For Tommy Mulligan, owner of Flagler Board Shack, owning a surf, skate and stand-up paddle-board shop, is not about fame or fortune, it's about creating a community of like-minded individuals. It's about creating a fun place where locals hang out and tourists are made to feel like locals. Mulligan sells stoke and good vibes and serves as a great reminder, to us all, that it's okay to slow down, relax and actually enjoy what you do.
"I live upstairs above the shop," Mulligan said. "I'm two blocks from the ocean. Together, with three other apartments, we all share a communal backyard. We all hang out together and watch each other's kids. We eat, drink, surf and be merry."
For Mulligan, who also works as an organ transplant logistics nurse out of Mayo Hospital in Jacksonville, it was never his intention to own a surf shop. Before getting into nursing in 2003, Mulligan worked as a corporate trainer for the Ocala Alehouse. Originally from New York, he spent some time in South Florida, Orlando, Ocala and, in 2011, eventually made the move to Flagler Beach.
"The surf shop has been around for about 10 years," Mulligan said. "In early 2015, we heard that the shop was going up for sale. I though it would be fun to immerse myself in this new beach community by owning and running a place I grew to love." Mulligan eventually bought out his original partners and now has his friends help him run the shop. "It's a family, aka 'Ohana', affair type shop," he said. "Everyone gets to share in the stoke."
For as much fun as Mulligan has, he still has a business to run. We asked about some early challenges and what, if anything, he would consider redoing if given the opportunity. "There was a bit of a learning curve with getting back into retail," he said. "Also being just a paddle-boarder, I didn't know a whole lot about surfboards and skateboards. It took some time to get to know the business. In terms of a redo, it would have made more sense to take on a silent partner versus an active partner. Too many chiefs is never a good thing. I might also have waited to buy the business, but then again, I might have missed my opportunity if I waited."
"You don't buy a surf shop because you're going to make a lot of money," Mulligan said. "You buy it because you love it." Much like his communal backyard, the Flagler Board Shack has turned into a place where people come together for movie nights, live bands and fellowship. "Flagler Beach is awesome. All the vendors have such good relationships with each other. We all work together and carry different merchandise to make sure we're not stepping on each other's toes. It's a very supportive place."
Looking ahead, Mulligan envisions growing the business and adding more inventory. He would love to be able to do one skate, one surf and one stand-up paddle-board contest per year. He can see Flagler Board Shack being the main sponsor of those events, but admits that it would probably require the assistance of a dedicated event person to pull off three events per year. In terms of his nursing position, Mulligan shared that he has 12 or 13 years left until he retires. Once retired from nursing, he plans on spending his days at the surf shop.
Mulligan offers up some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Don’t let fear immobilize you," he said. "Learn to conquer it. If you want something, it’s up to you. Understand that you’ll have to make sacrifices. Be passionate about what you're doing. Also, follow advice from groups like SCORE. Learn from their mistakes. No need to reinvent the wheel. Lastly, have six months of money put away. You'll need it."
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