Chris Gentile caught his first wave when he was nine years old on Point Judith, a surf destination on the southeastern tip of Rhode Island, just a street away from Pilgrim Avenue. Three decades later, he’s still addicted. “Once it happens, once you catch a wave and you go down the line, you’re done,” Gentile says. “It’s all you think about. It’s all you want to do.”
Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Gentile’s recently opened surf shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, carries all the apparel and equipment a surfer could need, along with stylish outdoor apparel and an array of books. The shop also offers a ding repair service to mend damaged boards and will soon open a coffee and beer bar in the back. As the weather changes, a portion of the Pilgrim’s merchandise will shift too. Though the shop will always be stocked with boards and suits, it will also provide seasonal outerwear to accommodate the needs of any active New Yorker.
Previously overseeing the Brooklyn outpost of Mollusk Surf Shop before it closed late last year, Gentile is now realizing his own vision with Pilgrim, saying he aims “to bridge surf and certain parts of fashion that I find really relevant.” The beautiful boards are handmade by some of the best shapers in the world. Among the store’s other carefully selected pieces are women’s swimwear from Bantu, Basta, and Caitlin Mociun (who shares a studio space with Gentile and has a store around the corner); bags and wallets by Makr Carry Goods; beach wraps by Nomadic Thread Society; and apparel by VSTR and M.Nii.
By cultivating relationships with designers and artists, Gentile hopes Pilgrim can transcend the traditional retail model to serve as both an inspiration and a venue for new creative work. “My hope is that people actually think about this space as a platform to make something,” he says, “to make a product that will be specific for who might come in here.”
A visual artist himself, Gentile oversaw the space’s transformation, with the help of designers Chris Rucker and Robert Hershenfeld. “I didn’t want things to look artfully old,” he says. “I wanted to use modest and pedestrian materials with a high level of craft.” The display tables and shelves are constructed from wood that had been left in the space by the space’s previous tenant, a motorcycle shop. The many sawhorses used as table legs capture a workshop aesthetic, while the live edged slabs and the large front windows connect the space to the outdoors.”I want people to feel like they’re outside when they’re standing in the store, and I want people to feel like they’re in the store when they’re standing outside,” Gentile says.
Pilgrim will host various events and launch parties throughout the summer. Keep an eye out for the official announcement of a surf contest sponsored by Pilgrim on Rockaway Beach, tentatively set for late July.
Images by Maggie Roush Mead