Indoek Venice – Mollusk Surf Shop

Mollusk Surf Shop is a modern beacon of art, craft, community and whimsy in a largely homogenized surf culture. In 2007, the second shop location planted roots on the corner of Windward and Pacific, which is the epicenter of Venice. Chad “Nightsnake” Marshall, a born and raised Angeleno who is dripping with style (both in and out of the water) runs the Venice shop and breaks down what makes this place so crazy and unique.

Mollusk Surf Shop is a modern beacon of art, craft, community and whimsy in a largely homogenized surf culture. In 2007, the second shop location planted roots on the corner of Windward and Pacific, which is the epicenter of Venice. Chad “Nightsnake” Marshall, a born and raised Angeleno who is dripping with style (both in and out of the water) runs the Venice shop and breaks down what makes this place so crazy and unique.

How did this Venice location first come about?

Chad Marshall: It started with John McCambridge up in San Francisco 10 years ago – this is our 10 year anniversary. He basically wanted to expand, so he and this guy, Brett Simonson (who was working and hanging out at the shop up there) brought the shop down to Venice and found this location. This other guy, Keith Aderholdt built it out, Jay Nelson built the tree house and then a few guys were working here and that’s it. It’s obviously evolved a lot from those earlier days.

When did you first get involved with Mollusk and start working here in the shop.

CM: I started working here when the shop opened in 2007. I was living down the street with a friend, Matt Wesson and I was jobless, I needed to pay rent. It was kind of hard to get a job at first, they were kind of dicking me around and they hired me to work like one day a week. Then they saw what the fuck it was that I was talking about so they fired these other two dudes gave me a full time job. So then I just kind of slowly took over that way – started dominating the scene.

Why Venice?

CM: I think in their eyes, Venice was a perfect “no-man’s land,” kind of how they started Mollusk up there in Ocean Beach, there was nothing up there when they first started. I feel like that’s how they felt they thought Venice was. Actually, at that time there really wasn’t much around here yet. It wasn’t like how it was today, like with Abbot Kinney being such a huge scene. You would go walk around the corner right here and ask if there was a vegan restaurant around and they would tell you to fuck off probably. Now they’re like, “Oh, which restaurant do you like? Eeeew! I’m gonna step over this homeless person with my black American Express card.” You know what I mean?

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen since the shop opened up?

CM: I mean, just the money. There are barely any shootings anymore. Dude, you used to just go walk this block and there were just these run down buildings. Now they’ve all been torn down to build multi-million dollar, five-story mansions. Just everything, the crime has been driven east. It’s just gotten so gentrified, which is great in some ways, but Venice has changed a lot over the last 10 years.

You grew up in the Valley originally. Did you come to Venice a lot growing up?

CM: Yeah. I mean we did in high school, I went to Agora High. I grew up out there and basically I’d come down here with my friends and skate the Pavilion and stuff like that because I was super into skating. We’d come down here and get “paraphernalia” and what not. Then I graduated high school and moved down here, it was just an instinct thing. As soon as I was 18, I moved down into Santa Monica and Venice area and have just been here ever since.

It’s changed a lot. Back in the day it was a little more seedy. The restaurants and bars were more divey. One of the best Mexican restaurants, La Fiesta Brava on Rose street, where I’ve been eating for years got bought out by somebody and they’re going to put like a Tasting Kitchen in there or something like that. I understand that’s like a growth for the neighborhood, but it’s just one of those things where a lot of the soul and character of Venice is getting lost I think. You could accuse us (Mollusk) of that too maybe, but it’s definitely one of those things where a lot of the original character is getting lost.

Give me some shop stories. You guys are in the epicenter of weirdness right here.

CM: Dude, there are so many, it’s crazy. There was a guy upstairs I had to carry out of the store who OD’d during one of our shop parties one time. I threw him in the gutter out front, called an ambulance to come and take him away. It was pretty heavy. I mean, shootings, there was a shooting about a month ago. Someone was killed on this block, a cop came into the shop and had everything taped off. I had to get escorted in to the shop. It was basically a shoot out right in front of the shop. So many things like that, it’s limitless. It’s just crazy. Even with all the changes, we’re still in Venice. I’m so desensitized. I grew up with a father in the LAPD, going into the city, and dealing with that shit my whole life. Living down here for the last 12 or 13 years is just like, now I’m just totally numb. Nothing’s shocking anymore.

What else you got that’s not so dark?

CM: Well, we’ve done a lot of movies and commercial rentals and stuff like that – just because of our location and the look of the shop. In a couple weeks some studio is renting the shop out to do a new Bruce Willis movie where I guess the scene has the other co-star, John Goodman who owns this surf shop. Supposedly Bruce Willis is super drunk or something and he roller skates in here butt-naked. So that’s the scene shooting here soon, which going to be like pretty fucking rad. King Ralph and Die Hard all up in here. Win win bro.

That’s awesome. What are some of the funny memorable quotes you’ve heard coming in the shop?

CM: Max, I know yours. Wetsuit pants guy is pretty good.

Max Karnig: There was a guy who came in once who was basically staring at wetsuits for like 10 minutes and resisting help. When he finally opened up, he was like “I want a wetsuit,” (with like a really thick Russian accent) “I want wetsuit but, only pants. ONLY PAAANTS!” He said it like the whole time, “ONLY PAAAANTS!”


MK: He kept going on like, “IF I BRING TO TAILOR, WILL HE MAKE TO ONLY PAAANTS?” And you can’t really say much to that, but we had this really funny guy at the time working here who was like, “Yeah, sure just get the scissors out.” Then I had to tell him like, “No, no, no” and usher him out of the store. He came in a week ago to say that he finally found the pants. He’s been here probably four times in the last six months.

CM: Just being right here in the epicenter of Venice, right at the Venice sign on Windward – we’re a block away from the boardwalk. There are a lot of redundant things we hear constantly. Do you know how many people come in a day that ask us: A.) For a bathroom, B.) if we have change for the meter, C.) Where the post office is. We have a list of just these questions where like you see the person walking up, or they’re just going to scream from the window. We get hundreds of people a day who do that. All day long for like eight years. It’s pretty funny, but you just look at people sometimes and think, “I’m losing faith in humanity.” These people are just so harsh on us all the time too and you have to be nice. I just wish I could hit a recorder or a synthesizer or something for just that certain response. Or a go-to sign of answers to just point to. It’s like, behind Disneyland this is the second biggest tourist attraction in Southern California. We’re in the epicenter selling surfboards and surf clothes in the middle of just all this chaos. It’s pretty cool, but it’s also pretty nerve-racking and draining.

MK: We deal with people from pretty much anywhere: Sweden, Japan, Australia, China. Everyone from people who know surfboards and who geek out on what we carry here, to people like, “What is a surfboard?” We hear all sorts of funny things from people passing by though – sometimes they even think we’re a restaurant because the window says “Fish” and “Eggs.”

You guys have awesome parties here. What have been some of the more memorable ones?

CM: We always have the Blake Mills jams and stuff like that or Billy Gibbons and Jackson Brown and some other pretty heavy hitters. Those are really fun, but kind of reserved… Dude, you know which one was a good one? Our friend Kio who does Yellow Rat, it was his
50th birthday – you were here, right? Dude, we just tore this place apart. We moved everything out and it was just like a heavy party. We had Denny Aaberg who did like the Farm and the soundtrack for like Innermost Limits. They came to play for Kio’s birthday and we just had an all night rager. I opened the shop the next morning like still in here partying. People were coming in to shop and I was still covered in beer raging from the night before.

MK: A lot of those. Good “day 2’s” you know? And that’s when you sell the most, you’re just like on fire, haven’t slept in three days and you’re just like, “Let’s go dude, this board works insane! Come on, put the fin in it already” and they’re like bam, done, here’s the
credit card.

Where do you see the Mollusk brand heading in the future?

CM: The focus lately has been expanding the wholesale line and doing the whole Mollusk brand with clothes and stuff like that. It’s cool, and as a surf shop that’s where you can survive and make some money. Shops don’t make shit on surfboards, the margins are just horrible. You sell a $1,400 surf board and make like $200 – it’s coo coo. But those are the beautiful things that people come in here to admire and love, then they walk out with a t-shirt stoked, it’s just the experience.

We did the Mollusk Jamboree, which was a music festival up in Big Sur. We’re doing more stuff like that; expanding into doing festivals and camping retreats, music events and stuff outside of the shop, which I think is always rad.

I have a vision of maybe starting to do like a Mollusk porn in here and call it “Reclaimed Wood.” I think that would be a pretty good avenue to explore. I mean there’s a lot of money in porn. We could have some live web feeds going. Just like dudes in here with their shirts off, bro-ing down – it would be pretty killer.

That’s hot. Who are some of the shapers that you guys carry these days?

CM: Right now we do a lot of with Tyler Warren’s boards. We sell a lot of his boards, his boards are rad. He’s a great surfer and a great dude. I grew up with him and have known him my whole life. It’s good to see he’s doing well. Also, the fact that we sell Yaters is pretty insane. Like, I freak out when I go to see that dude.

Good story actually: I’d go up there and pick up boards from him all the time. Probably like six months had gone by since my last trip up, I met him at the beach house to go grab boards for the shop. I never told him I surfed or anything like that and Wayne Lynch was there. He was like, “Chad, what are you doing here?” And I was all, “Oh, I’m just picking up boards from Renny.” I went to go throw the boards in the car and when I came back, he’s got this like shit eating grin on his face and he’s laughing, Renny’s grinning, and I’m like “What?” Wayne says, “I had to tell him you surfed and told him who you are and how you surf at Malibu” and this and that. I was all shy and blushing and shit. Renny looks at me and was like, “Why don’t you come back to my shaping bay?” And I was like “Sick!” I hung out with him and we talked about boards for a while. He made me a 9’9” spoon – like one of the raddest longboards I’ve like ever ridden.

So the fact that the dude’s around 82 or 83 and is still hand-shaping his boards and stuff is like bonkers to me. Everyone who walks in the door asks about his boards and I’m always explaining to people that they are like relics. They are pieces of history and art that can’t even be matched – full craftsman style. So I get pretty pumped when I hold one of his boards or sell one of them. It’s pretty cool having stuff like that here.

This article originally appeared in our Indoek Venice issue, an 84 page, large format newsprint publication focused on the characters, history and places that make Venice so unique. Buy your copy here:

Indoek Venice

Swing by the mole-hole next time you’re on the west side at 1600 Pacific Ave. Venice, CA 90291 or online here:

Mollusk Surf Shop

/ Photography & Interview by Matt Titone

Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director. In 2006 he moved west to Venice, CA where he co-founded ITAL/C Studio and now resides a bit further north in Oxnard.

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