Through the years there have been many skate shops based in the city. They come and go with the flow of time, but now, just as the tricks and style of skating has evolved, so has the method of getting goods to the skaters on the streets.
Inspired by the food trucks that have been parking on corners in Manhattan, Ritondo was able to take his love of skateboarding and dream of opening a shop to a new level of business. But to understand why the concept of a mobile skate shop is so novel, one must first grasp the purpose of the skate shop.
With a rainbow of boards lining the walls and glass cases filled with parts, a skate shop acts as the headquarters for most skateboarders. It will cater to a local group of shredders in the neighborhood when they are in need of gear or just serve as a place to talk about the latest tricks.
The shop will get its merchandise wholesale from larger suppliers who supply similar shops all over the United States. While the Internet has taken some business, the local skate shop is the best way to go about getting hard goods and soft goods such as skateboard brand shirts, shoes and other items that tailor to skaters’ distinct fashion styles.
Ritondo looked at what it takes for a skate shop to be successful and took it mobile.
A graduate of entrepreneurship from CUNY’s Borough of Manhattan Community College, Ritondo skateboarded daily while at school and knew he would make a name for himself in the realm of skateboarding, but he had to re-imagine the idea of the traditional skate shop to make it work.
“The one thing about skate shops is location,” Ritondo said. “At the end of the day, a good location for a skate shop is going to cost a lot of money.”
The overhead for storefront rent in the Lower East Side where Ritondo does most of his business ranges from $2,000 a month to $3,000 plus, according to Tungsten Properties, which brokers commercial space all over Manhattan.
“I had money saved up and I worked to squirrel away money over the years and I always wanted to invest it in something,” said Ritondo as he glanced up at the skateboards that adorn the walls of Epstein’s. “Unfortunately it was never enough to put down on a lease or pay the rent at a location.”
Ritondo, a New Yorker by birth, grew up in the city. He shared stories of hanging out in the skate shops of old that used to populate the L.E.S., most of which have closed their doors due to the sky high rents and the exodus of skaters who buy off the Internet now. He saved up money by working as a busboy at multiple restaurants and skateboarding at any chance he had.
In the past few years, a few skate shops closed due to a combination of economic turmoil and a dwindling population of skateboarders in the neighborhoods they operated in. Coupled with the opening of all these skate parks, Ritondo saw a market and figured that paying for gas and insurance was much cheaper than having to pay exorbitant rent.
He saw that he needed to create a business model that would provide even more convenience than the Internet did in terms of getting the product to the consumers, but still created an environment that would harbor a community of skateboarders.
In an effort to give skateboarders more places to cultivate their art and get them off the streets where their actions could be a liability, the city has been host to the creation of five new skate parks to boost the number of parks to a total of 10 in the past two years. These places have not only attracted the core population of skaters, but they have cultivated a new wave of boarders.
“I don’t think that Tre Truck would have been sustainable without the creation of all the skateparks.” said Steve Rodriguez, one of the city’s first notable skateboarders and the owner of 5boro skateboards. “Tre Truck needs that concentrated audience/ customer base in order to be able to hit up a spot and do enough business to make it worth it.”
“The Truck just always has what I need,” said Frank Nicado, a local skateboarder at Chelsea Piers 62 Skate park. “When I lose a bolt or a bearing they are always willing to hook me up for like a dollar or something.”
After purchasing the truck from a friend on Long Island, Ritondo began his business at the start of the summer of 2011. Early on he was able to find support for his fledgling business in big players in the city skateboard industry.
One business helping him out is Shut, a skateboarding brand. Their flagship store features some T-shirts and skateboards from other companies, but the location acts as a showroom and retail spot for their own line of products since their re-opening of the flagship store in 2006.
Michael Cohen, the store manager of the Shut Skateboards brand and flagship store in the Lower East Side, has been working in the skateboarding industry for over 15 years.
“The brand was started in 1986. It was a homegrown company that filled a void in the east coast that California skateboarding did not fill,” said Cohen. “It was the east coast version of Dog Town.”
Cohen said that he had known Ritondo for several years and when he approached him in the summer of 2011 with his newly purchased truck and vision, he was more than happy to give the Tre Truck a wholesale account to sell Shut Skateboards through the truck.
“It is a win-win situation. People will buy from the Tre Truck and then come to the store,” said Cohen. “At the same time we get kids who come here and we will tell them to check out the Tre Truck at their local park.”
“It’s definitely more competition-I wouldn’t say detrimental. If Tre Truck can provide the culture that shops do then, then I’d say that they will give them a run for their money,” said Rodriguez. “I haven’t seen the truck around since the fall, so that’s something the truck has against it. In the end, the customer is king and they will decide who wins.”
The Tre Truck has not even completed its first year of business and already Ritondo reports making about $10,000 in revenue. The idea has flourished, yet Ritondo operates in a way that does not dismiss the importance of the traditional skate shop.
Wampum skate shop in the Lower East Side is a stellar example of the traditional skateboard shop. Their original store is located in Bridgehampton, Long Island, in an area that did not have any other shops to provide a home to skaters.
After several years, the owners, Lennon and Marley Ficalora decided to open shop in the L.E.S. in December of 2011. Although they came into the scene during the Christmas rush, they were able to find their niche in not only selling boards, but marketing their clothing line brand.
“We are still trying to get the word out,” said Lennon Ficalora about the shop and the Wampum brand. “Every brand we sell is skate or surf brand goods. We are trying to eventually just sell Wampum gear though.”
While Wampum has found it’s purpose in the city skate culture, Lennon does not see the Tre Truck as a demolisher of traditional skating, but as a business that can bring parts to boarders when they break their boards at the park.
“We offer a lot more variety, but what they are doing is a cool idea,” said Lennon. “I think it is cool that they go to skate parks, its a cool idea and I support anything that promotes skateboarding.”