I remember my first time going to a skate shop. It was around 1989, and I was 11. I remember being overwhelmed with all the boards, and intimidated by the real “skaters” that were in the shop. My first board was a Tony Hawk, which I picked because I saw it in an issue of “Sports Illustrated for Kids”. After picking out all of the components for it, and making sure they all matched the color scheme, I remember having to come back a day later to pick it up because it had to be “assembled”.
Let’s fast forward to present day. From a shops perspective, skateboarding has gone through many changes in 25+ years. Aside from the different brands, there are also tons of “mall stores” that make life a living hell for the local “Core” shop. Parents find it easier to shop at the mall because of convenience. Unfortunately, most of these “mall stores” are run by non skaters, or even worse,” Long boarders.”
Through the Sponsormonsterdm Instagram account, I had the pleasure of meeting Nick who co owns a shop in Kansas City. He was very kind and allowed me to interview him and cover these topics and more.
SMDM:So Nick, how long has Escapist been open?
Nick: The shop has been open for 16 years. We opened May, 2000
SMDM: Congrats on that! That’s an achievement in itself. Now, not sure how pertinent this is, but was/is there a shop called “High Roller” in the area? I’m just asking because when I was at Woodward in 95′ there was a kid in my bunk who rode for them. He claimed he was on their “Rail Division”.
Nick: I think you mean “Let it Ride”. Yes, that was a local shop. My partner Dan and I worked there. I don’t think that kid rode for it though.
SMDM: I remember the kid being very excited that Jaime Thomas put a sticker on his board. The sticker had dice on it, probably why I confused the name. He killed flat bars. He basically would grind all over Woodward in one go. Sucks I was duped for all those years.
Nick: Dan and I worked for another shop in 93′ before Let it Ride opened. A lot of our early Escapist team was on Let it Ride before they went out of business.
SMDM: Damn! So you have 20+ years in the industry?
Nick: I have worked at/rode for shops since 1990.
SMDM: So, through all those years, what era produced the most “Sponsor Me’s”?
Nick: Mid 2000’s seemed to be the biggest as far as the shop getting them.
SMDM: The AWS era?
Nick: VHS was still king! Zero and Toy Machine.
SMDM: How many tapes a month did you get?
Nick: Not that many, but definitely more than we get now. Most of it was a blur, I wouldn’t watch most of them.
SMDM: Is it more of a “send me free” messages now?
Nick: Yes. The Instagram/Facebook kids all want free stuff.
SMDM: They are entitled, didn’t you know that? Skateboarding means free….. Do the kids even buy from the shop?
Nick: Most of the DM’s are from kids who do not live near the shop. They probably don’t even know where we are.
SMDM: Nobody likes to support first. It’s an epidemic. You’re a charity organization. Free to all who ask…
Nick: Kids always want free stuff, but get lazier by the day to get it.
SMDM: Some effort would be nice for sure.
Nick: We have a thing on our website about not giving away free stuff or discounts.
SMDM: So I’m guessing the kids don’t read that?
Nick: Basically, that’s a big FUCK NO! We give out promo stuff daily, but they still want more. Whatever stickers, posters, etc.. that brands send us as promo goes out to kids at the shop.
SMDM: That’s nice you do that. I’ve seen shops sell all of that, or at least attempt to. I’m assuming you are competing with mall stores, and online shops. That must be a struggle. All this while trying to support some good “Core” brands that don’t sell as fast.
Nick: Yeah, we had 3 mall shops open up in the past year.
SMDM: Do you try and avoid brands that sell to mall stores?
Nick: We sell a lot of brands that are exclusive and no other shops in our area can carry, including the mall stores. We focus on those brands and our shop apparel and exclusive Girl Skateboards product. If the mall carries it, we tend to get sour to it.
SMDM: So the exclusive stuff helps?
Nick: Exclusive stuff is big. Quasi, Bronze, Dime. They all do really well. We carry the big brands as well, but those are the more exclusive brands we stock.
SMDM: On top of those brands, you have the Jungle Book kid on your shop team. That has to count for something.
Nick: Yeah, Sean Malto still rides for us. He has been with us since he was 10 years old. We sent his tape to Girl and DC. He has helped us open some doors, and we will forever be thankful.
SMDM: Do kids even know he is on? I would say that sets the shop sponsorship bar very high…
Nick: People know he is on. He is a legend in Kansas City. We sell tons of Malto stuff. Again, lots of exclusive Girl Reissues and Limited Edition Malto boards. We have 6 exclusive Malto decks in the shop right now.
SMDM: So you have a top pro riding for the shop, you would think kids would respect that and be aware of the level of talent that goes with riding for the shop.
Nick: Most of the kids who send the DM’s just want free. A majority of them don’t even live near, or have ever been, to the shop.
SMDM: I remember working at a shop. Kids would bring in “Sponsor Me” tapes, and if we told them no, they would just go to the shop a few towns over and they would put all these kids on. It was funny, because most of the kids weren’t even that good at the time. There was no loyalty, just the wanting of a sponsor.
Nick: There was a shop here that was doing that. Basically giving sponsorship for sales. It lasted about a year or so then they went under. Some of these kids are far away and it makes zero sense to sponsor because it wouldn’t even help promote our shop.
SMDM: So do these new DM kids offer you a spot on their Instagram? “I have 20k followers, you should sponsor me and I will spread the word”?
Nick: Yes. That’s a common one.
SMDM: Do you even answer?
Nick: I just talk shit to the kids. None of them are customers.
SMDM: It’s never your customers. That would make too much sense. Always random.
Nick: Yeah, kids in Tanzania, it’s crazy…I think they think we’re a brand, but were not.
SMDM: Have you ever sponsored a shop rider through a DM?
Nick: Never ever. We sponsor through word of mouth. We make the kids earn it, have them keep showing us their footage. We don’t just sponsor anyone.
SMDM: And to explain it better to the kids out there thinking shop sponsorship is a paid retirement, what exactly would a shop rider get?
Nick: Far from retirement. We usually give a discount and some shop product. The goal is to get them on the flow program with brands we sell.
SMDM: Interesting. The shop by me would give 30% off. They used to ask us for tapes to send out and one day I found them all in the back just sitting there. They weren’t skater owned, and when the Nike money started slimming down they closed up. The kids by you should be thankful they have a skater owned shop to support. Do you sell stuff to cater to non skaters?
Nick: We don’t promote or carry “Streetwear”. FUCK THAT! No hackey sacks, no frisbees.
SMDM: You don’t even carry the Frog hackey sacks? That’s kind of skate related.
Nick: We try and carry what our customers want, even before they know they want it. It helps that we skate and know whats going on.
SMDM: I feel it’s important for a shop owner to get whats going on. Is it difficult to keep up with things while your shop is getting destroyed from cars running through it?
Nick: Yeah, there was a drive by in front of our store a while back at like 2 a.m. Nobody was in the shop, but the security cameras captured it all. The car smashed into the front of the store with people who were shot in it. Someone must have put them there and let the car ghost ride. Luckily nobody was in the shop.
SMDM: That must have been fun to open up to. Is there often violence going on at the shop?
Nick: The alarm company called. And there is some gang activity near the shop, but it’s usually not too bad. There are parts that are far worse than where we are.
SMDM: I’m sure, you did mention that a mall store exists near you shop……..
Thanks Nick! Check out the website and buy something, especially if you plan to DM a sponsor me WWW.ESCAPISTSKATEBOARDING.COM