Two New York buddies follow business dreams to Charleston | Features | Charleston City Paper

Two New York buddies follow business dreams to Charleston 

Bros Before Pros

click to enlarge Two longtime buddies from New York found their way to Charleston pursuing separate dreams. Tim Woodland (left) came to rent out special event tents, while Chuck Theisen came to sell surf racks for pickup trucks.

Jonathan Boncek

Two longtime buddies from New York found their way to Charleston pursuing separate dreams. Tim Woodland (left) came to rent out special event tents, while Chuck Theisen came to sell surf racks for pickup trucks.

Tim Woodland and Chuck Theisen met in kindergarten at East Moriches Elementary School in East Moriches, N.Y. Since then, they have been classmates, co-workers, teammates on the Woodlands High School football team, surfing buddies, and, most importantly, inseparable best friends.

Spending their youth in a town centrally located between Mastic, a rough Long Island neighborhood, and the Hamptons, the headquarters for some of New York's wealthiest citizens, Theisen and Woodland learned at a young age that money certainly doesn't buy happiness. Woodland explains, "Our jobs growing up were servicing the ultra-wealthy of New York. We would see the family dynamic, and then we'd come home and see our families, and these insanely wealthy families' happiness and the interaction between the parents and their children just wasn't there." Theisen concurs in a strong New York accent, and both of them say their families instilled them with a humble, but vigilant, work ethic.

These days, both Theisen and Woodland have businesses in the Charleston area, but they want to get one thing straight: They aren't just two guys from New York who came to Charleston looking to start their own businesses. As they explain, they both, separate of each other, found something they were honestly passionate about doing, and those two businesses led them to Charleston. "It's not just two kids moving down here to make a buck," Woodland states. "The city is growing, and it is attracting young entrepreneurs, and that's the cool thing about Charleston — it's like its own little melting pot." Theisen nods in agreement, and both of them testify that the sense of entrepreneurship in Charleston is palpable. Coming from two young businessmen from New York, that's certainly saying a lot about the Holy City.

When the duo graduated from high school, Woodland headed to James Madison University to study business with a focus on entrepreneurship, while Theisen became a finance major at the University of Delaware. It was the first time the two were apart, but they kept in touch effortlessly, and during the summers, they would lifeguard and surf together at the same beach back in New York.

After receiving their degrees, the two went their separate ways yet again. Woodland — not wanting to get sucked into his hometown after graduation — packed up his car and drove to Steamboat Springs, Colo., basically on a whim. He found a job at Steamboat Springs Resort, and Theisen took a job as an accounting intern with a company in Southampton, N.Y.

After spending a winter in Colorado, Woodland moved back east to Virginia in 2010 and started working with a wedding and event tent company based out of Charlottesville. From there, he returned to New York and found work with a company renting Sperry Tents in the Hamptons. He learned a lot more about the uniqueness and specific style of Sperry Tents, which are sailcloth tents hand-stitched by sailmakers in Massachusetts. He soon partnered up with a company in Virginia that opened a branch in Charleston shortly thereafter, sending Woodland to the Holy City almost two years ago. Now, Woodland owns and runs Sperry Tents Southeast, a fast-growing wedding and event tent company that services clients from Charleston all the way to Wyoming and Chicago. Before meeting with the City Paper, he had already been to the office early on a Friday morning, and afterward, he was getting ready to head out to North Carolina for an event his company was hosting. He takes a hands-on and customer-first approach to business.

Around the same time Woodland moved to Charleston, Theisen's trusty black Honda Civic bit the dust and was replaced with a 1998 Ford F-150 pickup. Having to adjust to his new accounting position while balancing his former lifeguard gig to make some extra cash, Theisen still found time for his passion, surfing. After buying used surfboards for his entire life, Theisen decided to splurge on a new one for the first time. With his busy schedule, he would keep the board in the bed of the pickup truck, hoping for the occasional impromptu surf session. Driving to and from work every day, though, he began to worry about the mint-condition purchase getting dents and dings while taking the brunt of a sharp turn or unexpected pothole.

Having come from a long lineage of engineers (both his father and grandfather were engineers at the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory), Theisen had an inherent desire to build something that would protect his new prized possession. He started out with some PVC pipes and wrapped them with ropes, towels, and bungee cords to secure the board. Curious, Theisen began to research whether or not a more advanced rack was available on the market. When his search returned no results, he filed for a provisional patent on his idea, and Surf Solutions was born.

For the past two years Theisen's s efforts to create the perfect truck-bed surf rack have gone full steam ahead. In New York, he continued to work his accounting position while also constructing a quality and practical rack, testing it, building a website, and trying to find a price point for his product.

About eight months ago, Theisen was presented with an offer from the accounting firm: a full-time position at their offices in Manhattan. Thinking hard about the route he wanted to take with his life, Theisen wrestled with the decision for a while before ultimately choosing to say, "Thanks, but no thanks." Instead, he packed his stuff into the truck that spawned his whole idea in the first place and moved to Charleston to take a shot at introducing Surf Solutions to the local market.

Charleston Water Sports currently carries Theisen's racks. Recently, he had a promising phone call with a potential buyer in Texas. "The whole idea was to come down here and see how it works," Theisen says. "If the market picks up here, then I'll move forward and try to get some funding or take out a loan and go national or international with it."

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To learn more about Woodland's company, visit their website at SperryTentsSE.com. To check out Theisen's work with Surf Solutions, head on over to SurfSolutionsCo.com.


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