Carving Out A Niche: Skateboard Shop Features Local Indie Art

Look out bicyclists, skateboards as a mode of transportation are gaining in popularity, especially in downtown St. Petersburg, where a growing population of students and young professionals are using them to get to class, jobs or just around town.

"It's a fun, inexpensive and easy way to get around. You don't have to worry about finding a place to park or about locking up your bike,'' says Jon Stine, who with co-owner Travis Hise, just launched Local Longboard, downtown St. Petersburg's first retail storefront for skateboards.

Both Stine, 39, and Hise, 44, have skated since they were kids, and are still passionate about the sport. "There are so many wonderful places to skate around here, including the Pinellas Trail,'' says Stine.

By day, the two are master craftsmen. Stine owns Stine Custom Woodworks, a small business specializing in custom woodworking for residential and commercial customers. Hise is a craftsman there. The two make cabinets, bookcases, restaurant bars, chairs and tables, even beer taps. "If you can think of it, we can make it in wood,'' says Stine.

They also make high-quality, limited-edition skateboards. Three of their custom boards hang in Cycle Brewing, one of St. Pete's many new brewpubs.

Growing With Reputation

At first, the two sold boards only through word of mouth and online. As their reputation grew, customers began coming to their manufacturing facility asking to see the boards. 

"We decided OK, we have to do something about setting up a shop,'' says Stine. He and Hise "pooled their resources'' and began scouting locations.  They liked the vibe of downtown. It was centrally located, with creative people all around, regular indie markets and monthly Saturday Art Walks, to help promote the business. 

The perfect space became available in the heart of Central Avenue's 600 Block near BlueLucy Gallery, Graphi-ko Gallery and Brew D Licious.

"It was a perfect fit for us,'' says Stine. "St. Pete didn't have a skate shop downtown so we've stepped in to fill that need and support the culture. We don't expect to become millionaires selling skateboards, but it's a really cool space and a great environment. We hope people will come and hang out.''

The two spent weeks rehabbing the storefront and getting ready for the dozens of boards that line the walls like pieces of art -- which they are.  Stine and Hise hand-make the boards, both skateboards and longboards, in their manufacturing facility a few blocks away in south St. Petersburg. In case you don't know, longboards are longer and heavier than skateboards and built for cruising,

Carving Out A Niche

Much of the wood they use is recycled and repurposed and comes from local hardwoods such as rosewood, walnut, cedar, maple and cedar that have been cut down for various reasons. Each board has seven layers and is finished with a lacquer that seals everything and shows of the spectacular grain.

In addition to their own work, Stine and Hise also feature boards by local companies like Longline Skateboards and High Tides Longboard, as well as national brands, such as Klever.   

They've also kicked off an innovative artist series, for which they invited 50 local artists to take a board and use their imagination to create a one-of-a-kind collector piece using graphic and sculptural elements. The boards are both a work of art and functional. (Some trivia for those who are non-skaters -- the art is on the bottom of the board because the top of the board gets the wear and tear.)

"We were looking for a really diverse group of artists and have attracted a broad range of people, from architects, illustrators and graphic designers to tattoo artists,'' says Stine. Look for Samantha Macino's "Snake,'' Coralette Damme's "Bug Board,'' Mike Rozak's "Stella'' and Daniel James' "Uniparental Disomy,'' among others.

Interest has been so great among local artists interested in painting a board, says Travis, that he's begun keeping a log, a waiting list to call when the next batch of boards is ready for adding a home-grown creative touch.

Janan Talafer is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg, FL, who shares a home office with her dog Bear and two cats Milo and Nigel. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Janan Talafer.

Janan Talafer enjoys writing for a diverse group of clients, including print and online publications, nonprofit organizations and public relations agencies. One of the highlights of her writing career was flying with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa FL for a feature about this elite military team. A journalism graduate of Bowling Green State University (OH), Janan’s early career was in health care marketing and public relations for hospitals in Connecticut and Tampa Bay. She is an avid gardener, loves East Coast swing dance and enjoys touring around St. Petersburg on the back of her husband’s scooter.
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