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Sticking close to home

Westside nurtures surf and skate companies — plus offices have amazing views, officials say.

December 01, 2008|By Alan Blank

Pat Tenore founded RVCA, a clothing design company associated with surf and skateboard culture, in his Costa Mesa garage eight years ago.

Now RVCA is a household name in the surf industry, and despite the ailing economy the company has seen double-digit revenue growth each of the last two years, and its workforce has ballooned from 40 employees to 60.

At the end of this month, Tenore is moving his company across town to a bigger building, the third up-sizing in less than a decade. His determination to stay on the Westside of Costa Mesa — a location that has served as an incubator for several of the biggest surf and skateboard fashion companies in the country — led him to the 70,000-square-foot Paul Frank building less than a mile from his present address.

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“We want to stay close to where we started and close to the beach,” Tenore said. “And it’s really hard to find a building in this area because a lot of the area is being turned into residential.”

The surf and skateboard industry as a whole is suffering the same consequences as most others due to the recession, but on the Westside many of the businesses are finding ways to thrive. Hurley International had a strong year and Volcom is steadily spreading its influence.

“From what I’m hearing, there aren’t too many companies that grew in 2008, but from talking to retailers it seems like our neighbors on the Westside are all doing pretty well,” said Brad Blankinship, RVCA’s vice president.

Another Costa Mesa surf clothing start-up, Aqua VI, is taking the old cinder-block building that RVCA decorated with graffiti murals on the exterior walls and modern art hung all over the interior. Founder Lian Murray, who started out at Hurley, says the company has seen 300% growth in a year and needs a bigger building.

She’s happy to stay on the Westside because of the edgy, creative culture fostered by the area, and she really likes the RVCA building in particular.

“It’s useful, and exciting, and rebellious,” Murray said. “It reminds me of something you would find in SoHo, New York. There isn’t a whole lot of creativity in architecture in the city except for this little industry.”

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