Skate stores more than just Retail ?

This is a topic covered many times and when I was asked by Ben Powel formerly sidewalk mag to comment on an article, that he was commissioned to write on behalf of Carhartt work in progress .. I wrote the bellow. He defiantly didn’t ask me for what I wrote and when I read it back I thought man I went in, I want to put this out there. I have grown from a Grom to a Man in the skate shop and I have a unique viewpoint on the subject. Heres my story and the story Of Beatsworkin with the aim of viewing from my shoes why I believe skate shops are not really shops at all !

My first experience of a skate shop was at the age of 12. I used to go and sit on the stairs at freebird after school most days, read the magazines and rent a skate video for the night. This is where I first seen Rad mag and 411 video magazine. It was like a window to a new world had just opened for me. I guess there must of been other skateboarders local to me but I lived in a small culturally dry village in North Devon and I hadn’t really met any at this point. Give thanks for Kenny  at Freebird I don’t think his aim was to enrich my life with skateboard culture but he facilitated it non the less . 

How to explain how a skateboard shop truely effects the culture and community around it, to those who haven’t grown up in one is impossible to quantify and almost impossible to articulate. For us in north devon back in the mid 90’s we were skateboarding ! Living in the back end of beyond Surf and rave culture was norm. Unless you wanted to be a Kev as we called um back then .. Chavs nowadays .. So when I came to opening a store at the age of 22 I wasn’t thinking about social enrichment or community we were skateboarders so start skate shop right ! At that point I was still being inspired and culturally enriched by others well one group in particular the Sewerside Gang headed up by now famous artist MAU MAU .. I defiantly never started a store to sell product or make money it was just cos… that’s it .. I certainly never realised till many years later how Beatsworkin was about to inspire and shape the lives of hundreds of North Devon Youth, who until Beats opened really had nothing but a magazine and skate videos to inspire them. I was lucky I met the right people at the right time and had got sponsored and left the area to experience the world first hand. I applied all that into Beats when opening which made it fresh creative and cool, that blew North Devons mind 

Almost as soon as opening there were more skateboarders about ! I remember being super shocked cos I only new my crew of say 20 people . Of course they were doing their thing already but suddenly we had a hub somewhere to meet and something we could all focus on and everyone respected the store. I of course started a skate team straight away again jus cos that’s what you did right ?!  Then amazingly everyone just levelled up the standard of skateboarding and more people started riding a board and hanging out.  Still I had no clue the benefit of what Beatsworkin was doing I was just doing what I loved and it was fun I felt sense of purpose and direction and so did everyone on the team and part of the crew.  

When the opportunity arose to get the first concrete skatepark came we were stoked and went to every committee meeting raised cash and I even ended up chairing the whole thing running events raising cash for lighting bills and so forth again all cos I was just stoked. Around that same time Beats even blocked anti-skateboarding bylaw by uniting the people and doing protests. Really if im honest because I wanted to skate street and not get busted !

Then one day I received my first realisation of the benefit of what Beatsworkin was doing. It came in a letter from the landlord of the local Pub who’s kid had been really struggling with life un-beknown to me I had taken this kid under me wing and turned his life in a positive direction . Man that was deep I had no idea he was struggling so hard and certainly no idea I had helped.  That’s what happens tho , a skate shop brings that to the community from starting people off, stoking people out ,social enrichment and the occasional life changing encounter.This is happening in towns all across the world in a day when youth services have been scrapped and mental health issues are massive I truly believe that the skate store has a butterfly effect on the community around it as a whole in a hugely positive manor, a manor we so need in this world. Now I’m older I see this much clearer and actually its this now that keeps the stoke for me. I will always skateboard but that’s my hobby. The socialising ,community around the store and watching the generations grow through the shop and go on in life with positiveness that the skateboard culture has on a person. Thats what keeps me opening up stoked every day …   When a couple of years back I was going through a tough time so many of these people messaged me ,I guess they must of heard things weren’t so good , thanking me for what Beats had done for them over the years It was amazing I dought meny retail business get much of that when they fall on hard times. It was like the the universe had given a bit back to me when I needed it . That’s a skate shop tho, much bigger the the sum of its parts . 

This ethos has shaped Beatsworkin in the way it has changed over the two decades its  been running. During that time the retail landscape has changed hugely with online sales a huge percentage of most skate stores business and the constant changes in trends and fashions and brands.Beats doesn’t really sell online for me I can’t get down with it I want to make money and sell things but I have to be happy in my job and packing up parcels and answering emails isn’t it.  

Beatsworkin has answered this with a cafe aspect to the store where people hang sometimes for hours new friends meet and old friends bump into each other. This I feel is the future USP of the skate shop , an experience and a place to socialise . You come in the vibe is good the people are friendly and you leave feeling the same way you do after a positive social experience somewhere between the pub and the skatepark. Leaving the skate store you feel stoked and that’s summing Online can’t offer! This applies to all not just the youth last week I received a message from a very successful local business man who thanked me for slowing him down for a hour or maybe 3 !  Never is bricks and mortar retail going to be able to compete directly with the convenience of Online shopping and the ranges on offer. We have to focus on what makes us different. Also kids are not going to support us just cos we are Real , or we haven’t sold out or even our claims to help the community cos just like me at that age they have no idea what that really means I think that understanding is something which comes with age and in our modern day lives this itself it hard for us to support for the greater good when we are busy trying to pay the bills and raise families of our own. 
The skate store needs to be better than online in its own way or face the reality of it just not working out ! For the minute tho all us skate shop owners have some breathing space from just paying the bills where we don’t have to worry skateboarding has blown up of late and maybe with the olympics coming it may continue. Im not so sure myself but for now things are good and that’s what matters ….  Up the sos as unabomber once said !! May all the sos store make stacks of cash and be merry until rains on us next time ,, cos it will .. Its England it always fucking rains !