Transworld Business recently stopped by the HUF LA shop to catch up with HUF co-founder Anne Freeman as part of their 30/30 series, which highlights one retail shop a day for 30 days. Check out the feature below, discussing some history behind the brand and to see what’s in store for HUF in the future.
On a recent road trip to Los Angeles, TransWorld Business dropped in at the HUF skate shop to catch up with Co-Founder Anne Freeman. Together with pro skater Keith Hufnagel, the two opened their first retail location in San Francisco nearly nine years ago, and shortly evolved from a retailer to a brand after printing a limited number of namesake T-shirts that flew off the shelves. The retail locations multiplied and at their peak turned into a four-store chain in the city, but have since closed down, with the last shop on Hayes Street shutting its doors several months ago. For Hufnagel and Freeman, having a location in LA made more sense, due to having one of its production facilities headquartered there.
“Even with a great staff up there, shops really do best when an owner is around to give the product, employees, and customers the attention they deserve,” says Hufnagel.
The Los Angeles shop, a modest 110-square-foot space that opened three years ago, was bustling on a recent Wednesday afternoon, with a number of different customers filtering in and out of the shop’s busy Fairfax Avenue entrance. Shop rep Jordan LLavanes, who helped several skaters with boards in tow pick up a few key items, took us around the sales floor, pointing out HUF brand T-shirts, hats and footwear, which the shop carries almost exclusively—although it also supports a select group of brands, including the Deluxe family (Real, Krooked, Anti-Hero) as well as Quietlife, DQM, and Anything.
Freeman, who was busy at work in the shop’s back office and stock room, took a minute to chat with us about what’s in store for HUF in the future.
What sets HUF apart from other action sports retailers in the area?
Keith Huf (my partner and co-owner ) is still a professional skateboarder and rolls up all sweaty looking for grip tape like any other customer. I don’t think that is the case with a lot of other owners of shops in the neighborhood.
How is the skate community different in LA as opposed to SF?
That’s a better question for someone that actually skates, but in SF, because of the way it is set up geographically, its just part of the vernacular and landscape. I think in LA, if you want to skate, you better be good at driving and sitting in traffic too.
What retail lessons have you learned from this particular shop?
That if you own the shop, don’t think that you can step away and have everything run to it’s best potential. Even with fantastic employees, you still need to be there to make it happen.
How do you decide what other brands to carry in your store?
DQM is a brand from New York that Chris Keeffe started. Chris and Keith have been best friends since they were really young, Anything is made by Aaron Bonderoff, another longtime New York friend of ours. Andy Mueller makes Quiet life and is seriously the nicest person and a friend of Keith’s forever. And Deluxe is the company that Keith has been riding for 18 years, so that just makes sense. They have done so much to support our business over the years and really help us out, and we like to give support back where we can. Of course the shop is a business, but it has also been a labor of love. We don’t get in brands just because they “sell;” The shop is an extension of Keith’s personality and relationships.
How has the store changed and evolved since it opened? Have you always been in that same location?
We are still at 410 N. Fairfax. I think the shop just keeps getting better. We did a terrible job of making ourselves visible from the street, so people still come in and say, “When did this open?” and I’m like, “three years ago” [laughts]. I have been meaning for years to get it painted on the outside so that you can see it better, but I just can’t commit to any color. It has definitely become more of a hang out spot for kids, and we love that.
How has moving the entire operation to LA helped benefit the company as a whole?
We miss SF! That was our roots and our loyal customers. But SF is not a good city to employ more than 25 people in. The tax rules and laws for companies that size are nearly impossible for a brand like ours to keep up with financially. Also, with manufacturing, a lot of what we make is done right near our HQ in downtown LA, and things that are made overseas come into ports in LA, making the shipping less for us. All of these things help us save money and ultimately can keep the retail price of our garments and shoes down, which is something we want to try to do for our customers.
Do you foresee opening additional retail locations in LA down the road?
Probably not. One is enough.
Does HUF have any plans to expand into any other categories?
No. Not at this time. We are just focused on fine tuning and improving what we already make. And we really want to excel in footwear. We have been making clothes for a while, but footwear is new. So much to learn, especially when shoes need to perform technically. Keith is super passionate about the stuff he is making now. I think it’s enough to keep him busy for a long, long time.
Read the article over at Transworld Business.
Come visit us at the HUF LA shop, 410 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA, 90036.