By Carol K. Dumas
After a summer’s day riding the surf, what could be better than some simple fare, an icy margarita and music? Surfers and beachgoers at nearby Rexham Beach don’t have to go far, as Levitate Backyard & Rexicana Surf Cantina has opened right next door to the popular surf shop that’s hugged the corner of Ocean and Webster streets since 2003.
Levitate Brand is the company owned by Dan and Jessica Hassett, a young local couple who tapped into their surfing passion to start a business that keeps on expanding. The vision of the 200-seat (indoor and outdoor) capacity venue is to bring world-class music, art and food to Marshfield. They call their marketing plan “après beach.”
The name Rexicana comes from a legendary ballroom in Marshfield that offered live music and dancing in the ’60s, well before the Hassetts were born. Rexicana Ballroom was destroyed by fire in 2006. The Hassetts wanted to pay homage to it as they planned to offer music every afternoon at the cantina. They approached the Clancy family, who had owned the business, and told them their plans. The Clancys thought it was an honor and gave them their blessing.
Levitate was an existing surf shop when Dan, now 34, began working weekends when he was 17. He bought the shop shortly after he graduated from high school. “I grew up summers at Humarock, surfing and skateboarding,” says the Hanover native. “Back then Levitate was a community hub. We wanted to continue that concept.”
Wife Jessica, 36, grew up in Duxbury. An artist, she is the designer behind the business. The couple have two young children.
The shop sells “the best is surf and skate brands, gear and expertise,” and offers clothing for men, women and children and surf boards, surfing lessons and rentals. In addition to the Marshfield location, Levitate has pop-up shops in Hull and Nantasket.” Seven years ago, the Hassetts founded the Levitate Surf Music and Arts Festival, which this past July drew more than 45,000 to the Marshfield Fairgrounds, helping to raise more than $50,000 for the Marshfield Boys and Girls Club.
The idea for a restaurant grew from their surfing ventures off-season, trips that took them to Costa Rica, the Caribbean and parts of Europe. They were always impressed by the food served in surfing communities.
“The food was always phenomenal, local, fresh and simple,” Dan recalls. When the couple considered offering food in the space formerly occupied by John’s Barber Shop, adjacent to the surf shop, they were true to their global inspiration.
Chefs Jake Hill and Josh Nugent of Plymouth helped Dan craft the casual menu from this global inspiration. Diners can sample four kinds of tacos (pork, chicken, fish and vegan) served on hand-pressed corn tortillas, accompanied by rice and watermelon. “We buy the fish every day at Scituate Harbor and it’s served within 24 hours of being caught,” says Dan.
Other items are locally sourced whenever possible, such as the cabbage and sprouts taco garnish. “You can taste the difference when you’re doing it right.”
Levitate Backyard & Rexicana Surf Cantina opened Aug. 2 in a space formerly occupied by a barber shop, adjacent to the surf shop, and has been jam-packed. Music is offered every afternoon till 7 p.m. Sunday Brunch began Aug. 11, with the java supplied by the Hassetts’ friends who opened a coffee bar next door.
While Levitate is a seasonal enterprise, the eCommerce side of the brand is year-round and even offers flannel shirts in their online store. The Hassetts are continuing to grow the events side of the business as community venue. Levitate Backyard will offer 10 ticketed concerts this year and plans more ticketed shows, documentary screenings and private functions.
“With so many things digital, we find people like getting together more and connecting in person,” says Dan.
Still, when a wave beckons, you’ll find Dan and his long board at the beach.
“It’s busy with the kids and the business, especially in summer, but we’re so fortunate that both our parents help us out,” he says. “I got into surf shops to surf and I was out there today. I’m not gonna miss a good surf!”