amounts of white, off-white and distressed neutrals.

A lot of the current trends reflect a certain “back to basics” vibe, she said, relaxed and lived in, with recycled and reclaimed materials at the fore. Earthy is a key word solid woods, driftwood finish. “Sundried ash” is one color available in a popular farm-style dining table with self-storing components for space-saving solutions.

Surfside carries American brands such as Stanley, Four Seasons, Flex Steel and Huntington House.

“We have a price point for everybody,” she said – and something to suit every taste.

Surfside does “a tremendous business in outdoor living.” The Polywood line, for example, has a long list of beach and bay applications, from lounge and glider chairs, to high-top tables and custom bars. Impenetrable by the salt air, it’s solid. It won’t rust, fade or grow mold; any hardware is stainless steel. It’s very heavy so it won’t blow over, but it does float. Power wash it to keep it looking new.

“Polywood is going to outlive all of us,” Martin said.

Outdoor living extends to cooking and entertaining, with plenty of wicker and teak furniture that looks almost too good to stay outside, thanks to advancements in Sunbrella, a.k.a. performance fabric. Surfside will help design and build an outdoor kitchen of powder-coated stainless steel.

Martin encourages customers to bring house plans so she can help them visualize the layout and consider details builders might overlook. “You know, if you’re going to float a couch, you might want to think about floor outlets.”

She likes the opportunity to get in on the ground floor, so to speak, to help tweak the plans.

Surfside has a six-member team of sales consultants, and they’re not working on commission. They all share the same special pride and skill in the art of creating a well-put-together living space.

At trade shows, Martin said, “I try to look for the next ‘pet rock’ idea.”

— Victoria Ford

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