While New York City’s skate scene has notoriously been regarded as rugged and fresh, Manhattan’s Autumn skate shop loves art, ‘zines, and brands that keep it real-catering to a large niche of local and sometimes not-so-local skateboarders who seek something they can identify with.
Situated on North Second Avenue on the Lower East Side, Autumn was founded in April 2001 by skater Dave Mims, who studied fine art at the School Of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and his wife Kristen Yaccarino, who studied English at nearby Pace University.
“Having a skate shop was always something I had in my mind to do. In the late 80s I called up Eastern Skateboard Supply and ordered stuff,” recalls Mims, who lived on Long Island at the time where his father owned a baseball-card shop. “I used his (dad’s shop’s) tax ID number and sold stuff. I was about twelve or thirteen, and the reason I was selling boards wasn’t really to make money but to get stuff for cheaper and because there was no skate shop on east Long Island then.”
Mims and Yaccarino had thought about opening a skate shop for some time and casually looked at retail spaces. But their decision was made when they found the right space at the right price down the street from where Mims lived. Mims says they didn’t get any loans or borrow any money to open the shop: “We opened up the shop with barely anything-like six sets of wheels and two sets of trucks.”
Their grassroots approach to running a shop has been favorable. Today, Autumn carries brands Mims supports, with a strong focus on the art-based brands. The shop’s support comes from the group of skaters, most of them much older than your average preteen or teenage skate-shop customers, who believe in what Autumn represents. The shop supports the local skateboard art community through regular exhibits at a warehouse-gallery in nearby Williamsburg and by carrying ‘zines by local skaters.
Asked to describe what he feels the relationship between Autumn and art is, Mims shrugs. “It’s just the vibe of the city,” he says. “A lot of creative people come around here. We have a lot of people doing our windows and designing T-shirts.
“There aren’t that many kids here-not like California. Most people who come into the shop are in their twenties. The average age of our customers is twenty to 25. But there are also 30- and 40- year-old guys who come in. So we don’t have to carry Birdhouse and Hook-Ups.
“We’re a small shop and don’t have that big of an income, so I just get to order stuff I like. A lot of other shops feel that they have to order certain stuff.”
The shop’s inventory is approximately 50-percent hardgoods and 50-percent softgoods, including shoes. However, with a total of 250 square feet in floor space and roughly 35 square feet of storage, the shop space is extremely limited and unable to hold much stock. “We don’t have room for it,” says Mims. “And I don’t have the money to have a stock, but I like it like that because you always get new stuff in.
“And the market is so oversaturated right now-it makes it harder for a smaller shop to order boards when a single company has a hundred boards out.”
Mims is quick to point out that neither he nor Kristen have a business background, so they can’t really say how the shop has grown or developed since it first opened, but they don’t particularly care to notice either. “It’s been cool,” he says. “I’m not a good businessperson, so I don’t really pay attention to that.”I like to support the skateboard companies, but most people my age aren’t going to shell out 65 bucks for a pair of whatever company’s pants when they could get a pair of Levi’s or whatever for 30 bucks. It’s hard enough to get someone to shell out nineteen bucks for a T-shirt when they know they could get the same shirt without the logo for five bucks somewhere else,” explains Mims.
It’s the grassroots attitudes of the owners that gives them great appeal to local skateboarders who support them. Their marketing sttrategy is essentially limited to giving out T-shirts and stickers. While their marketing program is more word-of-mouth, Mims says, “But I give out a hell of a lot of T-shirts and stickers. We sell more shirts that are made by local skaters than those made by skateboard companies.”
However, that’s not the only marketing Autumn does; the shop features a strong team. “Probably everyone on our team has designed a T-shirt,” says Mims, who screens the shirts himself on the checkout counter. The shop’s team features Ted Barrow, Bobby Puleo, Tino Razo, Matt Avedon, Aaron Szott, Will Sabatini, Jim Murphy, and Andy Kessler. “And Tony Cox when he’s in the city,” laughs Mims, adding that having the team isn’t something they’ve cared to put much emphasis on. Instead, says Mims, “People come in to the shop, and they get so excited they have to tell people. Or people (are) going all over the world and putting stickers up-and then we get people from all over the world coming in because they saw a sticker in Switzerland or whatever.
“That’s really the best advertising. I give (out) hundreds of stickers. I’ve ordered 40- or 50-thousand stickers since I opened the shop a couple of years ago,” says Mims, adding that as a lot of his friends come in to the shop, he gives out a lot of “bro discounts.”
What’s most intriguing about Mims’ approach to running Autumn is how free-spirited it is. This isn’t just reflected in the companies he does or doesn’t choose to support, or the T-shirts, stickers, or discounts he gives away, but more in the attitude he holds toward the future. “A lot of people open up shops and are dead set in their minds that they want to stay in business forever,” he says. “I’m not thinking that, and that’s not our focus here. I’m just having fun with it right now. We’re not determined to stay open forever.
“We opened it on a whim. I appreciate the kind of following we’re getting. I will be skateboarding forever, but being a skate-shop owner is not my pension plan. I might just give it away to someone one day, so it (the shop) will probably be here in some shape or form.
“I don’t think the shop would be the same as it is now if our only goal was to stay in business,” Mims continues. “It’s probably our positive attitude that drives this.
“If you have a good feeling going into it, it’s a good thing. When I get orders in, I get excited to put it up in the shop and have new stuff. Once that excitement is over, my days behind the counter will be over.” Autumn Skateboard Shop, 150 E. 2nd St., NY, NY. Phone: (212) 677-6220.