The sound of skateboards wooshing by triggers some stressful memory nerve in me, tripping me back to high school when I attempted to teach myself to skate, before I fully understood the depths of my unathleticism and hopelessness when it comes to foot-eye coordination. (Speaking of tripping, that’s all I ever did on a skateboard.) But when I walked into Greenpoint’s new skate shop, I was quickly put at ease by owner Rich Oates, a chill guy who talks about skating in a way that makes it seem easy, approachable even.
Oates opened East River Skate Shop two weeks ago with the help of his wife, Marrisa, a teacher. “This is not a one-man show,” he said. The partners, both Greenpoint residents, grew up in the New York City area (she’s from the Bronx, and he’s from Long Island) and have always been super active. “I grew up skating, surfing, camping, shooting guns, and playing with fire and knives,” Oates recalled. “Of all those things, skating works the best in an urban setting.” Agreed.
I felt like I could ask Oates all the dumb questions. “What’s the deal with Supreme? Why do people line up for days to buy that crap?” and “What’s with the mini plastic skateboards? Are they going to make like Pogs?” He had great answers for every one of my stupid inquiries. (By the way, those mini skateboards you’re seeing everywhere, apparently they’re so appealing because they’re cheap and great for commuting – just throw it in your backpack once you get to the train.)
After working in kitchens for years, most recently as the chef de cuisine at Freemans on the Lower East Side, Oates started thinking about opening up his own restaurant. But the timing wasn’t right. “We have two little boys,” he said. “In the kitchen I’m intensely focused because there are so many moving parts, it’s very consuming.” The skate shop was a way for him to spend more time with his family, though Oates is still hoping to open a restaurant sometime in the near future.
Staying cool to his roots, Oates stocks a ton of local brands at the shop– which has your standard skate shop inventory: decks, trucks, wheels, apparel, hats– including Zoo York, Blue Couch, 5Boro, and Shut. East River also has stock from Politic, Metal, and Domestics. There’s even kid’s clothing. And soon East River will have shoes and some rarely-seen skate magazines like Skate Jawn, 43, and Lowcard.
And, naturally, almost everything is custom.”We’ll never have complete decks for adults,” he said. “Pick your deck, pick your trucks, pick your wheels, it’s not something you can ever by off the rack — we cut the grip tape here, we’ll even do designs for you if you want.”
All this talk almost made me want to get back my old skateboard I pawned off to a friend. Unfortunately I haven’t been all that impressed with my health insurance, so we’ll definitely leave that sentiment at “almost.”
East River Skate Shop is located at 86 Greenpoint Avenue, stop by Tuesday through Sunday.