Filling a blank canvas in West OC
WEST OCEAN CITY — Having the Dew Tour come to Ocean City was driven, in part, by the fact that for decades, Northern Worcester County has been home to a thriving skate and surf subculture. Although to be a subculture a group has to be defined by more than what its clothes, the clothes act as a kind of signifier. It’s in that way that the clothes don’t so much make the man as they send out a signal as to the type of man he is. Similarly, surf and skate culture, while not defined by the clothes that come with them are dominated if not by brands than certainly by types.
Recognizing and responding to the rise in what might be called urban skate culture, Dani and Ryan Pogge decided to open Bungalow Seven as an alt shop for the alt. Pogge spent last week at the premier East Coast skate and surf show, which draws retailers from all over the country to meet up with the wholesalers on the cutting edge of everything from skateboard wheels to surfboard and everything in between. Before that she was in California and Las Vegas ferreting out brands and styles that are uncommon to the region.
When Bungalow Seven opens in March, most of the items they have for sale will be unavailable elsewhere. Pogge is playing the actual brands relatively close to the vest but they will include selections from Love Nail Tree and The Arbor Collective.
These companies in particular go with Bungalow Seven’s theme, which marries the hip with the ecologically interested. They are the kinds of brands for which profit, sustainability and artistic freedom aren’t separate ideas or part of a larger marketing ploy but rather an natural way of going about doing business.
It’s an attitude that appeals to the Pogges, who went to pretty extreme lengths to ensure that their shop was in step with their personal attitudes.
“We believe that art is a passion,” Pogge said. “For us, ‘Urban’ suggests the art of the city.”
Bungalow Seven will be an art-heavy shop. When the couple purchased the former Boog’s Barbecue restaurant, they took it down to the foundation so it could be more ecologically sound in its new construction as well as meet their particular vision for the interior.
In addition to regular retail space, Bungalow Seven has a room dedicated to skateboard building. The idea is that customers can learn to build their own boards from a professional and continue to build them on their own in the future.
Pogge said they want to be as much a social hub as a shop, giving people the opportunity to hang around, share and learn from one another. The couple also wants to extend beyond skate and surf apparel and accessories into being another art center in the area.
While they remain blank for now, Pogge said the shop will feature the kind of art and artists consistent with the Bungalow Seven vision. Although the project took them the better part of the year, as she returned from what is one of her last buying trips, Pogge was ready to get the business started.
“We’ve been under construction since May,” she said.
Beyond the obvious and understandable anticipation that precedes the big opening of any business, because the subculture is so small, the buzz about their potential opening has grown daily into a dull roar, the echos of which have reached the Pogges’ ears.
“We’ve heard everything from the rumor that we would be a surfboard shop to that we would be a restaurant,” she said. “It’s kind of funny.”
One of the few things accessories that won’t be available at Bungalow Seven will be surfboards. They will carry boogie boards, but they intend from the first to be primarily a skateboard purveyor, leaving the surfboard business to the other companies that have already had plenty of success along the beach.
Their distance from the beach is also less than coincidental.
“West Ocean City is growing,” Pogge said. “We wanted to be a part of it, it’s pretty exciting.”
Bungalow Seven, she said, will hopefully give brands new access to the region that weren’t available before. Getting exclusive deals from small skate and surf companies is difficult, but as the area becomes more a Mecca for alt sports, companies will vie for the opportunity to expand their markets to include Northern Worcester County.
It’s something she expects to have a part in, continually offering alternatives to the items that can be found anywhere else.
As the store opens, Pogge said, they expect to rotate through stock relatively quickly, keeping their customers coming back to see if there are any finds to be had.
“I like to think we’re opening the market for a lot of West Coast companies,” she said.
Bungalow Seven has started a Facebook page, keep an eye out for their grand opening in March