Ed Selego

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MIA Skate Shop co-owner and former pro, Ed Selego gives an in-depth and impassioned critique of the skateboard industry. 


How often are you skating these days?
I have to be honest now and tell you I haven’t really been skating that much at all. It’s all I have done my whole adult life and now being on the retail side, I am pretty burnt. The skateboarding industry has been hijacked by big corporations and all the small skate shops are suffering. It’s hard to get hyped to skate when everything you have worked towards is such a let down right now.

That’s a really heavy way to start the interview. Can you explain what you mean by hijacked?
It’s actually a common occurrence within all subcultures. Once a subculture emerges, big business gets embedded and brings a lot of money in at first. Inevitably the subculture gets exploited by the big corporations and all the small business retailers and companies suffer great set backs, if they are able to stay in business at all. In the case of skateboarding, I do think it is worse than it has ever been. The lifeblood of skateboarding has always been small independent skate shops and skateboard companies. Now these shops and companies can barely survive with the competition of ecommerce and big corporate box stores in every mall across America. Once all the small businesses are gone skateboarding, will be a very commercial organized sport that is controlled by corporations and people that only care about profit and performing for Wall Street. The heart and soul of what skateboarding is will be gone. Kids will grow up thinking that Street League, Xgames and Couch Tours are what skateboarding is all about.

You are a small, independent business owner, owning MIA Skate Shop (with partner Chris Williams). When and why did you start the shop?
I helped Forrest Kirby move down to Miami. I ended up staying on his couch and skating everyday. We eventually got a place together. Miami at the time was amazing! So many good friends and good spots, it was a golden era for us. The problem was that there was no skate shop. My long time friend Chris Williams ended up moving to Miami around the same time and was working with various brands in skateboarding. We saw the opportunity and made it happen. It was really hard at first. I had to pay the rent for the store for some months. Eventually it took off and we did a lot of amazing things. MIA Skatepark and a second location were how much we grew over the years.

What sort of ideals, values and ethics is MIA based on?
We are 100% skateboarder owned and operated. Everything we have done through the years has been for the skateboarding community.

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You guys just closed the second location? What led to this decision?
Nike was the biggest problem for us. We had many good years selling their product, but at the same time they pushed tons of product on us that didn’t sell. They used shops like ours for years to establish the Nike SB brand. Then they opened up distribution to all the corporate stores and started selling direct to consumer. Being the number one shoe brand wasn’t enough for them. They had to exploit the brand to appease Wall St. and their shareholders. They did this with no plan in place for all the skate shops that struggled over the years. They loaded everyone up with a ton of debt then dumped us. It’s really irresponsible for such a large brand to do this and harm the very industry that they have come to be a part of. There is no better example of corporate greed.

Was Nike a big part of MIA’s monthly sales?
It was the biggest part of our business since the beginning. I am not sure the total number, but it was huge! Of course we got all the good special releases, but they also forced tons of bad product down our throat. So we had a lot of money coming in, but with all the crap they would force on us we could never really profit like we should have with how many shoes we were selling. A lot of it was our sales rep’s fault. He bullied us into adding to our orders and even added product after we submitted our orders. They should all be ashamed of themselves.

Do you still carry Nike?
We still have a few pairs of Nike on the wall, but we haven’t gotten any orders from them since last year. They actually sent us to collections and cancelled our account! The way they did it was super messed up. So, we owed them money like every shop that carried them through the good times into the bad. We were going through the process of trying to close our second location and credit was on us hard. We just couldn’t make payments and asked for time to get through the holiday and close the store. We are barely making it and our sales rep for Nike and the sales manager pressured us super hard to send back all the product that we had immediately. Sending back product in Holiday is probably the stupidest thing anyone can do, but we did it in good faith to get credit on our account and make it through the store closing. We had the worst holiday we ever have had at both locations. And immediately in the New Year Nike sent us to collections. So they recovered all their assets and sent us to collections despite us going through hard times and closing a location. Not to mention we were in the same situation when we closed MIA Skatepark and we paid our debt in full over time. We were a good partner and Nike wasn’t, just plain and simple. We did so much with them over the course of ten years. Amazing events (http://phenomenalradness.com/), we did a collab shoe with them that people are still trying to get their hands on. We worked hard and paid them millions of dollars, but never made good margins because of how they forced so much bad product on us. We played by their rules and kept everything limited and in high regard. We never back doored it because we’re a good partner and have integrity. We helped develop the SB brand like so many other shops. And then they screwed us all over to make more money for Wall Street and destroy the brand that everyone worked so hard to establish. They’re making more money now than ever. But it won’t last. There is no longevity for this type of overwhelming greed.

Has this experience with Nike affected how you look at brands and which ones you will bring into the shop now?
I have to tell you, there are a ton of good brands and people in the industry that have helped us out through this hard time. Even the SB pro’s and TM (Scuba), I hold none of them responsible and I hope that they take as much Nike money as they can. I’ll give you another example of a more responsible corporation. Vans opened a store a block away from us, stocked hard goods and everything! This caused our sales to slip at the same time we were trying to close a store. As a result, we owe them a bunch of money. As lame as their business model of opening stores next to existing accounts is, they still took the time to care about the core store in the neighborhood. They set us up with a reasonable plan that would help us recover and make a come back. This is probably because Vans is so deeply rooted in skateboarding and still has integrity despite having to perform and grow like all big corporations. They’re not a brand that is just out to exploit every “sport” they can get their greedy hands in. Skateboarding is not a sport! Anyone that tries to suggest this self-righteous mission of spreading skateboarding through contests is a complete bullshit artist. Contests are profitable and that’s why there are more today than ever. Pretty much every other brand that we work with has been amazing and very supportive in this hard time. It’s because they realize the value of stores like ours, and how important we are to skateboarding.

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What do you look for in a brand that you carry?
It has to be based in skateboarding or be invested into skateboarding in a positive way.

What brands other than Vans do you carry currently?
We try to carry as many skate brands as possible, but it’s hard to cover all the bases. A lot of the smaller independent brands are doing well for us. Hopefully this trend continues and we can push out the greedy ones.

Are there trends and brands that you know you could sell, but don’t because of what they stand for?
Not really. We keep an open mind and try to serve our community what they want.

Is your story a cautionary tale for other shops? That they have to understand the risks of running a business and take accountability? That they have to watch out for themselves and can’t look to brands to watch out for them?
Anytime you have a business you have to watch out for yourself. Watching out for yourself shouldn’t mean you have to screw over everyone else. Today our society teaches us that people and businesses enrich themselves by screwing people over in most cases. Capitalism sucks it’s a broken corrupt system. I am not a communist or socialist, but we need to redesign the way we do business. Now with everything going direct to consumer and Amazon and Ebay, there is less hope than ever in retail of other brands. You have to be your own brand and manufacturer.

Has the growth of ecomm changed how you do business? Is it growing for you?
Not really. Ecommerce has made it harder for shops to survive because of the availability of everything. With all the companies going direct to consumer now it makes it a lot harder to get people to make the trip to your store. We have sold online, but it hasn’t really been that great yet because all the product is available everywhere on the internet.

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How do you stay involved with the local skate community?
I feel like that’s all we have done over the years. Doing a skate park was one of the biggest headaches we have ever had. It’s probably the reason we are not in a better place today. Even after that, we salvaged a lot of the ramps and created a TF in Little Haiti. It’s been going for about 5 years now and a bunch of older skaters in the community have stepped up to help keep it alive. Today, we have a bigger better warehouse in Hialeah/Liberty City that kills it. Everyone that comes to skate is super respectful and helps keep it going.

What can brands do to support independent skate shops?
Not sell direct to consumer. Having product that is exclusive to independent skate shops. Having events and promotions with shops. Doing collaborations and co-branded product.

What can local skaters do to support their local shops and scene?
Work with the your local shop to try and make things happen. People always want to try and do things in the community by themselves. It’s this weird need for people to take credit for things I guess. When I talk about all the great things we have done in Miami it’s not about me doing them. It’s about all of us doing it together collectively. It’s always better when you collaborate and share. Don’t let your ego get in the way. I don’t think that people realize how hard it is to stay in business. They see all the success and things we have done and figure that we are rich. It is definitely not the case. Your local shop needs your support.

I want to go back and tell your story growing up and becoming a pro. You moved around a ton when you were younger. Where all did you live? Where/when did you start skating?
My father was in the military and we moved around quite a bit. I started skating in 1988 when I lived in Korea. In my neighborhood at the time a lot of kids skated and there was a bunch of launch ramps, quarter pipes and slider bars in our neighborhood. I was a little grom, but somehow I got fully exposed to what the industry was at the time. We watched Animal Chin and Chicago Shootout everyday. It was when vert skating was at its pinnacle. It really stuck with me until the early 90’s when I was in middle school and got my first legitimate complete. I always used my neighbor’s Caballero board cause my parents would only spring for the generic PX (post exchange) option.

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Frontside Flip, Photo: Roy

When and why did you move to Tampa?
When my dad retired from the military we settled in Tampa. I had been going there my entire life in between assignments, so the short story is I am from Tampa. The real story is that I grew up skating in Korea and Ft. Benning at the School of Americas that was across the street from my house.

How did you meet and start skating with Josh Stewart?
When we settled in Tampa, I had to start all over again, something I was used to. I had always skated through the years, but it hadn’t fully taken over my life yet. Our last assignment was Ft. Dix, New Jersey. It was about an hour bus ride from Philly. So I was fresh off of the golden years of Philly. The Sub Zero video and Love Park were some of my greatest memories. Josh was probably the only other skater at my high school. Back in the day you could tell another skater by his shoes. Not really the case today. We were the nerds that hung out in the library during lunch. I used to save my lunch money to get new skate gear. We have been friends ever since the mid 90’s. He did our video Welcome to MIA that we need to re-release. It’s a great video and everyone down here put a ton of energy into it.

Take us through getting your first sponsors.
I guess it all started with Josh and his videos. I was the kid tagging along with him when he was filming all the Tampa rippers. Tampa had a great skate scene back then and we would always be out pushing each other. Creatively, it was some of the best times in skateboarding for me. There were tons of good people that were on a mission to skate and film. We did a whole push for World Market that was an offshoot of SPOT and really did a lot for the scene at the time. So many rad dudes; Paul Zitzer, Scott Conklin, Mike Daher, Chris Williams, Jerry Gardinia, Paul Urich and a few more.

How did you get on Planet Earth and Adio?
Back then Planet Earth was what it was before Adio happened. Brian Howard lived in Tampa and skated vert everyday with Zitzer and Mike Frazier. We did a World Market section in 411 Video Mag and I had an edit in there as well. Danny Gorman worked at Earth at the time and took me under his wing. I owe it all to Danny. He is originally from Florida and looked out for a fellow Floridian. It’s hard for kids to make it out of Florida, but thankfully the stars aligned for me. Getting flowed quickly turned into me living out in Cali on Jeff Taylor’s couch. He was roommates with Kenny Anderson and Steve Berra at the time. I got to know Kenny and Steve pretty well. During the day, I would hang out and skate at the office. I realize now how amazing these years were. Chris Miller was always the dad that was always super cool and interested in what you were doing. Adio came about in these years when I was out there hanging out. Earth got backing from some corporation and was able to sign a lot of the top pros. Tony Hawk, Jamie Thomas, Steve Berra, Jeremy Wray; it was a dream team for a company. I was the AM skater hanging out at the office everyday, so they decided to put me on.

What was skating like for you during the time of filming One Step Beyond?
It was pretty awesome! We did a bunch of trips and tours all over the place. Josh was hired to make the video and he did an amazing job. For me it was the best video part that I ever put out. It came really easy for me at the time. I was at my peak back then.

What happened to Planet Earth?
After Rhythm dissolved we picked up all the Rhythm pros and we had a great team: some of my best friends to this day. But ask anyone that owns a board brand and they will tell you that it’s a hard business. Adio was exploding and they made the decision to cut the board company because it wasn’t really doing it. I am happy that I was a part of PE and all the good people that were involved. Adio was just as rad in the beginning and then it went down hill after a few different corporations bought and sold it off during the decline. It’s the curse of every subculture.

How did you end up on Habitat?
Jason Dill and Anthony Pappalardo were down in Miami and we skated and hung out a bunch. They hooked it up for me to start getting boards. Joe Castrucci decided to put me on when I sent them a bunch of footage for the Mosaic video.

How did you have a bunch of footage to give them for Mosaic?
Well, it wasn’t a bunch per say, more like really good footage that I had at the time. In between board companies, Adio was still going strong and so was I. Skateboarding was fun and we were pushing ahead pretty hard. I filmed a lot of Miami stuff with Joe Perrin and Josh Stewart.

What was skating for them like once you got on officially? How was filming for Inhabitants?
It was a lot harder than before when I did my Adio part. It was awesome don’t get me wrong. I just was really starting to get burnt on skateboarding, especially when you get older and it’s harder. I really don’t think that I had that great of a part at all in that video.

How did things end with them?
I got cut. Of course it’s a bummer, but I totally understand why and there is no hard feelings towards anyone. I never tried to have an image that would sell. I just skated and let that tell the story. I always pushed myself super hard and when you just can’t live up to expectations anymore, it’s time.

Was it hard to make the transition out of being a pro skater?
Fortunately, we started MIA Skate Shop in 2003, so when getting paid to skate was over for me, I had something established that I could put my energy into.

Now as a former pro and a long time shop owner, what are you hopeful for? What do you hope to happen in the skate community in the future. What do we need to do as a community to get there?
I hope that there is a push back against all the big business that is hurting skateboarding. I hope for the rise of small independent brands. Support the people that have been in the game and have done real things for their community.

What would you tell someone who wants to open a shop now?
The struggle is real!

16 comments

  • Good stuff.. Thanks for telling it like it is Ed. That direct to customer shit these brands are doing is making it super tough on shops like both ours ,its hard to back brands that don’t have the longevity of small skater owned shops as a priority.

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    • Seconded, I’ve run a shop for 25 years and it’s never been tougher, your experience with the swoosh is *very* relatable and I won’t bore you with it here, same for adidas and vans unfortunately.. The UK market is slightly different but it still comes down to skate rat’s ‘hands on’ experience and the fact is that, on the whole, Nike and Adidas’ shoes simply outlast/perform the likes of Emerica and Lakai (who we back hard) and the youth on a budget soon susses that out..

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  • Nike has some super predatory collections practices. My shop was there with them too. They try to injure you when you’re down. Fortunately, we weren’t anything to them and never made it a big part of our brand. I am honestly thankful for that. Also, thank you for speaking out about it. I know many stores that have struggled with unethical treatment by Nike and they don’t all get to tell their story.
    Skateboarding is different now. When I was growing up, if an outsider was attacking a skateboarder, we jumped to have their back, wrong or right, its just how it was. Now, the kids don’t even realize what a stab in the back it is to wear their shoes and fly their brands flag to the Miami skate scene. If you value us, the Detroit skate scene or the countless other stores they have shuttered or injured.
    Its a bigger-than-us problem in America. If someone steals from our store. I hear about it. The skate scene jumps to defend us. That kid is going to have a rough time at the skatepark or out street skating. However, when a big corporation violates that trust, your best friends still fly that flag… it’s terribly disheartening.
    Why is there such complacency towards corporations? If they were people we’d tear them limb from limb for violating our friends and family. At the very least, if you care about skateboarding, stop wearing the Nike brand. Money is their lifeblood. Sever the ties. They die without your support. It’s worth a few bucks more to be part of the sollution. I promise, you will skate just as well in any shoe on the wall.

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  • big business has no place in the small shop world. The relationship is inevitably doomed. A small business isn’t making enough $$ for a big corporation that is only concerned with growth to go out of its way to help them. They’re going to cut the dead weight every time. Shouldn’t work with ’em in the first place, and WE as CONSUMERS shouldn’t buy ’em, but every kid under the sun thinks they’re sick. And then the converse kids are like “fuck Nike” but NIke owns cons. turning their backs on their own community. Come on, kids…

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      • Sorry bro, almost all of the Polar team rides for Converse and worse, Carhartt. You can’t get anymore non-skate than that. Anyhow, in case you haven’t gotten the memo, Converse is owned by Nike. So unless you want to rout out all these rats, one has to start by teaching kids/skateboarders/people to not take the bait. The reason anyone has a problem with any corporate, non skate entity monster is because the skateboarder opened the door for them and let them in. Nike, or any non skateboard entity(Magent/Adidas relationship) should have never been allowed in from the get go. “Greed” is a two way street. So what good does it do to name these “small”, “independent” brands if the folks that run them are the ones taking the corporate hand outs and “selling it” back into the community. The crack dealer doesn’t force you to inhale. You see how this works?

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  • Let me start in advance and apologies now for anything that I might say that will offend you but I’m going to say it how I see it. One of the main reasons why I have zero respect for MIA is the fact that you have sold Nike shoes for so many years and that is the brand that you shoved down the throat of the local skate scene for years! I have to ask did you really expect a brand like Nike to actually give a crap about you guys at all. This a complete and honest question because if you didn’t notice Nike makes billions and let me type that again in case that didn’t register, Nike makes BILLIONS!!! of dollars a year and the only reason they make skate shoes is to make money off of skaters. So if you expect Nike to actually give a crap about MIA, the local skate scene or skaters in general, what world are you living in? This is Nike were talking about, do you know where there shoes get made or how much they pay their workers who make the shoes?
    If they don’t give a crap about them, what makes you think they give a crap about you or the people they sell their products to? That’s why anybody or rides for Nike I know there in it just for the money and they don’t give a crap or just ignorant about how Nike does business. I don’t give a damn how good there Nike skate videos are, I don’t give damn how good the skaters are, you ride for Nike and rep Nike, I have no respect just plain and simple. You want to live a luxury life, at the expense of someone else’s suffering then by all mean, but don’t expect me to respect. This is one of the reasons why I don’t respect MIA and have lost a lot of the respect I use to have for them because I have grown up in Miami, born and raise, started skating here and haven’t skated anywhere else, literally, so I know about MIA very well.
    If you ask me right now if I actually gave a crap if MIA went out of business, I just wouldn’t care because that’s MIA’s fault they went out of business not mine’s, all that shows me is that they don’t know business. Which to me is not a surprise because if you look at the culture of skateboarding and your typical skateboarder, what do you get? The typical screw establishment, screw corporate American, screw the nine to five, screw education, screw society, party, get wasted, and do drugs. So yeah I expect for most the guys, if not all of them to have no education what so ever in business. Now again if you feel offend or butt hurt by what I’m typing, put some dirty on it and get over it and if you can’t then sucks to be you and if you feel like I’m talking crap, just spend a day at one of the local parks, it proves itself.
    I’m not trying to throw everyone under the bus at MIA but don’t act like all the guys that work or ride for you are the best role models either, only two guys at MIA I have any respect for is Danny Fuenzalida and Ed Selego, but honestly Ed you can complain all you want about Nike screwing you over but at the end of the day MIA is still your shop and if decided to do a partnership when you started MIA and you weren’t the only one calling the shots, then congratulations you’re not the only person you can blame for screwing yourself over. I mean even ActiveRideShop over on the west coast decided to stop selling Nike in there retail stores and online. Honestly Ed, bitch and complain all you want about Nike, about support for the local retail skate shop that is 100% skater run but if you don’t know business then the only person you can blame is yourself. I have to ask because I’m going to school right now for a degree in I.T. but I had to take a bunch of business classes as part of the prerequisite, so I have to ask, did you even create a business plan before you decided to start MIA? I had to make a business plan as part of my final project for a class and guess what I did it on? Running a skateboard company and I got really into it because I have nothing but love for skateboarding but when I made the business plan, I learned a lot about what it takes to run a business, just in general running a business.
    There so many questions I never thought to even ask myself because again my degree is I.T. not business, but then I can also toss in what I know about I.T. and ask you, what type of systems do you have in place? What is the posture of your network? If I pay with a card what are you doing to protect my information? Do you even encrypt the data in rest? Is data encrypted while in transit? With the way my mentor has been teaching me to integrate I.T. and business I have nothing but questions on how you run your business. To operate and grow successfully in the long-term, how do you differentiate yourself from competing alternatives? How do you truly create value for your customers? How should you define service quality? What does the customer value? Why should they buy these services/product from you? What are your strengths and weaknesses, priorities and risk?
    I mean you talk crap about “Today our society teaches us that people and businesses enrich themselves by screwing people over in most cases. Capitalism sucks it’s a broken corrupt system, but we need to redesign the way we do business. Now with everything going direct to consumer and Amazon and Ebay, there is less hope than ever in retail of other brands” but if stop to think for moment, people are the ones that run business and if people want to screw people over in business then that falls on the people not the way business is design. People get business degrees to have a understanding of how a successful business should be run and how to avoid not having a unsuccessful business *cough*like MIA*cough* so say whatever you want it’s a free country (thankfully) but at the end of the day it’s your lack of knowledge of running a business that is causing you to fail, be unsuccessful and not achieve the goals and dreams I know your trying to accomplish because as a skater who is born and raised in Miami, this is my hometown and call no other place my home, I want to achieve those same goals and dreams, but it’s going to take knowledge to achieve it because knowledge is power and as cliché as that sounds that fact has never die, only been push away by ignorant society too lazy to want to achieve anything and fall to the vice’s and sins of the city.
    If you guys can’t achieve the same dreams we have as skaters for this city then in due time I will because I haven’t given up on those dreams I just need time to figure it out and make sure I achieve my goals and dreams as far as my career goes because I don’t consider skateboarding a career, I consider it hobby, a passion, and a love because with skateboarding and any other type of physical activity, one bad injury can be “career” ending and then what are you left with? Cry all you want for support for local 100% skater run shops just shows you can’t adapt to the changes in trends in society and don’t talk crap about Amazon because amazon as company is freaking badass and the things they are doing for the I.T world is an absolute game changer and there doing it right. It’s your own fault for not seeing the value and shift to e-commerce. I can literally sit here for hours and point out all the things you’re doing wrong as a business but I value my time and education way too much to waste it more then I already have. Oh and don’t forget the read the very first line of this rant again if I left you feeling salty.

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    • god you really went out of your way to try and sound oh so smart!! unfortunately your the one who is coming across as a salty kook who was personally offended by someone at MIA at some point and decided to write this lame ass novel to rectify your mis-treatment. one day you will see, the majority of shit your “learning” with your degrees isn’t going to transfer so well in the real world, so have fun with that. Its also obvious you have never worked a day in retail and have zero understanding of how that environment is being affected by your beloved Amazon and direct to consumer sales.

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    • Ouch! Sounds like someone got their feelings hurt a while ago and decided to uncork them online in a comment today. As far as your valuable time goes…..you clearly have plenty to waste. At least put your real name out there and own all this talk!! Oh….. and you called Amazon “badass” LoL hahaha!! Ed, as a Tampa guy I apologize on behalf of whoever hides behind Magnum M. And personally what happened with Nike and your second location, you know there are people that were backing SB since day one that are getting screwed. It was fun and wish you the best of luck!!
      -Will Buttner

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  • Selego said it best kids have support there local skate shops always and forever big coporate company’s doesn’t have shit to do with skateboarding they just want to get in skate shops and fuck ppl over and leave them in debt

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  • I guess skater owned and operated only applies to retailers. Because the same retailers that are getting butt fucked by NIKE and it’s business formula gave up on supporting skater owned and operated footwear brands. A retail store survives on sales. And lazy retailers need not to look further than the mirror to see whose to blame. And as a rep for pushing 20 years who has only worked for skater owned and operated brands I can say this. Fuck you to the retailers that helped jock brands rape our industry that we (skateboarders) built. I look at my aging reports weekly to see who owes the skater owned brands I sell money. Most of the accounts that sit over 200 days past due. Literally pushing a year behind on paying skate brands are the skater owned and operated stores. That turned their back on skater owned and operated brands. They sell out of our shit and instead of paying us, they pay nike, addidas, and cons (owned by non other than nike). You can’t complain about direct to consumer if you’re included on this list. Skater owned and operated footwear brands probably survive on direct to consumer. Their isn’t any risk. The product is paid for then and there. Yet the “skate….LOL” retailer is 200 days past due paying skate brands because they got caught up choking on that JOCK DICK. Skate retailers owe it to the kids to get out behind the register and SELL skater owned and operated products. Quit being lazy. Skaters have always depicted trends. Until we invited JOCK BRANDS in. Now you just sit by and chase whatever those fuckboys tell you to do. JOCK OR DIE. I honestly hope you all just die and a new generation of real skaters start a new generation of new skater owned retail stores that never turn their backs on anything skater owned and operated. The retailer can depict any trend they want. If they don’t bend over and take it up the ass from jock fuck boy brands.

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