Photography by Jonathan Mehring
Words by Francis Showerface
Palace Skateboards opened their first American store on the morning of May 5th, 2017. In less than two hours, the NYPD shut it down. A hectic line had been swelling outside since the previous night, and when a gang of young scallywags tried to cut in at the front of it, the shit hit the fan. A minor riot kicked off, there was a lot of pushing and punching and shouting and then the cops came, broke it all up and demanded that the shop close for the rest of the day. It was a crazy start to the business. Some kids in the disbanded line actually wept at the injustice of it all, the poor things. Imagine that.
To mark the glorious occasion and to ensure that the opening party would be a laugh, Palace brought the skate team and a load of mates to New York City. The team stayed for a month, skating a shit-ton of spots, filming, photographing, partying, bunning and larking about in that way that they do. It was a hell of a time.
I'll level with you now: Palace's New York store boasts a frankly fucked-up level of glitz. There's wall-to-wall polished marble, a luxuriously embroidered and ludicrously expensive vast velvet banner, an ornamental pond with TV screens in its bottom and a permanently pissing cherub statue in its top. I can quite confidently state that it is the most glamorous skate shop in the whole wide world. In a strikingly stark contrast to this, across the water in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Palace's New York skate house boasted a frankly fucked-up level of squalor. As is so often the case with dwellings slightly overfilled with skateboarders, it was fairly disgusting in there. There was a dungeon-like basement room, devoid of natural light, that some unfortunate fuckers had to stay in. There were cockroaches, overflowing ashtrays, arguments about various people coming in late, drunk, loud, waking everyone up. Chewy threw an ironing board at Lucien over this shit. The skate house, the skate house, the skate house—we've all been there.
Still, the team got out and about and did some commendable skateboard tricks. Mehring drove the lads around in his Buick; a car so profoundly old and battered that he encouraged them to skate it, batter it further. They went all over, he shot photos. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did.
But look I'm not going to lie: I was in New York City for four days of this jaunt and I put my drink down and rode a skateboard for about ten, maybe fifteen minutes tops. I can't accurately report from the street skating frontline of this trip because, frankly, I wasn't really ever anywhere near it.
With this in mind, and in the spirit of the rigorous skateboard journalism for which I am renowned, I called up Palace's own Jamal Smith, mainly because he's the funniest person on the team. He was there, man. And this is what he made of it:
So how was the New York trip for you, Jamal?
It was chill! Lots of skateboarding and stuff, motherfuckers was guaping us out with the weed and whatnot. It was definitely nice to come back to the city. One thing that really sticks out in my memory was everybody mobbing out to skate the Brooklyn Banks. Just like squeezing in between these crazy-ass barricades and fences, getting your jacket caught up on fuckin' rusty metal and shit.
Did you ever skate Brooklyn Banks back when it was all opened up?
Yeah, I skated there when I was about 19 or so, right before they closed it down; they were having all those contests out there and shit. So I got to experience it when it was not as grimy, but it's sick there now, because there's like, no rules and it's crazy. Trying to like, hide from the cops and shit. We went there multiple times but the first time I was there it was like me, Lucien, Rory, Blondey, Brady, Benny, some random locals: it was happy days man. It was sick.
I've noticed that quite a lot of shit has been talked on the apartment that [Palace pro and Team Manager] Danny Brady booked for you all to stay in. What's your verdict on the place?
Um…it was like…a fuckin' sex trafficking house, man. It looked like we were trying to hide illegal aliens there or some shit. I had this gnarly-ass room that didn't have windows: it was just like; you close the door and it was pitch black. The fuckin' basement had like eight little beds all lined up next to each other, and that's where the bulk majority of the team stayed. I went down there maybe once, the whole time I was staying there, at the very end of the trip, and it was so gnarly. Like just bottles of piss laying all over the place. It was pretty tight.
Wow. How about the skate spots you went to: were you into them? I know you're quite fond of transition, which isn't always easy to come by in the street…
When I was younger I fucked with transition more but since I moved to Philly, skating Love Park and shit got me all hyped on like skating ledges, and just Philly in general: skating weird crusty spots. So being in New York was kind of cool like that. But the bulk majority of the main spots in New York are kind of crazy, they're not even really like, 'spots.' They're like, you have to get real creative on them. It's not like a nice ledge in a wide-open parking lot, it's always more like some weird curb that you have to ride off, and then you have to dodge like a cellar door or some shit. You just have to get real creative out there. But the homey Joseph Delgado was showing us around spots, and he had a whole lot of heat for us. That dude is fucking on point: one of my favorite skaters in New York for sure.
And how was the launch party for the Palace shop?
Oh yeah yeah yeah, the party was gnarly! Tim Westwood DJing, Rory on the decks, fuckin' so many New York heads. I saw like Sage [Elsesser], Tyshawn [Jones] out there, everybody had free drinks. It was fun, man! So many girls, too! The girl-to-dude ratio was insane, like I've never seen a party where there were actually three chicks for every dude there. It was crazy.
As shops go, Palace's New York one is kind of bonkers isn't it?
The store is gangster as fuck! It's got a little nigga peeing into a fountain, holding a big-ass 'P,' and the counters are made out of like, actual marble, so you can't even put like a little bottle of water down on them things. It's pretty gnarly. Every time I walk in there I don't even want to put my skateboard down on the ground, I'm like "Yo, this shit is fancy as fuck!"
Not your average skate shop, then…
Hell no, man! Niggas have to have like, their pinkies up whenever they're drinking anything in that place. That shit's like, fuckin' Fresh Prince of Bel Air shit.
[Laughs] Alright just to finish: it's only just occurred to me that you don't actually have any skate photos in this article. Do you have anything you'd like to say to the editors of Transworld regarding this lamentable oversight?
Hell no! I don't give a fuck! Let them other boys cook, it's all good.
Watch Palace’s video from the trip below: