Friday, 26 March 2021 11:13

FRF Spotlight: The Women of Ron Jon Surf Shop and How They're Making Waves in Florida Retail

MARCH 26, 2021
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This Women's History Month, the Florida Retail Federation Features Retail Industry Leaders, Debbie Harvey & Michele Goodwin

Tallahassee, FL – For Women's History Month, the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) is highlighting two women making waves in retail at Ron Jon Surf Shop.


Meet Debbie Harvey and Michele Goodwin. 

Debbie Harvey, the current president and COO of Ron Jon Surf Shops, is set to retire this year. Michele Goodwin, the current Vice President of Retail Operations and Human Resources, is set to succeed Harvey. 

Though these women share different retail backgrounds, their experience in the industry is unmatched. 

Debbie Harvey is a retail industry leader. After graduating from the University of Florida, Harvey gained experience at other Florida retail companies including, Maas Brothers, Bealls and HSN, before serving the Ron Jon team. During her 20-plus year tenure, the Ron Jon team expanded from four locations to 12 stores while ensuring the integrity of the brand and their business model remained strong.

Much like Harvey, Goodwin has spent her career working in the retail industry. Goodwin is a Cocoa Beach native who joined Ron Jon in 1986. She began working in Ron Jon's retail store while attending the University of Central Florida. Goodwin diligently worked her way up the ranks. She spent time in the marketing and human resources department and began taking on larger roles before working on in-store operations. 

"When I joined, it was a very exciting time for Ron Jon, they were just starting to grow," said Goodwin. "I was surrounded by a lot of great people. It was never boring. We've been growing, changing and doing new things."

Ron Jon Surf Shop began in 1959 when founder Ron DiMenna was in search of a custom surfboard in New Jersey. DiMenna purchased three from California after his father offered entrepreneurial advice, "Buy three, sell two at a profit, then yours will be free." From there Ron Jon Surf Shop was born. DiMenna quickly opened two stores in Long Beach Island, New Jersey, and Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Today, Ron Jon Surf Shop is a privately-owned company, headquartered in Cocoa Beach. Both Harvey and Goodwin have continued Ron DiMenna's entrepreneurial spirit with their own business acumen and strategy. 

The company has grown drastically since 1959, now operating 12 stores in five different states. Ron Jon licensed partners also operate stores in several airports as well as two international locations. But the reach of Ron Jon Surf Shop spans even further.

"Ron Jon's name and brand recognition are much larger than our company," said Goodwin. "People see Ron Jon stickers everywhere. I think it's a real testament of good marketing, having a brand be recognized larger than it is."

Harvey credits their team of 400 employees to ensure their physical locations are more than just a store. The Ron Jon store teams ensure that customers feel welcome and have a fun and unique experience when they visit.

"Everyone here has a common goal," stated Harvey. "All of us work hard and enjoy our jobs. We are really adamant about the Ron Jon brand and making sure we exceed customer expectations. There's no typical day at Ron Jon Surf Shop."

Harvey's words carried even greater weight when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. As with many retail businesses, Ron Jon Surf Shop temporarily shut its doors last March. 

"That was really unchartered territory for us," said Goodwin. "For the past 35 years, Ron Jon only closed for a day or two at a time if there was a hurricane headed our way. The unknown was the scariest part."

As Florida began to slowly reopen, people across the state began to spend more time at the beach as a safe option to go outside the home. 

The Ron Jon team reopened to meet the demand but with appropriate health and safety measures in place. To ensure the health and safety of employees and customers, the Ron Jon team installed plexiglass barriers, regularly sanitized the store and high touch areas, kept limited capacity in-store and positioned employees at the door to ensure customers were complying with mask ordinances. 

"We were very happy we had business come back. We truly did not know how many people would return," said Harvey.

What Ron Jon did not expect, was the surge of customers. 

"We weren't sure what reopening was going to look like," stated Goodwin. "We were actually a little overwhelmed; we went from zero to 100, but we were able to safely manage the influx of customers because of our great team. We listened to our team and learned about what was going on in the field. As a result, we were able to make decisions quickly and pivot to meet our customers' needs and maintain safety."

While Harvey and Goodwin were relieved by the return of customers to storefronts, the urgency to support local businesses after a pandemic shutdown was evident.

"Florida businesses hire your neighbors and my neighbors," Harvey explained. "It's important to keep these people employed. For many business owners, it is their life's work; they've devoted their entire life to their business. It's important to get back to a place where they can be competitive and sustain themselves, their business and their employees."

"It is very, very important whether big or small, to support Florida businesses that are employing fellow Floridians and creating economic growth within the state and our communities."

As Harvey prepares for retirement, she expresses she is thrilled to be passing on the torch to Michele. She is most proud of the company and culture that has been built.

"Michele has a true sense of Ron Jon," said Harvey. "She knows our customers, who our employees are and what the company culture is. She knows our people and has a really unique understanding of the company. She's seen the company grow from a smaller operation to a larger company."

Goodwin looks forward to upholding the traditions of Ron Jon Surf Shop while moving the company and operation into the future. 

"For a company that has been around as long as we have, you have to honor what came before," Goodwin affirmed. "But for a company to continue, you have to keep evolving and rethinking what the business looks like while maintaining that homage to the past. We have a name brand and reputation that people get very nostalgic about. You don't want to lose that as we move into the next decade. That is the fun part."

Ron Jon Surf Shop is one of many retail businesses in Florida that you can support while you shop local and "Find It In Florida." Visit the website or follow them on FacebookTwitter or Instagram for more information. 

Last year, the Florida Retail Federation launched the "Find It In Florida" campaign to spread public awareness on the importance of shopping locally. When Floridian shoppers "Find It In Florida", they are helping to keep doors open, boost the local economy and support their communities. 

Florida's retailers have continued to take proactive measures during the pandemic to provide consumers with safe access to meet their shopping needs, including safely shopping in stores, curbside pickup and online ordering options.  

The Florida Retail Federation is the statewide trade association representing retailers -- the businesses that sell directly to consumers. Florida retailers provide one out of every five jobs in the state, pay more than $49 billion in wages annually, and collect and remit more than $20 billion in sales taxes for Florida’s government each year.


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