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Tiffany Montgomery
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Storytelling key for new brand Roark

By Tiffany Montgomery
November 01, 2011 8:39 AM

Roark is a new brand started by some experienced industry executives who believe there is an opportunity – and a need - for a small, independent brand with a new perspective in the surf market.


We asked Founder and Creative Director Ryan Hitzel some questions about Roark’s brand identity, its strategy, how it is funded and how it will get shelf space in a crowded market filled with brands with deep pockets.


Roark window at LSSA Roark window at Laguna Surf & Sport

Ryan worked in Volcom’s art department during its huge growth period and now is an Associate Creative Director at Deutsch, working on accounts such as Volkswagen.


Storytelling is a key aspect of Roark’s DNA, and the brand has gotten some prime window space at important core retailers such as Pacwave in Santa Cruz and Laguna Surf & Sport.


Other accounts include Mitch’s Surf Shop in La Jolla, RDM in Del Mar, Wavelengths in Morro Bay, Patagonia in Cardiff, Swell.com, and Wetsand in Santa Barbara.


Why and when did you found Roark?

Roark window at PacwaveA Roark window at Pacwave in Santa Cruz

Ryan Hitzel: We started Roark in 2009 because we felt like there was a gap in the marketplace and an expanding void within surf culture. I think everyone saw the space created by big brands getting bigger and a heir apparent like RVCA being gobbled up.


But more importantly, it felt like we as surfers weren't being represented correctly. The bold, eccentric and adventurous spirit that got us here seemed to be slipping away as the industry's reach to new consumers expanded.


So we thought we'd go out there and make the things we like and be inspired by our travels here and abroad. We figured there'd be a few like-minded people out there that liked them too.


What is your background? Are you working full time on the brand now? 

pocket knifeA Roark pocket knife

I worked in the art department at Volcom in the early days from 1995 to 2005. I wore a lot of hats and learned much about the business as a whole. I worked collaboratively with design, marketing, advertising and international components when the company was blasting off. It was an epic thing to be a part of.


Then I decided to pursue a career in advertising outside the action sports industry. I'm an Associate Creative Director now, and have worked on brands like Volkswagen, Snapple, Carl's Jr. and OXFAM.


But currently, I'm doing anything I can to get Roark revved up. We're putting all of our energy into product and marketing while operating out of our spiritual hub we call "The Cottage" in Laguna Beach.


So for now I'm keeping my day job as the company grows so we can invest in key employees and the projects we want to pursue. It will allow us to grow the brand in a way that's consistent with our values and not have to pursue sales we don't agree with.


See Page 2 for how Roark is marketing the brand



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