Retailer Tips April 1998

Get involved in your community.

“Take care of your own, and your own will take care of you” is a philosophy that can be directly applied to the skateboard industry. Efforts to strengthen your skate community can not only strengthen your business, but more importantly, they can earn skateboarders a respected place in their communities.

Skateboarding seems to get a lot of press; unfortunately most of it is not favorable. We have all seen headlines such as “Skateboarders Cause Problems Downtown,” “Skaters Damage High School,” or “Skater Involved In Assault.” Rarely do we see stories about skateboarders helping the community. If that's because negative press about skateboarding is more appealing to the public, then we may not have a chance. But if it's because we're not making a concerted effort to change attitudes, we have no one to blame but ourselves. There are innumerable ways for a skateboard business to be involved in its community. The following are just some examples of what's been done:

The most basic way to help your skate community is to get more people involved. This can be done by donating skateboards to local Boys And Girls Clubs, church organizations, or any other group that may service needy kids.

At Breakaway Republik in Upland, California, self-appointed czars Stan Kohl and Greg Estrada encourage patrons to donate old skateboard equipment such as trucks, wheels, and decks to be put together and given to those in need. “Over the Christmas holidays we donated quite a few new completes and several used skateboards to a local church,” says Stan. “I am sure it has given some kids an opportunity to enjoy skateboarding where otherwise they may never have had a chance.”

Organizing a field trip to a skatepark is a neat way to draw your skate community together. It gives kids from in and around your area a chance to skate together. It also allows kids too young to drive an opportunity to skate places too far for them to skate regularly, and affords parents a much-needed break from being taxi drivers.

Another sure-fire way to service your skate community is to help sponsor a skate club at the local high school. Besides the excellent exposure it offers in your target market, good grades and attendance can be encouraged by offering members discounts for making honor roll or having a perfect attendance record. Club members can also make up a good core of volunteers for many different projects, such as park or beach clean up, canned-food drives, or even acting as spokespeople for skateboarding safety to elementary-school students.

Skateboarding demos are an excellent way to bring favorable exposure to the sport. Exposing people to skateboarders' talents can often clear misconceptions. Having a demo at a retirement home might seem far off, but most elderly people enjoy contact with youth and would be amazed at their skills. This type of interaction can prove beneficial to both the elderly and the youth.

There are numerous ways that demos can be used to positively affect kids and their communities. At Sunshine Skate & Snow in Pinetop, Arizona, Owner Rob Sadova used his pull as a shop owner to have skate demos at the nearby White Mountain Apache Reservation. “These demos allow skaters on the reservation to skate and interact with pros and others they would normally never have a chance to see,” says Sadova. While the demos brought exposure to the reservation and his shop, they've even gone a step further than that. “We actually have the health department come set up anti-smoking and D.A.R.E. educational trailers for all the people who turn out,” he says.

Fund-raising for the charity of your choice is another practice that can teach young skaters good values, help your community, and generate positive publicity for skateboarding and your shop. There are many classic ways to raise funds for charities, such as car washes, rummage sales, and raffles. Take the time to make these events fun and involve skateboarding. Try having a skate-a-thon instead of a walk-a-thon. Change a run-of-the-mill raffle into an auction of skate products that have been signed by the pros themselves.

Owner Sid Abbruzzi of Water Bros. in Newport, Rhode Island raises money for the Salvation Army and the Martin Luther King Center by having a Christmas party open to the public. “We charge a five-dollar donation and set up a bunch of television screens to show the latest surf, skate, and snowboard videos,” he says. “Last year was our fifth year, and we raised close to 2,000 dollars.”

These are just a few of the things that you can do to help skateboarding make a positive impact on your community. Take a long hard look at what needs improvement in your own town, and put skateboarding to work to get those things done. Skateboarding has the attention of today's youth–with it we can teach responsibility and good values. When you give skateboarding a respected place in your own city, you do the same for your business and patrons as well.