The New Normal: Morgan Collett On The State of Affairs In NYC
The Saturdays NYC founder discusses the effects of the pandemic on the nation’s hardest hit city.
No U.S. metropolis has been hit harder by COVID-19 than New York City. With 263,000+ cases statewide and 146,000 of those cases specifically in New York City, it’s safe to say that the Big Apple has become the global epicenter of this pandemic. As a result, the bustling metropolis of nearly 8.3 million has ground to halt, causing economic upheaval throughout and changing lives in the process.
Morgan Collett has had his finger on the pulse of the city for nearly 15 years. Having founded Saturdays NYC in 2009, the Newport Beach native has grown a once-niche coffee/surf shop in Soho into a world-renowned, multinational brand. Saturdays’ success can be partly attributed to the fact that their pieces look just as good on a broker as they would a board caddy.
With New York being shut down, it only felt right to speak to one of surfing’s high-brow retailers on the state of his business and the city we’ve both called home.
Stab: So where have you been riding this out?
Morgan Collett: I’m currently on Long Island in Amagansett. We’ve been here a little over a month now. I was lucky enough to be taken in by some good friends of mine so it’s just the three of us and we’ve been hunkered down, working away from out here. It’s a bit safer than the city.
From what I’ve heard, the city has been pretty eerie. I mean, there was a tent hospital in Central Park 6 blocks from where I grew up. How would you describe the general state of affairs in NYC?
When I left, things were just starting to wind down, stores were starting to close, but I was still pretty cautious. I had my daughter with me and we spent the week together, staying inside, not touching stuff, cooking from home. Since then friends of mine that are self-isolating in their apartments have described it as super trippy. Quiet, desolate, not at all what you would imagine when you think of New York. Watching the news, seeing the hospitals overrun and the mortality rate at home is something people have never seen before. It’s really hairy.
Do you know anyone who’s had it yourself?
I had a friend in Italy who unfortunately got sick but thankfully haven’t known anyone else who has gotten it.
New Yorkers have a way of banding together when in crisis, and while banding together in a traditional sense is obviously inadvisable, what ways have you heard the city is coming together in this?
Lovely Day is one of the OG restaurants in our area and has been doing food deliveries for doctors. It’s really amazing to see small businesses try and do their part. Another thing that I’ve noticed is that at 7 o’clock in different parts of the city people clap and yell out of their windows in support of Emergency Workers. Even just playing music from a balcony or rooftop while everyone’s stuck in their apartments is amazing. New York is a tough town, and from the doctors, nurses, and everyone on the front lines right down to the grocery store employees seeing the essential workforce show out and their communities in full support of them is really special.
You’re a (semi) new dad, do you feel like you’re taking this more seriously than you would have before?
You know, no one has gone through this so it’s hard to say. Being a dad you’re definitely more aware of the repercussions of your decisions. I’d definitely say I have a heightened sense of attention to making sure my daughter is safe and protected, but at the end of the day, there’s a lot of common sense involved with this and as long as it’s taken seriously and people utilize that sense they can still be effective. It’s when you stop paying attention to health officials and advisories that you can get into trouble and people can get sick or hurt.
Your Crosby Street flagship has been a staple coffee/hangout spot in Soho since 2009 and has served as your guys’ second home—what’s it been like stepping away from the store for the first time in a decade?
It’s one of those things where you don’t really have a choice. I miss Crosby Street, love New York, the energy, and miss being in the city. That shop has been an amazing focal point for our brand. People can shop, hangout, have coffee, chill in the backyard, it’s been a bummer not to be able to offer that. We actually just got done renovating and redesigning the space and were super excited for the new feel but only got about a month in before we had to shut down. We’re trying everything we can to steer the ship in these crazy times so when things do get back to normal we can reopen and re-engage our community. It’ll take a little while for people to start feeling comfortable being around one another, but Saturdays has a strong community of support both working with us and for us. I’m confident we’ll get back to normal.
You guys are positioned smack in the middle of one of the world’s premier shopping districts. What do you think will be the reverberating effects throughout Soho and do you think it will be the same post-Corona?
It definitely will not be the same post-Corona. I don’t think anything will be the same after this, and I hope for the better. Soho and downtown New York is such an amazing place, I know it will bounce back, but it ultimately comes down to how we fight this virus. The timeline on if/when a vaccine becomes available will be a big part of this. New York’s resilient, it will just take time for it to come back to normal. Thankfully the government’s doing what it can to help small businesses along and provide some cushion. I have optimism we’ll eventually bounce back.
Retail is floundering across the board, and you guys have locations in NYC, Australia, and six stores in Japan. What effect has this had across those regions, in your stores?
As of now, we’re closed down globally. Australia was a little behind New York, but they closed 3-4 weeks ago, Japan closed a couple weeks ago, and each market has had to deal with this in their own way. At the end of the day, they’re all shuttered right now and unconfirmed as to when we can re-open. It’s all speculative at this point.
When you guys are designing a new collection do you have an idea of what’s going to sell in, say, your Shibuya store as opposed to the West Village?
All the different markets that we’re in have varying consumer habits and different tendencies when it comes to taste. We never design for one market or another, although sometimes we will do exclusive releases for our stores. There are consistencies in Saturdays as a brand, our wide consumer base is baked into our DNA and we’re lucky to have different individuals gravitating towards it. It’s exciting to have that broad of a customer base. We also are combating reverse seasonality, Australia’s winter is our Summer, so it’s interesting to see the variance in how things sell. I will say US consumers tend to like the more classic, staple pieces while the Japanese tend to gravitate towards more graphics/prints.
How do you feel you’re perceived amongst “core surfers”, and do you care?
Personally, I really don’t know. If I were to speculate, I’d just have to go off my personal opinion. I was born and raised in Newport Beach and have been surfing my whole life. I grew up in the surf industry, worked at RVCA, hung around Hawaii and knew a lot of pros growing up. Surfing was my world and my childhood so when I moved to New York I was surfing within a week of being there.
I remember that first session, the waves were actually pumping, and it opened my eyes to surfing here. I’d go any time I could and surfing is still what drives me. The industry has obviously changed drastically from 10-20 years ago and so has the sport itself. I think it’s important to be honest and authentic and if people dig it, cool, if people don’t, then that’s fine. I’m doing something that I’m proud of and just take it from there. I’d say we’re generally well positioned in people’s minds, they’re more or less pretty stoked. I just want to continue to build and embrace the surf community around the world and see where it all goes.
What brands have you seen rise to the occasion and do the remarkable in an attempt to aid their communities throughout this?
We’ve seen so many companies, brands, restaurants, and individuals trying to do what they can to give back and help people feel some form of happiness and support, whether that’s financially, through food, or whatever else they have to offer. Just on a human level, these massive moments root us in caring for each other and trying to do what’s best for the greater good instead of just the individual, and that’s been really cool to see.
You’re from Newport, which is one of the few places in California you can still surf. What’s your take on LA County handing out $1,000 tickets for surfing while the Rockaways are open?
I think it has to do with the specifics of each county and area. In one sense, I totally get it. It’s 70 degrees in Southern California, the beaches would be crowded and there would be no way to stop people from gathering in masses. While it’s nice to be outside, social distancing is crucial, so I get it. Then on the flip side, where I’m staying, I’ll go for a walk on the beach and not see a single person, completely empty. Some people may get bummed if you’re on the beach even though you “shouldn’t” be but again, it’s about being responsible and logical. If the beach is packed with people I wouldn’t go there, I’d leave, and the same can be said for the lineup. If the waters packed then that’s definitely something the city needs to handle for the greater good. Talking to friends, there’s a lot of factors that go into being safe and responsible. If you get hurt in the water and someone has to call an ambulance, or someone in the water has to come save you, then you put those people at risk as well. There’s so many unknowns it’s hard to say one person’s right and others wrong.
How’s the screen time?
I’m averaging 5 hours and 4 minutes. The peak’s almost 8 hours and the lowest is around 4. It’s definitely gone up with working remotely, the whole team is spread across the country, and then we have the Japanese and Australian teams as well. It’s been interesting to see how to operate a company without everyone under one roof, but we’ve made it work, and it’ll be even more interesting to see how businesses will use this experience to restructure when things get back to some sort of normal.
And lastly, three apocalypse comfort essentials?
Facetime with family and friends, wine, and Paolo Sorrentino Films
Wonderful insight. Thank’s Morgan! Stay safe.
Diamond Tail = Diamond Hands?
We'll explain everything in the Rusty D-Min Joyride.
Behold Australia’s Nine & NZ’s Two Challenger Series Qualifiers*
May the Southern Cross smile upon you at Snapper.
Long Read: Pete Beachy Is No Bore
The life and times of an off-the-grid Alaskan surf pioneer who claims to cure cancer.
Sun Room: The Overnight Success Of A Young Surf Band
What's it like touring the world and living off of McDonald's?
How Surfers Get Paid, Episode 6
An instructional manual for the modern professional surfer
Globe Pulls Out Of The Apparel Game
…and, Taj Burrow and Dion Agius are now looking for new main sponsors.
Owen Wright Announces Retirement From Competitive And Heavy-Water Surfing
But will surf final CT event at Bells.
Fancy An Ale, Some Good Music, And A Bunch Of Tubes?
Ballet's minimalist full-length will satiate your needs.
Take Stab’s 2023 Audience Survey, Win A 3-Board Quiver
Stab towels and Premium subscriptions also up or grabs.
Jessi Miley Dyer On The New Challenger Series Schedule And More
Did you know that you could miss the mid-year cut and still theoretically win the…
Don’t Miss The Last Wave Of The First 2023 SEOTY Entry
Jacob Willcox's ‘Into Dust’ just set the bar.
Warren Smith on New Welcome Rivers Range and Buying Jaguars on Facebook Marketplace
Now available in the Antipodes...
Wavegarden Spills How The Sausage Is Made
BTS of their global air wave rollout ft. Yago Dora, Dion Agius, Reef Heazlewood and…
Minds, Machines, And The Magic Of Hands
How modern shapers split their time between designing files and hand-finishing boards.
Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.
Already a member? Sign In
Want to join? Sign Up