Shop: Sk8 Skates
Location: Winnipeg, Man.
Size: 1,850 sq. ft.
Years in business: 27
Years as owner: 3
Years skating: 21

What are the advantages of being a niche skateshop?
The advantage is that when someone comes to our shop, they are going to be dealing with people who have the best knowledge of skateboarding. Our staff and team skateboard and care about skateboarding. When you come to Sk8, you’re automatically among friends sharing a common interest.

How about the negative side of being a skate-specific store?
The temptation to carry weird, trendy items and to make a quick buck is always there. When you’re getting 20 calls a day for that said item, you start to think, “Should I do this?” But that quickly fades when a kid comes in and buys a deck; you’re reminded of the longevity of skateboarding and forget about the fads. Some would say that makes me a bad businessman, but I’d rather be a skateboarder than a businessman any day.

How do you and your store contribute to the local skate scene and help it grow?
We do a lot of events every year: competitions, demos, video premieres, camps, etcetera. It’s important to have these events to bring the skateboard community together. We have one of the tightest skateboard scenes in Canada, and we want to contribute as much as possible.

How do you differentiate yourself from the mall or big-box stores that may offer similar products?
Having a team and staff that are immersed in the community is so important. We are at every skateboard event and we spend hours a day skateboarding. We do it because we want to, not because it’s good for business, but because we love skateboarding. I think people recognize that and want to be a part of it. You know when you walk by a skateboarder and you give them a nod even if you don’t know them? That nod is because you belong to an exclusive club called skateboarding.

Has your customer changed over the years?
We’ve always had the skateboarders and the people that care about skateboarding. In the 27 years we’ve been open, skateboarding has had its ups and downs, so the amount of people coming in to buy skateboard clothing changes, but the skateboarders have always been there. They were there in ’93 when we were losers, and they are there today now that skateboarding’s popularity is at an all-time high. The people that support you at your lowest point are the ones you should cater to first.

How can the vendors and distributors help your business?
I’m happy with our current distributors. Occasionally there is a hiccup here and there, but that’s bound to happen. I guess my one issue would be with trying to get accounts with certain brands. It’s frustrating when you can’t carry a core skate brand in your core skateshop because they’ve already signed exclusivity rights with stores that don’t even carry skateboards. It hurts sometimes. The problem is that there is a disconnect from the company to the skateshop. They have a distributor in between deciding where their products are sold, and it might not be in the best interest of the company—it’s in the best interest of the distributor.
     On those same lines, companies should know that there is a disconnect. That disconnect has given skateshops in Canada an easy way out to stop carrying core brands. The disconnect makes brands sold in Canada seem disposable, and makes skateshops give up on the core skate brands that we should be fighting to keep around. Don’t give up on skater-owned brands, just put more effort into educating kids.

What are your thoughts on some non-endemic brands finding a solid place within skateboarding?
It’s bound to happen when something has hit such mainstream levels. My personal opinion is that if I am faced with a decision between giving my money to skateboarders or the latter, I will give my money to skateboarders. I always give this example to kids; you hand them 10 bucks and say “You have to give that $10 away. Either give it to your buddy standing beside you, or go give it to that guy walking by over there.” One hundred per cent of the time they give it to their buddy. We’re all skateboarders, let’s support each other.
     That’s not saying I’m against big business in skateboarding; it has it’s place when skateboarding is this huge. There are pro skateboarders that are making incredible money because of it—and good for them. I don’t have anything against those companies, but as a skateboarder, my money is going to Mike Carroll, Rick Howard, Jamie Thomas, etcetera.

What will the skateboard retail landscape look like in five to 10 years?
Skateshops are going to survive—we’ve survived this long. We’re just gonna have to share the pie with big business. But who cares? There are so many more skaters out there and the pie is huge.

Is the skate industry in a slump?
I think we’re fine. The industry is always changing, people are still buying boards and shoes and getting into skating. Skateboarding will always survive, and my store will always support the skate scene in Winnipeg.