The longboard Micro Store
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“Small is the new big,” marketing guru Seth Godin once famously wrote. In Godin’s terms, “small” means, among other things, being able to use speed, flexibility, creativity and personalization to your advantage. That’s why longboard shop owners, and those aspiring to be shop owners, might want to consider a “micro-store” approach. Ryan Rubin has done just that with his two Longboard Living shops in Toronto’s Kensington Market. Though small in size – one shop covers just 300 square feet and the other a mere 150 square feet – they offer big potential. We recently sat down with Ryan to find out how his unique shops work.
What gave you the idea of a micro-store?
Ryan Rubin: Longboard Living is a hard-good specialty store, so the extra square footage for Tshirts and hoodies was not needed. While operating on a startup budget, it was the low overhead that first attracted us to our location, Kensington Market. A small shop allows for an in-and-out experience to get what you need and then hit the streets, hills and parks rather than in the shop itself.
You have two micro-stores. What are the differences?
RR: Operating two locations in the same neighborhood creates a destination for longboards, similar to being on Venice Beach in California. We took an opportunity to differentiate the shops based on the differences found among our customers: first-time board buyers looking for cheap completes or experienced riders chasing a specific durometer wheel or DH deck. The shops blend into an environment that is host to a variety of produce stands, coffee shops and ethnic foods. It is nice to taste different flavors of skate culture, too.
You seem to jam of a lot of product into 150 square feet. What criteria do you use to choose product to put on your shelves?
RR: We keep it as core as possible – only brands that impact the industry, like Rayne, Rotule, BOZBoards, kebbek, Comet, Bustin, Wefunk, Sector 9, Abec 11, Orangatang, Venom, Surf-Rodz, Caliber, etc. These brands have innovative product lines, and we focus on buying the most unique decks from each brand and try not to overlap
decks of similar style. 2012 will be about curating a collection of product from these top brands, offering
the rider an “essential quiver” selection.
What has been the reaction from the skate community to the micro-stores?
RR: The skate community is happy to see us growing to accommodate all riders. The vibe around 86.5 Nassau Street is more about gnar, downhill, freeride and certainly riders who shred. The community hopes to see us move to other neighborhoods in Toronto and expand out of Kensington Market. As long as we stock the right gear, everybody is happy.
Do you think micro-stores are the future of longboard retail? Why or why not?
RR: The future of longboard retail will be “clicksand- mortar” strategy: a combination of retail and e-commerce. Major board shops already do this, but each local community is different, and small regional stores will pop up in areas where riders gather. These stores will sell locally built boards and product specific to riding styles in that area. Mortar creates a meeting place and allows riders to see product before they buy it. The perfect balance of the clicks-and-mortar strategy will be the future of longboard retail.
Can you discuss some of the events that take place with your shop? One gets the sense that it’s a real community feeling.
RR: A couple of weekly sessions help to create community atmosphere around the stores. These sessions teach potential and new riders the basics of push, carve, slide [and] stop, and introduce group riding safely. Soon skaters will connect with other riders, learn from each other, start their own sessions and integrate to the Greater Ontario longboard community. Our goal is to invite people to look (in the shop), try (at our sessions), then buy having already entered the learning curve. It’s generally always high fives and good times at Longboard Living because of the awesome people that stay stoked out.
What are some of your future plans?
RR: Longboard Living brand. Our focus on retail has created a platform LL product to be showcased and sold. We learn a lot from our customers. It can be difficult to match up their needs with their budget, so we are moving toward manufacturing our own line. Product development began in fall 2010 with a longboard backpack and a production deck, Toronto Thymeless, in fall 2011. Team Longboard Living will attend more events to raise the gnar-bar around Canada in 2012. Riders include Mischa Chandler, Eric Jensen, Ben Keymer, Dan Herzog, Tim Mulligan, Milk (Nick Sutarz), Max Z (Zwarenstein), Jake Humphrey and James Mulvihill.
What is the future of longboarding?
RR: 2012 will see a lot more female riders getting on board. Closed-road events will become common in order to keep downhill skateboarding safe for amateurs. Soft shell helmets will become obsolete. GPS data-collecting technology will integrate into downhill and long-distance skateboarding to change the user experience forever. Stoke levels will continue to break records. The gap between shortboards and longboards will continue to shrink. AXS