An interview with Mike Bornstein, owner of the Edge Board shop to find out more about the shop and their plans for 2014 and beyond. EDGE launched its retail store and website in June 2011. Previously, I had been in the retail skate industry for 25 years and have had a lot of well-rounded experience in all segments of the industry from shortboard hardgoods, softgoods, shoes and longboards. My son Adam got involved in downhill longboarding and was the one who opened my eyes to how it had evolved into an international sport with professionally sanctioned races. It was clear to me that we were on the cusp of an exploding industry with an incredible future.
Were you surprised by the growth of the shop?
We were thrilled with our immediate success and how we have grown in a relatively short time frame. Humbly put, I was not surprised in our explosive growth. There’s something to be said for the “old and wise”. The skate industry is not an easy one to establish in, but with my many years of experience, relationships, and understanding of the industry, I knew what and how to do it. The longboarding segment is by far my favorite and I love everything about it. I have a great respect for the passion of the skaters, our relationship with our vendors, and efforts of our competitors. EDGE will continue its expansion and contribute to the overall growth of the industry. With our continued success we will be able to support more race events, riders, and vendors to make their products available to our customers.
What are some of the things you hear from your customers?
We’ve had some great feedback from our customers and we listen carefully. We’ve heard everything from a lot of thank you’s for our service and selections, requests for new products, and many inquiries asking if we could open an EDGE store in their neighborhood. Some sent in reports illustrating why we should open a store in their neighborhood and what they were offering to help us. It was awesome to see this and it became very personal to have these discussions with our customers.
What led to the idea of franchising?
It started with the inspiration from our many customer requests to open a store in their neighborhood. We saw the immediate success of our retail store and how important it is to be in touch with your customers. In our industry, touch and feel is important and you just can’t get that with the internet. There are thousands of amazing and technical products in this industry that are better understood when you have an expert showing you in person. You can describe the concave of a board, but until you have your feet on it, you don’t know if it’s the right fit or not. Longboarding can be technical and your riding experience will vary depending on how you’re equipped. Much like high-end bicycles, there are thousands of geometric combinations that can be dialed in to your specific preference. To be able to see the equipment options and get professional advice in person is where the consumer will get their best experience with longboarding.
What about opening more of your own stores?
We thought about opening more of our own stores, but it requires a lot of capital investment and a larger management structure. Because of that, it would take much longer to open stores around the country and world. With respect to employee managers, nobody is going to live, breath and work it like an owner. Franchises are individually owned and with that, we feel the care and professionalism of the store will be to our standards. The owner will be someone who is from that community and knows it well. Trying to run a store across the country when we don’t really know the community is difficult. So, the idea of franchising proved to be the better choice all around.
I’m fortunate to have talented and influential business people in my network of friends. Through this network, I met Michael Peterson, Charles Franklin and Chris Wilson of Franchise Beacon, an established franchise consulting company. Michael, Charles and Chris are seasoned experts in franchising and have not only endorsed the EDGE concept, but have joined the company. We are a true team and now very excited to be offering EDGE opportunities to qualified people wanting to own their own business.
Do you feel the longboard market is big enough to support more longboard only shops?
No question about it. We are in a highly specialized industry. The leading brands depend on core shops to present their products in a professional and informative way. For that reason, box stores will not be dealers. The demand is there and the void is in the availability. The longboard market is consistently growing and is our core product focus. Many longboarders go to their local skate park and are also in to short-board or “trick-boards”. We carry a variety of trick board products and will scale to the needs of each local community that we are in. Skateboarding has been around for a long time and is a staple sport/activity like riding a bike. How many garages have at least 1 skateboard inside? The industry is exploding and as it becomes more and more recognized, it will evolve just like regular skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding and other accomplished action sports.
Why do you think that most traditional skate shops don’t order a wider variety of hardgoods?
I think the local skate shops are smart to stick with what they know. It’s not easy to establish your identity in the skate industry and once you do, it is a risk to do anything that could change it. Additionally, most shops are limited in capital and store size so they need to focus on their core product lines. EDGE will ultimately have a presence in all major cities and be the core shop specializing in longboard products.
Most people believe that longboarding owes a lot of its success to the web – so what is the role of a traditional brick and mortar store?
I would agree with that. The web is an amazing source of information, unites the world and makes products available to everyone. Without it, how would we know about all the products available and the global slide jams and races going on? We’re informed and the more people see what this is all about, the more people will want to be a part of it. The brick and mortar store plays a more critical role and is complimentary to the web.
As mentioned earlier, this is a touch and feel industry. There’s a lot to know about the product itself and to have a local store, with all the products at your fingertips and with an expert person to teach you about it is the difference. The longboard vendors are amazing in what they are creating and there is an unbelievable amount research and testing that goes into the products. When you’re flying down a hill at 40mph, you need to know that what’s under your feet is not only quality, but dialed in to your riding style. If you have an EDGE store in your community, you will see all the best products in the industry. You will have a professionally run store with experts who know the products and who can teach and advise on what’s best for you. That’s an important service that I value and believe is best for the consumer and the industry. Why would you buy online when you can have all that available to you in your own neighborhood?
What are some things you’ve been doing with your Edge Team?
We have a pretty large team so keeping in touch with everyone can be a challenge at times. We are actively supporting them and leading efforts to post their videos and photos. During race season, we include those who can make it on our road trips in the EDGE VAN and we have a lot of fun together. This year so far, we went to Puerto Rico for the Guajataca race and in May, we’re sailing to Catalina Island with our EDGE riders who are racing. We’ve also have the EDGE Shred Fest which was a freeride event in our home town of San Clemente, California. Our media manager will be traveling with our team to film and put together a video for this year’s race events in Washington State, Oregon, Canada, Colorado and overseas. We have future plans for some of our pro team riders to be part of our franchise store grand openings and to help organize and participate in our future slide jam events.
Where do you see the future of longboard retailing headed?
With our efforts as well as other good retailers, I see it heading in a great direction of growth. The internet will always be there, but having retail stores in the right communities around the country and world, it will make the products more accessible and will educate more people. The industry has seen a 50% year over year growth trend for the past 5 years and I’m hoping it will potentially be recognized as an Olympic sport. That will continue to fuel the popularity of the industry. In our retail store, we’re seeing many “back in the day” parents reminiscing and buying boards to join their kids in the activity and fun. Longboarding ranges from Downhill race boards to easy going cruisers that appeal to people of all ages.
What’s the one misconception that people have about Edge Board Shop that you’d like to clarify?
When we made our first announcement that we launched our franchise efforts, we received an overwhelming amount of inquiries and positive support. Some of our customers put together reports of why we needed to open an EDGE store in their neighborhood and what they would do to help us. We are still receiving those inquiries and are excited about our plans. The “nay-sayers” brought up some fair concerns, which is the only misconception that I can think of.
It’s a bit frustrating to hear assumptions and profound statements from people who don’t really understand and haven’t taken the time to. Blind followers tend to buy in and we then have “misconceptions”. The nay-sayers compared us to Walmart and expressed their concerns that EDGE, the “big company” is going to open stores in communities that we know nothing about and will put any existing stores out of business. I heard the term “mainstream” the industry. I think that was the gist of it.
I call that a misconception because by franchising, that is exactly what we are not doing. The franchisee is the owner of his/her store vs. a “corporate” store that could be managed from across the country. We are not just selling skate products, we are first building relationships with people. We know our customers and are on a first name basis. We see them skating, we sponsor local riders, hold events and support the industry. What EDGE is all about is personal one on one education, service and a 100% dedication to making sure people get the right products and have the best experience possible. Sales are a bi-product of the service and the relationships we build. The internet is necessary, but cannot compare to the personal retail experience.
How do you qualify as a franchisee?
To qualify as a franchisee and to have your own store, you must already be an active part of that community. Then, it is local, personal and run right. Having multiple stores around the country and world puts the products in the hands of the consumer which allows them to be educated and to make the best purchase decision. It’s more than just buying something, it’s a positive experience and an earned relationship. That to me is not mainstream and is the very definition of core.
It wouldn’t make good business sense to open a store too close to a competitor. It’s a big world and there are many locations available where we would not step on any toes. We would much rather collaborate and work with than against. We’ve had a number of existing retail stores inquire on how they could “convert” to an EDGE store. We are open to exploring that kind of opportunity, but would otherwise never want to interfere with anyone’s existing business.
I hope that sheds some light on our approach and what we represent in the industry. As always, we welcome any and all feedback and it is really our customers who are driving our decisions and efforts. As we open more stores, I will personally be there to assist and ensure that our franchisees are setup and cared for. I will also look forward to meeting our young customers around the country.
See you at the races!