Bent Wood From Brentwood
By Ed Starke
In a primarily West Coast-dominated skate market, it’s refreshing to see companies making an impact outside the California beach zone. Such is the case with the Brentwood, New York-based Chapman skateboards, a company that has built a reputation for functional and solid skateboards. Whether their decks are ridden by the average Joe or the top pro, one thing’s for certain, Chapman is definitely down for skating. This should be no great surprise, since the company was founded by longtime skater Gregg Chapman.
Having spent most of his life happily glued to a skateboard, Gregg’s decision to make decks seemed only natural. In 1991 he started Number 9 skateboards out of a rented garage in Bayshore, New York. It was in this small unheated space that Gregg manufactured boards by hand and slowly developed the craftsmanship for which Chapman would be known. As Number 9′s good-wood reputation grew, it eventually earned Chapman the job of manufacturing the popular Zoo York decks. With all production efforts solely devoted to supplying those, Chapman put Number 9 on hold.
Zoo’s rapid growth allowed Chapman to watch and learn all the intricacies of managing a skateboard brand. This intense interaction with Zoo also generated the capital that allowed Chapman to expand manufacturing and take its family-oriented business to the next level.
Eight years later, Chapman continues to grow with a rider-based promotional program that remains focused on hardcore skating. Backed by world-class pros Mathias Ringstrom, Billy Rohan, Danny Gonzalez, and up-and-coming ams like Scott Pazelt and Anthony Furlong, the Chapman team is attracting attention and doing their job: skating and promoting the products they ride.
Gregg says that another key to his company’s steady stream of growth is its complete control over production, and the team’s involvement in developing products. He’s quick to point out that his athletes could write their own ticket to ride for anyone, anywhere, but that they choose to stay with him because they see the opportunity to build a company based on their own styles and ideas.
“This team is together because we’re all equally excited about what we’re trying to do,” says Chapman. “We’re a company that’s defined by the image of everyone on our team. In every sense of the word, these guys are my family. Everyday they inspire me to push harder, and they don’t even know that I’m their biggest fan. I’m so stoked on what we’re doing, and this is just the beginning.”
Gregg’s philosophy of “slow never-ending progression” drives his constant experimentation with deck construction. Rather than jumping on current trends or gimmicks, Gregg focuses on what he considers true innovation. After releasing the Red Line and Blue Line concave series last year, Chapman has joined a small group of manufacturers to build a new breed of vertical-grain-core decks, the center veneer is itself a multi-ply laminate. Chapman believes that this approach to the business will help skateboarding grow and evolve, but also ensure that it will be a viable sport/lifestyle for future generations to enjoy.
On the business side, Gregg feels his enormous creative control over product coupled with the talent and drive of Chapman will enable him to compete with California companies. In terms of advantages, being in New York allows him to thoroughly enjoy the support of family, friends, and the unique skate culture he’s loved since day one. It also doesn’t hurt that his wood source lies only four hours away from the factory. As far as disadvantages go, he feels winters can be rough and shipping his trade-show booth out to California twice a year can be a hassle. However, it’s all a small price to pay for his company and the fact that they’ve seen steady growth over the past couple of months. With a woodshop staff of twenty and another five people solely dedicated to the brand, Gregg admits that the bulk of his production is OEM, but he’s very selective who he deals with. This allows him to keep his staff constantly busy while he vows to never stop learning and pushing progress.
On the eve of the fall ASR Trade Expo, and having just finished their promo video, new deck shapes and graphics, and a complete softgoods line, the Chapman staff can’t help but wonder that they have the greatest jobs on the planet. Their strong work ethic and constant interaction allows them to function as a tight-knit family, and their continued growth suggests they’ve found success on their road to satisfaction.