COLUMBIA – Forty-eight years after beginning as a modest surf shop in Ocean City, South Moon Under confirmed today it has entered into a deal that should transition it into “a true national retailer.”
JPB Capital Partners (JPB), a leading strategic equity investor in consumer-related brands and services, announced Tuesday a majority investment in South Moon Sales, Inc. (known as South Moon Under), a leading specialty retailer of women’s contemporary fashion apparel located throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Founded in 1968 as a surf shop in Ocean City, by Frank Gunion, South Moon Under quickly became a leading surf and swim store in Maryland. From these roots, the company transformed from a surf shop to a unique and contemporary fashion retailer operating 24 stores from Virginia to Connecticut. Offering a curated selection of branded and private label, trend-right merchandise, South Moon Under delivers a unique experience and service in a fun, customer-centric atmosphere. The company maintains corporate offices in Berlin today.
JPB Capital partnered with NewSpring Capital, a Radnor, Pa-based private equity investor, and the former executive management team of White House|Black Market — Michael Smith, Patricia Smith and Rod Olson — on this investment.
“We are very excited to invest in such a strong regional brand and take it to the next level,” said JPB Senior Managing Director Jim Bolduc. “Bringing together the foundation that Frank has created, with new capital and the experience of the White House|Black Market management team is a powerful combination.”
Michael Smith, Patricia Smith and Rod Olson each played important roles in the development and leadership of White House|Black Market from a small retailer in Baltimore in the late 1980’s to the sale to Chico’s FAS in 2003, and through more than 300 stores and over $400 million of revenue by 2007. Following the transaction, Michael Smith will be South Moon Under’s chief executive officer, Patricia Smith its chief creative officer, and Olson its chief operating officer. Frank Gunion, the original founder of the brand, will transition his role from a day-to-day president to a minority owner and a member of the board of directors.
“For me, this deal is a clear endorsement of the South Moon Under brand and of the hard work and commitment of my team,” said Gunion. “JPB is a well-respected private investment firm whose resources and experience will enable us to invest in our future growth. I am excited to be partnering with them and our new management team. I have always been in this for the long term and I believe this team and this investor, combined with our organization and brand, will create great success for our company and our customers.”
CEO Michael Smith is equally excited about the new venture.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead a strong and well established brand such as South Moon Under,” he said. “I look forward to the opportunity to lead South Moon Under from being a brand primarily known in the Mid-Atlantic to a true national retailer.”
Patricia Smith, new chief creative officer, is a loyal customer who looks forward to continuing the great work of the company.
“South Moon Under fills a creative niche in a retail world cluttered with sameness. South Moon Under is an innovative brand that focuses on providing the customer with new and emerging styles and designers. I am excited to be working with the passionate and creative team at South Moon Under and to take it to the next level. As a loyal customer of South Moon Under, I know from experience that the statement ‘to inspire self-expression through the art of fashion’ promise of South Moon Under is so true,” she said.
To move the lifestyle brand forward, JPB, in partnership with management, intends to expand company-owned stores into new adjacent markets, enhance the company’s eCommerce platform and experience, build its private label product offering, and to improve overall store-level execution and productivity.
Since its founding in 1995, JPB has deployed over $200 million across 36 platform companies in the food, beverage, restaurant, personal care, retail and consumer health sectors. Representative past and present partner companies include Calgon health and beauty, Mulligan’s Beach House Bar and Grill, The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille, St. Josephs’ Aspirin, Ticknors Men’s Clothiers, and ZIPS Drycleaners.