Surf Shacks 032 - Matt Olerio + Joanna Zamora
How did you two first meet?
JZ: We met while attending different colleges in Boston. My best friend from high school introduced us. She lived on the same dorm floor as Matthew and told me he was the funniest guy she ever met. I remember going to his room and he was in a bad mood and I didn’t really like him. A week later, we were both on the train on the way to a party and bonded over our mutual love of Funyuns. The rest is history.
MO: Joanna intrigued me from the beginning—I thought she was the most interesting girl I’d ever met. We dated for about month but, were both young and stupid and fell out of touch. It wasn’t until the following summer that I smartened up and invited her to Rhode Island for a weekend. We’ve been together ever since.
What do you do for a living?
We have a company called East Surf Co. We make organic surf wax and are now focusing on expanding our product line. We also work with other brands and help them with design and marketing strategies.Where are you from?JZ: I was born in California but spent most of my childhood in Southern Maine.MO: Born and bred in Rhode Island, the smallest and most underrated state in the Union.
When and why did you move to Rhode Island from NYC?
We moved to RI from NY about a year ago. We had been talking about coming back here and it was ultimately a timing thing. Our family had plans to open a cafe in Wickford and asked for our help in getting it started. Our lease happened to be up and we saw that as our opening. Being back here has freed us up to work on our own terms and be close to the water and family.
What are your favorite parts about the area in which you live now?
The location—we’re in Bissel Cove—is a pretty neutral spot where we can reach some of our favorite beaches quickly. Newport, Narragansett, and Matunuck are all very close and comparable in distance. We also have a beach in our neighborhood that we can walk to. It’s very peaceful here and has been a base for us to explore and rediscover the state.
Tell us about the house.
The house is a 1940s bungalow. It was designed by a boat builder and you can see that in a lot of the details around the house, which we love. He supposedly lived here for a few years, sold it, and drove off in his RV never to be seen again. We’re at the end of a dirt road, next to a small horse farm and surrounded by tall trees. It’s very enchanting and quiet in the best way.
You have so many cool beach and nautical artifacts here. If your house were burning down and you could only carry 5 things out, what would you take?
We are scavengers for sure, a lot of what you see has been found thrifting up and down the East Coast or has been deemed junk and thrown to the curb. Nothing is too precious and we like it that way, but to play the game, our five would be:1. Eames chair Joanna pulled from the trash curb in Tribeca2. Our favorite boomerang-shaped piece of driftwood3. 9’4" hand-shaped log4. Portrait of Matthew’s grandfather on his boat5. Keyboard
What’s it like to work together as a couple?
It’s the worst, we don’t recommend it. Just kidding… Honestly, it’s not easy but we love it. We’ve literally been working together since we first met and it’s become a natural part of our relationship. We balance each other out and know how to have fun. That’s the most important part.
Any words of wisdom or New England proverbs?
Don’t overthink your work or take it too seriously, but have a vision and believe in it. There’s freedom in not comparing yourself to what anyone else is doing. Be thankful and find contentment where you are. And don’t forget: Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. That one never fails.
This article was originally published on Indoek as part of the Surf Shacks series, featuring the homes of creative surfers from coast to coast and overseas. See the full interview and photo gallery here.