In December we travelled to Breda, Holland and Pier 15 Skatepark to join up with skateboarders from all across Europe at the finals of the Vans Shop Riot. The main draw of this competition is the links it both creates and nurtures across the European skateboarding community, a yearly celebration of the work shops do to keep the European scene alive. As such we decided to speak to three of the skater owned shops (SOS) to find out what this competition means to them, as well as some of the wider economic issues that skater owned shops face. Read on for the thoughts of Bana, Burnside and Flame Shop.
When did you open your shop and what is its history?
Jose Marques: Back in 1992, I took my father’s advice to open a surf shop. Initially it was a small shop with little more than 18 square meters, but different enough to gather a group of loyal customers. The idea was simple, to be a pioneer through gambling on alternative brands in street wear, skate wear, surf wear and some very exclusive products. This idea combined with a very smart sales strategy based on very professional but friendly service, where the customer’s needs always come first, was a hit! The charisma of the store grew quickly and soon people from all over were coming by.
"the truth is nothing will ever substitute the local store"
Why are skater owned shops so important?
I think the difference comes in many ways; we keep the shop fresh and it always has a good vibe, we bet on new and exclusive products, our costumer relations are tailored and are our priority and we know about every product we sell. But our biggest difference is definitely our costumer management – we want to make sure people are happy and informed.
What's the best thing about running your own shop?
The best thing is being able to work on what I like and what gives me pleasure.
What do events like the Vans Shop Riot mean for you and your riders?
We are able to interact with skaters and shops from all over and it’s always a blast to be able to exchange knowledge and crazy stories with people who have the same love for skateboarding
What do you think the future will be like for skater owned shops?
It’s true that all brands (at least the wise ones) are moving towards a model based more on online sales over anything else, but the truth is nothing will ever substitute the local store. That friendship you make with the staff, that feeling you get when touching the product, trying it out for a perfect fit… it’s a different experience, meaning it’s unlikely it will ever be surpassed by digital.
Could you explain the history of your shop?
Herm: I started back in 1988, we’ve been around for 29 years this year, I had a shop in the city for 10 years after we moved our premises to the industrial zone so we could have a skatepark as well as the shop. Always doing Vans from back in the day, as a sales rep I used to work for Vans in 1986. After a few years at our skatepark we started a competition called the Shop Team Battle, which then was adopted by Vans for the Shop Riot. We’re the proud starters of this event.
"friendships are everywhere"
Oh nice, I wasn’t aware of that history. Why is it so important that skater owned shops continue to exist?
It’s the passion, like I said we have a skatepark so I get to see the guys come through everyday and watch them grow and improve as skateboarders. We have an Olympic team now in Holland and 20% of that team comes from Burnside skatepark. That’s the reason why we’re very proud, seeing the little guys grow into the big guys like Rob Maatman is very rewarding for us.
What’s your favorite thing about running a shop?
The social aspect, friendships are everywhere. We come from Deventer and we are here in Breda with locals from other shops in Holland to celebrate the Burnside team. It’s great.
Why do you think the Shop Riot is important for the European skate scene?
It brings the best of the countries together, I have been to a few of these finals now. It’s always good to see those skaters, the top of Europe, getting to see them skate is a pleasure. The standard is very high, it’s one of the only European managed events so I like it.
How do you see the future for SOS?
I hope that they will remain but it’s difficult, most of the skater owned shops do only hardware, skateboarding shoes and clothing. If you have an online shop you have lots of work and lots of competition from the bigger sellers, it’s not easy to stay in this world. At Burnside we also sell snowboards, some BMX and inline skating equipment, we’re trying to diversify a bit so we can continue to support skateboarding in the way we think it should be.
Flame Shop, Italy
Can you tell us about the history of the shop?
Davide Martinazzo: I started working in the first Flame Shop, because there are two, in 2003 - my business partner at the time had originally opened the shop in 2001. Four years ago we split the society, so there’s a shop in Montebelluna which is my shop and that shop is 7 years old. But I’ve been working for Flame Shop for 14 years in total.
"skateboarders still need people like us to give a voice to skateboarding as it exists on the streets"
Why do you think SOS are still important?
It’s important because when the fashion trends die down skateboarders still need people like us to give a voice to skateboarding as it exists on the streets. The problem is that everyone is interested in skateboarding now, maybe in a few years people won’t care anymore. The kids won’t know where to get a board from, or where to get advice on building ramps, or to learn about the culture. That is the most important part of owning a shop.
What is the best thing about running a shop?
The best part is that I never work a day in my life. It’s a dream come true for any skateboarder to open a shop, meet with your friends, have some beers and go out skating. It’s also good because it allows me to stay in contact with the scene all around Europe. So for me those are the best parts.
What do you think about events like the Vans Shop Riot? Are they important for you as a shop?
Yeah it’s important to build a European community. Sometimes the Italian guys can feel alone because the level of skateboarding can be quite different. In this kind of event we can meet each other, hang out together, and get to know the level of skateboarding outside of our country. I think it’s very, very important.
What do you think the future for SOS will be like?
I think it’s pretty tight, people that want to really work in this kind of business have to do a lot for their local skate scene. If you open a shop just to try and sell shoes or clothing you can close up in one year. The future for most shops is the same, it’s tough times, the internet shops make it harder. If the local communities understand what is important then we can survive, not become rich, but survive.