Company Profile: Roc City Skates

Interview by Tim Adams
Edit by Mike Torres

Photography by Jim Haschmann & Kris Troyer with make-up by Erika Rizzotti

So, let’s get some background, who are you guys and what the hell are you doing?

Grant: Ha, well, we’re Roc City Skates. RCS is myself, Nate Hall and Emery Kapral. We’ve all been in the blade scene forever, well not really forever, but anything that you started at 13 years old seems like forever. So, collectively we’ve got like 40 years in, haha. We’re at 181 Monroe Ave right outside downtown Rochester, NY. The shop is all about community, we want to see our sport grow and that happens one scene at a time. 

Community, scene… is that a driving force for you guys?

Grant: We wouldn’t be Roc City Skates without our scene. The pillar of RCS is the crew that blades behind it. I’m going to go out on a limb and figure some of you have heard of Rochester or, at least, the Mike Torres/Tim Adams duo. Maybe you’ve chilled on The Stoop or seen our AZ trip edits, and for those of you that don’t know us, hit up a Google search type quick. Well, we’re bigger than just Rochester, too. We have ties with all of WNY, and like any dedicated blader, with people all over the world. So back on track here…we have a storefront for our scene. We know how important it is to give people a place to go, an entity to get involved with, something like Revolution. James and Gretch are huge inspirations to us.  Local bladers of all ages are getting involved with different aspects of the shop already. Whether they are participating in photo shoots, getting involved with local events, or just planning sessions, we appreciate the effect a local shop has on its scene. We want to be something other people want to be a part of, even if you can’t get to the shop we want you to know it exists and that you can come visit. Since the shop is just outside downtown Rochester, we are within skating distance to a bunch of spots. We get random walk-in traffic as well as the bladers. Plus, there’s a bar across the street that has awesome tater tots, everyone loves tater tots, fam. 

Well that was a little more than expected… What’s next… you guys just opened, what’s that like? Skate shops are easy aren’t they?

Grant: Oh jeez, haha, yea we just bought some product and started slangin’… Nate go!

Nate: Haha, okay… Hmmm, damn… well it’s been a lot of work, maybe more than we anticipated. We wanted to make sure we did things right, well, as right as we could with our respective knowledge and time. It started with finding a spot; we got lucky and found our current location, which is an awesome, magenta triangle-ish building. Holla.  

Grant: And of course, our space wasn’t in perfect condition when we moved in either.

Nate: Yeah dude, we did a ton of renovation to the space: ripped out a bunch of ugly old carpet, put in ceramic tile floor, pulled down a wall, put in all new ceiling tiles, painted everything, refinished some wood etc… None of us had lay tile before… so, yeah…. The word “grout” makes me nauseous these days.  

Grant, Emery and Nate lead Rochester’s pack of undead savages outside their storefront on Monroe Avenue

So you got your storefront situated, what happened next?

Grant: Next thing was ordering product, way harder than expected. Between actually getting in contact with distributors/companies and deciding what we were going to sell it was easy to get lost. We wanted everything but when you’re looking at multiple page order forms from multiple companies, everything in different sizes and colors you start to realize that there is a ton of product available for us in such a small sport and you have to make choices. It’s sick to know there’s a diversity of products available, and more keep popping up, too.

Nate: We’re also trying to stay as diverse as we can while catering to our local trends: Xsjadobladers and flat setups. Or at least we’re converting the masses, except Grant, he just defected to Karbunz again. I’m definitely forgetting some stuff. Anything else, bloodsport?

Grant: Hmmm, yea, there were lots of permits, permits are the best. We have a wonderful neighbor who had some concerns about what we were doing with our shop, well instead of talking to us he decided to ask the city. And guess where that went! In all fairness we didn’t know exactly what we were doing but thought we were on track and doing good, haha. So we had some issues with the city, had to file for a couple more permits, spend some more money and here we are… all set up. We are in the Center City District, which means more regulations than other parts of the city, certain requirements for storefronts and such. I guess there is a certain image that the city wants to preserve. It has been a huge learning experience, which has been amazing, tiring and stressful but worth it. 

Interesting… no one really talks about what goes into opening a shop.

Grant: I guess you’re right, it’s just like any other business though, we’d be doing the same stuff if we were opening a street wear shop or a vacuum cleaner store. I think in general, no matter how much advice you get, it’s hard to completely understand the complexity of things until you’re actually involved with them. Even with all of our prior experience there is always something to learn. I mean, Emery has been running a very successful car tuning/fabricating shop for 5 years… Shameless plug for Street Tuned Motorsports. 

Nate: Yeah, Emery does amazing things with car tuning and has been a tremendous driving force (pun intended) behind Roc City Skates getting established as a storefront and an online presence. Also, Shawna Susice has been doing our web design, constantly updating the site and making sure it’s functional while maintaining it’s sleek and professional look.

Back royale up the guardrail to fishbrain the post revert. Grant’s skating alone is enough to motivate the youth

Sounds like you have some solid backing, but why now? Why when rollerblading is still in it’s “underground state”? And why in Rochester?

Nate: Well, there are a few reasons, but really it comes down to what we have seen here in Rochester and WNY. There are different groups of younger kids here, driving their parents’ Tauruses around downtown looking for spots, and killing them. These kids helped us realize that there is a future for our sport, a possibility for growth and exposure. With what we have witnessed in WNY and other scenes over the last, say, 5 or so years, it seems like a good time to make this happen. We want to be well established and solid in what we’re doing when blading gets the recognition it deserves. Kids in Buffalo, Syracuse, and even smaller towns like Elmira have been skating, and more importantly, having fun on blades with their friends. It’s refreshing for us to see that, you know, and it helps remind us why we all started in the first place. We want to give these kids a home base.

Grant: OGs are coming back, too. Dudes in their early thirties are shredding RASP at TNS. RASP too, how could we forget them? They resurrected the indoor-park scene here in Rochester. Ed and Tony really support what we’ve been doing and helping promote the shop. We had our first event with them August 6th, and hopefully many will follow. It’s also a good time for us as individuals, we want to be involved with blading and we don’t want to look back and wonder “what if”. Oh, I almost forgot about the advent of “The Roc City Skatepark”! Jim Maddison, the president of the Roc City Park Foundation, is generating funding to build a world-class, outdoor, cement skate park in downtown Rochester, and if things go according to plan, construction will begin in 2014. Having a 72,000 square foot cement park not two blocks from the shop is a great motivator to promote the scene. With bladers, boarders and bikers getting together behind the project, I think we will see it come to fruition. 

Whoa, a huge cement park in your backyard would be sick! I hope it works out for you guys. Well, moving on, what was your worst experience through this whole thing, Nate? I don’t think we have really touched on that yet.

Nate: Oh man, the worst experience for me was our Grand Opening/Box Jam getting cancelled because of a certain unnamed jerk that tattled on us to the city. Dude sucks, and other business owners in the area tend to agree. This really started to dampen our spirits and made us feel like we started off on the wrong foot with this thing… like the business community didn’t want to see us succeed. That hurt and it shot our morale in the ass, but we got over it and pressed on… gotta get it in ya know? The more people started hearing about RCS, the more support grew and continues to grow. So forget the creep who thinks we’re a bunch of hooligans, well, I can’t really deny that claim… but we are just focusing on helping rollerblading in anyway we can. Whether it’s giving shirts to kids when they come into the shop, holding events or sponsoring other ones, we are using our entire arsenal to promote the growth of blading. But yeah, it’s really about the whole rollerblading community, both macro and micro, coming together to do what we all love. Roc City Skates is our vehicle to push skating to the level it deserves.

Mono roll to stale wall ride revert at the Xerox building in downtown Rochester

Best experience thus far?

Nate: Best experience thus far has to be… Well… damn. Pretty much everyday I open the shop is a great experience. I get to walk into our place, with our products for the sport we love. It’s an honor to help the growth of blading, and through RCS we are doing just that. Getting the newest, best products and having local shredders get pumped is another great feeling. I sold a second grader a pair of kids-size Razors a couple months ago; they were his first skates. To see how happy he was just rolling around the shop and telling his dad he was excited was something I hadn’t really witnessed before. Also, when Shima called the shop to help us get our first SSM order, I almost peed a little and was gromming out pretty hard in my head, haha. I thought about this after we opened the shop too, but when Mike Lilly made his “On The Spot” with X, he said rollerblading needs more shops. There seems to be some debate over what blading needs, but I feel that we tend to agree with what Mike said in his interview. 

What about you Grant… what’s been the best part for you?

Grant: That’s hard, it’s all been good. Even the difficult stuff. Blading is something I love and regardless of its state I’m doing it, so to be a part of this shop is such a great experience. I think if I had to choose it would be hearing a group of younger kids walk into the shop and start whispering to each other about how they’d never been in a shop before and how awesome it is to actually pick up a pair of skates. The overall best though is knowing we’re expanding our community, giving kids a place to come chill, watch a video, check out product, plan a session or whatever. 

Seems like as good a time as any to wrap this up… final words, shout outs and thank you’s? 

Nate: Of course. These things always suck though, how do you thank everyone? Well, most importantly, everyone that’s helped us out with the shop, given us support or advice. Even those of you who thought this wasn’t the best idea. Roc City, all the bladers here and in WNY, Jim and Kris for shooting photos, Torres for filming, Greg at Tri State Skate, Gabe at Thuro, Collin at The Pull and the other smaller shop owners we’ve talked to. Huge thanks to Revolution, whether you know it or not you guys are a big part of us becoming who we want to be as a shop. I think it’s best to keep this simple: if you’ve been a part of this shop so far or been involved in our lives as individuals or as a shop we want to thank you for your support. Blade on. 

Grant and Nate behind the counter at RCS


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