Thursday, May 29, 2003

Skate shop hopes to cater to cool crowd



By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE - As a kid in Charlotte, N.C., Jonathan Mull liked to hang out at a skateboard shop where the "cool" owner welcomed skaters.

Now, Mull hopes to re-create that atmosphere at his own skate shop.

"I've wanted to have a skate shop sinca I was a kid," said Mull, 28, who recently opened Skateboard House USA near the new Florence/Boone County Skatepark.

Mull, who has been skateboarding off and on for 17 years, is also on the skatepark's advisory committee.

After years of managing retail stores, "I just decided I'd rather work for myself," Mull said.

So he and his girlfriend, Suzanne Ramey, 25, found the storefront on Tanner's Lane next to Goodwill - skating distance from the new park.

Their goal is to offer skaters a place where they can take a break and cool off. The shop sells cold drinks and has a restroom, a couch and a big-screen television playing skating videos.

"We wanted to have a place they could be comfortable and where they can come when they need something," Ramey said.

The shop also has a workbench with tools where the teens can work on their skateboards.

"They are welcome to come in and hang out; they don't have to buy anything," Mull said.

But if they need something, the Skateboard House sells wheels, trucks, decks, stickers and T-shirts.

"Being a skater is like being a member of a big family," Mull said.

They recognize each other by the way they dress. Skateboard manufacturers now also make clothing, shoes, hats and belts.

With participation in skateboarding increasing every year, Mull says Florence can support another skate shop.

Triple A Skateboards on Main Street has been catering to Florence skaters for seven years. There is also a skate shop in Ollie's, an indoor skatepark in Florence.

The competition in town is good for the sport, Mull said.

"I want it to be where there's a skate shop on every corner," Mull said.

To open Skateboard House USA, Mull and Ramey borrowed money from their parents, friends and banks. They spent three months getting the shop ready, which meant painting over the hot pink walls and installing racks for the skateboards.

To staff the shop, the couple juggles day jobs and school. Mull works the shop during the week, while Ramey works at Hebron distribution company and attends classes at Northern Kentucky University. Then Ramey works at the shop on the weekend while Mull sells appliances at the Maytag Store.

But they don't mind a schedule that leaves them little time for each other.

"To me, it's a dream come true," Ramey said. "It's not every day you decide you are going to open a skateboard shop and just do it, and we did it."

E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com




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