From managing New York’s beloved Autumn Skate Shop (RIP) to owning and operating Philly’s Exit Skate Shop, Jeremy “Grandpa” Weiland has been, and remains, a centerpiece in the heart of two skateboarding meccas. Below he speaks on building community, supporting brands, and the joys and challenges that come with running an independent shop.
You grew up skating in Philly. When did you start coming to NYC?
Yes, Philly is amazing for skating, especially in the early 90s. I started coming to NYC on day trips here and there in like 97 to 98ish.
How did you end up working at Autumn?
The first time I skated the boxes at Tompkins, I had to use a tool and I asked the locals sitting on the benches if there was a skate shop near by. They literally pointed to Autumn. There was a bunch of people in there hanging out, watching videos, and I met Ted Barrow. A few days later, he had found me on Facebook and asked if I wanted to ride for the shop. I ended up becoming friends with everyone there and sooner or later, when Jeremy Corley, or Oscar needed a day off, I’d fill in for them. Once Oscar left, I got his days, and when Jeremy left, I took his days.
What were the goals for Autumn?
I don’t think there were any goals except have a great shop with product they liked and made. Have a spot for everyone to come to, that felt like home, and keep it plain and simple skateboarding. Oh, and a good storage space for the grind boxes and rails to go haha.
Being an independent shop that focused on hardgoods, what were some of the difficulties in keeping the shop open for 10 years?
I think there’s ups and downs in any business. In our business, weather plays a pretty big role in that. You’re not going to have people buying completes and decks when it’s snowing, below zero, or raining.
For years there were rumors that the shop was going to close down. Was there truth to previous rumors?
Yes and no. Bills stack up fast. You have a few great months and a few horrible months. At the time, we had the bowl in Brooklyn set up on a cash payment basis. Some people didn’t pay. That affected the shop sometimes, but the shop always bounced back.
What eventually led the shop to go out of business?
First, I’m not Dave (Mims, Autumn founder), and I can’t really speak for him, but from what I saw, Dave is an amazing talented person, but most of all a family man. He was always working side jobs painting, in which he made great money. He, at the time, had 3 kids, and now has 4 kids. Every time he was coming to the shop he was commuting from pretty far out in Long Island. I think it’s a lot to juggle for very little in return. I personally think he did what was best for his family. I’m sure anyone in his position would probably do the same. I still look up to him and what he did for the skate community in New York. He’s still Autumn Dave even if the shop isn’t there.
What did you do when the shop closed down?
At the point the shop was closing, I had been DJing full time, saving up money and getting ready to become a father myself.
How did you get involved with Exit Skate Shop?
I knew everyone from Exit since the day it opened in 2001. I was moving back to Philly and I had went down to see Steve, who owned the shop, to see if he was interested in taking on a partner. The rest is history.
What are your goals with Exit?
A shop where I walk in and would want to buy everything I see. Build a community around the shop in which everyone felt welcome. Just as I felt welcomed at Autumn the first time I walked through those doors.
What is it like to own a skate shop today? How has the industry changed over the years? What are some of the challenges you face?
There’s not much of a difference from working at one as an employee, other then the bills, staying on top of what’s new and what not. With the industry changing literally day to day, new companies popping up everyday, it can sometimes be hard to keep up.
With online shopping and huge skateboard store chains so prevalent, why do independent skate shops matter?
There is no feeling without skate shops. There is nothing like being able to step on a board, to feel it’s shape. Set a board up at the shop. Meet up with your friends at the shop to go skate. No skate shops equals no feeling.
Jeremy’s son, Jake.
Are you selective with the brands you carry?
I am very selective with what I put in my shop. First thing is, would I buy it personally. I also carry a lot of smaller brands, which are starting to become bigger brands, which my friends own or run. There are a lot of new brands out there, but they have to have the right people behind it. Are they in it for the right reason and get what skateboarding is. Can we relate to what they are doing? I think that’s a big part on why all these new companies are becoming so successful.
Very true. It seems like everyone has their own brand today. Do you see this as a positive for the overall skate community?
I do. I think there are a lot of brands out there missing the reason why we skateboard. I don’t necessarily think it’s their fault. Maybe it’s who they have to answer to. But I do think the money men behind some companies need to start trusting in who they employ to run the companies to keep skateboarding what it is, and not try and change it, or make the most money. I think all the success these skater owned and operated companies are having is due to the fact that they were being ignored where they were, thinking to themselves, “why”? Now they are taking back what’s theirs and doing it the way it is suppose to be. Now they are running the industry.
Will it last?
I think these small skater owned brands are here to stay as long as they never lose touch with the reason why they started their own companies.
Well said. What percentage of your sales is hardgoods?
I’d say, depending on the season, half hardgoods. Maybe a little more.
Impressive. What can brands do to support the skate shops that carry them?
As a whole, I think every brand out there, big and small is doing their part to help support skate shops. Especially with events. I’ve found if you have an idea, and pitch it to companies, chances are they are going to try and help out in any way possible. Even on the business side, companies will usually try and work with you when you ask. They don’t want to see skate shops go anywhere.
Outside of events and discounts, do you think the constant flow of content, new videos and social media activation help to drive demand and help shops move more product?
Yes, content is always a good thing. When the new video comes out or a new Instagram clip pops up, of so and so riding certain shoes, clothes, or deck, that makes people interested in buying what they see. Vans, for instance, put their video out free with purchase of shoes. Of course that will sell product.
Just how important is social media to a skate shop now?
Social media is important. Instagram is constantly being updated, something goes up, people see it, they either talk about it, want it, or buy it. It’s basically a constant changing website. Put new product up, a new clip, a photo of what we are doing around the shop. It’s like you are apart of what we do on a daily basis without actually having to be there.
What about big televised contests like Street League? Do they help skate shops by introducing new kids to skateboarding?
SLS most certainly pushes skateboarding to the masses. Gets it to people who wouldn’t give a shit about what we do unless they see it on a blooper television show or something. I don’t really think it brings in tons of people looking to spend money on starting to skateboard. But it’s cool to see a sparked interest in something people have no clue about. Just don’t make it a sport where teams play each other haha.
Currently you don’t sell online. People have to call to make an order. Why?
I’m blowing it. I’m getting one set up. It will be up and running real soon, but the phone orders have worked so far haha.
You sell your own Exit product. Is this something you want to expand?
Yeah, I make shop shirts and I do shop boards here and there. I’m going to make a few things that I think would be cool real soon. I’m not trying to be a brand or anything like that. It’s a skate shop, but it’s definitely cool to see people wear or ask for something with the shops name on it though.
You currently DJ in Philly and New York in addition to running Exit. Would you be able to live off of just the shop?
No. I have three kids and I’m expecting a fourth. Maybe if I was single, no kids, then yes, I could live off the shop. But I don’t think I would quit my other job, even if I could afford to live off the shop. It’s also something I love.
What is one of your favorite moments from owning Exit?
One of my favorite moments would have to be one of the first friday events where one of my team riders suggested I have a concert at the shop. So, I ended up doing it. David, who’s brother is Koji, who was originally suppose to be the only act to play, ended up getting like 5 bands to play. So I had Koji, Vinnie Caruana, Turnover, Dads and Modern Baseball play. I was kinda on the fence about having 5 bands play, and also had no clue that these bands had huge followings. Tons of people showed up. Everyone was very respectful towards the shop and neighborhood. I couldn’t have asked for anything else. It really showed the diversity and capability of what the shop can do. That’s also another reason why I really love owning the shop. I end up meeting and becoming friends with so many great people.
What about one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Challenges are always at hand. As I said, weather comes into play a lot in the skateboarding business. Not many people want to spend money or even leave their houses when it’s freezing cold, snowing, raining, etc, so then you’re scrambling to get bills paid, rent, etc. You end up digging out and getting everything sorted, but none the less, most accounts get it, they understand, and work with you. Also, trying to make everyone happy. You can’t always make everyone happy, but you can only try. I carry brands that I like mostly. That’s why I own a store. But that doesn’t mean some people want what you like. I don’t really get many younger customers, sometimes I do, and I usually don’t have what they want. Luckily, having people around that ride the product on the walls and know what they are talking about are a big help. The customer ends up getting something better in my eyes when they walk out. I don’t think it’s shooting myself in the foot by not carrying certain brands or anything like that. And if they really want something that bad, I usually just special order it for them. No matter what the outcome, everyone walks away happy, and that’s another reason why I love owning a shop.
What would you tell someone who wants to start their own shop?
First things first, you must have the respect, knowledge, love and understanding for skateboarding. Anyone can open a shop, but without those, don’t bother. Do your research. Yeah, anyone can open a shop, but it doesn’t mean companies are going to give you accounts and that could really make or break a shop. It sucks, but business is business. Build a great community. With that you can never lose. And PAY YOUR BILLS. Haha, that’s a given.