My Bartie Experience

In 1993 I was sponsored by a distributor called Kewday (now Equal Central), and a few months later I was shipped off to Queensland to meet the team and check out their operation. Before leaving my insular home in Perth for a scene on the other side of the country, I knew nothing about the scenario except that the Barties were a staple part of the Queensland scene, and I now rode for the same team as Chad Bartie and Matt Mumford.

I was pretty nervous. Chad’s brother Jamie Bartie picked me up from the airport, and the first thing I noticed was how hospitable he was. Within half an hour I had met the rest of the family, and they followed suit. We got up at the crack of dawn the next day and were skating a bank under a local bridge. Mumford and Bartie (Chad) were among us. Chad was a skinny teenager who pushed with a keenness that I had never before witnessed. He and Matt threw down on the bank with a vigor that is still fresh in my mind to this day. I knew that they would both go a long way.

Aside from now being happily married to his teenage sweetheart, Hannah, Chad spends his days traveling the world and surfing near his U.S. home base in Encinitas, California, and somehow still takes care of half owning a ‘core skate shop in Queensland. I recently tracked down Chad and Jamie and had a chat with them about Skateboards Only and what makes it different from most Aussie shops.

Size And Scope

Being a surfing-obsessed nation, it seems like Australia would have a huge skateboarding community. Well, it does, but unfortunately most of the product people ride is filtered to the skaters through giant surf-store chains that keep their skateboard counters tucked behind rows of hideous bikinis. Luckily, the major cities each boast one or two real skate shops that focus on skateboard-specific products.

When asked about fueling other communities, Jamie had a clear set of priorities: “The name says it all. We never have (diverted), nor will we ever divert to crossover sports. Our belief is that if you’re going to do something, do it right.”

Focusing on skateboarding means more space is available on the wall, allowing the Barties to easily display 100 to 120 boards at any one time.

Location, Climate, And Vibe

With lush weather, snow-white beaches, perfect waves, rainforests a stone’s throw away, and plenty of beautiful people, it’s easy to see why the Gold Coast is one of Australia’s main beacons for tourism. Apart from the transient population, consisting mostly of nomadic surf-oriented tourists, the Gold Coast still accounts for a sizeable chunk of the Queensland population. Of the 3.6-odd-million residents (3,627,816, to be exact) who live in Queensland, over 400,000 (more like 418,491) choose to live on the “Goldie.” Being located farther north than most Australian capitals, the Goldie cops more than its share of perfect weather. In fact, the only time that doesn’t benefit skaters is the peak of summer, when the tropical climate brings on heavy humidity in the 70- to 90-percent range.

As mentioned previously, the focus on skateboards makes the Barties’ store stand out from potential competitors who “dabble in skateboarding,” according to Jamie, and who tend to fuel the more surf-orientated crew.

Chad points out that being a skate store in a perfect surf climate leads to devoted customers who are prepared to travel the distance and who overlook the usual boundaries that exist within skateboarding: “There’s a very big surf scene where our shop is, with a lot of tourism all year round. There’s a mixture of scenes on the Gold Coast with a lot of other customers traveling over an hour just to visit our store. The local kids don’t have the typical crews, they all skate with each other with no vibes.”

Seasonal?

Unlike the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, where skateability decays during the wetness of winter, Jamie points out that the Gold Coast has a whole new seof factors that determine retail trends. “If anything, we’re governed to a certain degree by school holidays, which we count on heavily,” he says. “The Gold Coast is Australia’s main tourism destination, bringing millions of people to our region yearly.”

So basically, when sales drop off around the country due to weather, the Gold Coast draws an influx of interstate skaters on holiday with their folks.

Owners’ History

The Bartie name has been associated with skateboarding in Australia for as long as I can remember. Chad tells us just why:”We both (Chad and Jamie) started skating fifteen years ago. Dad (Dave) had a BMX store in Nobby’s Beach on the Gold Coast for a couple of years, as both of us raced BMX. As we got into skating, he slowly changed the store more and more until it was eventually 100-percent skate.”

The Barties’ shop was called Deck Head back then, and as the Bartie kids grew up, they spent afternoons working there. While Chad developed his skating talent, Jamie really took to the business and eventually founded Equal Central Distribution. Dad Dave, a motocross enthusiast, later opened an MX store, leaving Deck Head totally to his sons to manage.

Under their management, Deck Head became Skateboards Only, and Chad, Hannah, and Jamie ran it together. Nowadays, Chad and Hannah help out when they’re in Australia, but with Chad now based in the U.S. and traveling everywhere else to skate, Jamie and his staff handle the shop’s day-to-day business in tandem with Equal Central. “Now I’m skating professionally in the U.S. for companies that my brother doesn’t even distribute, which is sometimes a little weird,” says Chad. “But I guess that’s the way things turn out. In the future, after my skateboarding career, I see my brother and his family, and me and my family working together in the businesses our family has produced.”

Influence And Support

If all kids had the support that Joan and Dave Bartie offered, there would be ridiculous amounts of talent everywhere, and everyone would have been taught to follow their passions. The Barties tend to up the ante no matter what they’re doing, and the store was a seemingly logical progression. I remember even as a teamrider for Jamie’s Equal Central Distribution, Dave Bartie would tell me I could take it all the way’it was this attitude that has rubbed off and has helped Chad become one of the most well-rounded skaters on the circuit today. This is a point that’s still present in the ethos of Skateboards Only. “Since Chad and I bought out our father’s portion three years ago,” says Jamie, “it’s been our goal to keep its tradition going of supporting and encouraging Aussie up-and-comers to go that step further.”

Apart from regularly sponsoring local contests, Skateboards Only also makes a point of bringing the best skaters in the world to their shop to give their customers real experiences with the names and faces they read about and see in magazines and videos. “We get the best tours that are coming through from the U.S. and do shop signings and demos for all the kids,” says Chad. “These guys are the kids’ idols, and being in another country makes it all that much more meaningful for them to see their favorite skaters.”

Only Skateboard Customers

The length of time that the Barties have been supporting skating has attracted customers who span the generation gaps. “Our client base is far and wide,” says Jamie. “We have third-generation clients now, people that used to buy off our dad, and I now see them coming in to purchase not only for themselves, but also their kids.”

In the bigger capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne, skateboarders tend to be concerned about trivial matters like whether you’re wearing a flexfit cap or a trucker hat, and whether your shoe tongues are fat or you have pink laces. In less urban, more chilled-out zones of Australia, the lines between hesh and fresh are often blurred. The Barties’ clients come from all necks of the woods, in all shapes and forms. “Fresh, hesh, surf/skaters, style gurus, parents, and even the little kids,” lists Jamie. “Now that they can buy the whole package’mini deck, 47 millimeter wheels, and now their favorite pro’s shoe (in kids’ sizes)’the store caters to all levels and styles of skaters. Providing the range and depth is our forte.”

Inventory

Skateboards Only stocks top brands across the three basic categories–hardgoods, softgoods, and shoes–and each are given equal focus as far as floor space goes. What?s interesting, though, are recent changes in deck sales. “From October to March, (Powell) Mini Logo-to-pro(-model) sales were three to one,” says Jamie. “Since April it’s been turning back to pro boards, with a ratio of one-to-one. This is due to our (Australian) dollar getting better against the greenback and pro boards coming down in price–from 149 down to 139 Australian dollars.”

Another noticeable change in the Australian market over the last few years is the shift from U.S. brands to Australian brands, which have been improving. Whereas five years ago Aussie brands barely existed, they now represent a decent chunk of Skateboards Only sales:

Hardgoods: 20%

Softgoods: 15%

Shoes: 3%

Jamie suggests that pivotal to surviving as a strictly skateboard retailer is being flexible and paying attention to the changes happening within skating as a whole: “The only thing that has changed over the years is skating itself, and with that we have had to change and adapt. This is the beauty of it–our clients in a way dictate what is happening, not us (the industry).”

Typical of skate retailers the world over, Jamie reports that hardgoods are somewhat profitable, but he relies on softgoods and shoes to make up for tight margins. The shop is self-financed, and he admits to not keeping as close an eye on the shop’s cash flow as he should. “The only thing we keep a keen eye on is the week’s sales and what they consist of–decks, shoes, pants, et cetera,” he says. “And we make sure that we have the backup stock of all the key items.”

Skateboard Paradise

While Australia establishes a global reputation as a skate utopia with more first-class public parks and skateable commercial districts being built, local ams continue to get better and more Aussie pros are rocking international models than ever before. But all these positive indicators don’t guarantee that long-standing and dedicated shops like Skateboards Only shops will succeed. “Anytime there is growth, it’s encouraging, but the downside to this is the competition that pops up to make the quick buck and then disappears when the so-called ‘fad’ has died off,” laments Jamie. “It doesn’t really change the way we do our business, but it makes us very selective about the labels that we support and get support from.”

But Skateboards Only is benefiting from skateboarding’s boom, perhaps partly due to a recent change in location and a redesign of the store, and Jamie sees the growth continuing: “There has been a definite increase over the last eighteen months in parents and kids coming through the door. It seems like the next generation has come around almost instantaneously.”

But he’s not complaining. Even though Chad and Hannah aren’t always around, Jamie and the Skateboards Only staff are more than capable of servicing their Gold Coast clientele. It’s a shop with history, and the staff understands that it must always change with the evolving needs of its customers. After all, the Barties plan to stay in it for the long haul. ll necks of the woods, in all shapes and forms. “Fresh, hesh, surf/skaters, style gurus, parents, and even the little kids,” lists Jamie. “Now that they can buy the whole package’mini deck, 47 millimeter wheels, and now their favorite pro’s shoe (in kids’ sizes)’the store caters to all levels and styles of skaters. Providing the range and depth is our forte.”

Inventory

Skateboards Only stocks top brands across the three basic categories–hardgoods, softgoods, and shoes–and each are given equal focus as far as floor space goes. What?s interesting, though, are recent changes in deck sales. “From October to March, (Powell) Mini Logo-to-pro(-model) sales were three to one,” says Jamie. “Since April it’s been turning back to pro boards, with a ratio of one-to-one. This is due to our (Australian) dollar getting better against the greenback and pro boards coming down in price–from 149 down to 139 Australian dollars.”

Another noticeable change in the Australian market over the last few years is the shift from U.S. brands to Australian brands, which have been improving. Whereas five years ago Aussie brands barely existed, they now represent a decent chunk of Skateboards Only sales:

Hardgoods: 20%

Softgoods: 15%

Shoes: 3%

Jamie suggests that pivotal to surviving as a strictly skateboard retailer is being flexible and paying attention to the changes happening within skating as a whole: “The only thing that has changed over the years is skating itself, and with that we have had to change and adapt. This is the beauty of it–our clients in a way dictate what is happening, not us (the industry).”

Typical of skate retailers the world over, Jamie reports that hardgoods are somewhat profitable, but he relies on softgoods and shoes to make up for tight margins. The shop is self-financed, and he admits to not keeping as close an eye on the shop’s cash flow as he should. “The only thing we keep a keen eye on is the week’s sales and what they consist of–decks, shoes, pants, et cetera,” he says. “And we make sure that we have the backup stock of all the key items.”

Skateboard Paradise

While Australia establishes a global reputation as a skate utopia with more first-class public parks and skateable commercial districts being built, local ams continue to get better and more Aussie pros are rocking international models than ever before. But all these positive indicators don’t guarantee that long-standing and dedicated shops like Skateboards Only shops will succeed. “Anytime there is growth, it’s encouraging, but the downside to this is the competition that pops up to make the quick buck and then disappears when the so-called ‘fad’ has died off,” laments Jamie. “It doesn’t really change the way we do our business, but it makes us very selective about the labels that we support and get support from.”

But Skateboards Only is benefiting from skateboarding’s boom, perhaps partly due to a recent change in location and a redesign of the store, and Jamie sees the growth continuing: “There has been a definite increase over the last eighteen months in parents and kids coming through the door. It seems like the next generation has come around almost instantaneously.”

But he’s not complaining. Even though Chad and Hannah aren’t always around, Jamie and the Skateboards Only staff are more than capable of servicing their Gold Coast clientele. It’s a shop with history, and the staff understands that it must always change with the evolving needs of its customers. After all, the Barties plan to stay in it for the long haul.