Entrepreneur's dream comes to life at Day One Skate Shop
With its gravity-defying maneuvers performed on vertical ramps, skateboarding is a sport that demands large quantities of skill, determination and courage. It also requires not only a proficient skate board but also safety gear, including helmet, padding and appropriate footwear.
Based on his own years of skating, Jeff Walsh seized the opportunity to fill this specialized marketing niche five years ago when he opened Day One Skate Shop in Bridgeport's Black Rock section. Attracting skaters from Monroe to Westport, Walsh recently moved the retail store to larger quarters in Fairfield's downtown district.
The 700-square-foot store, located at 1138 Post Road, offers expanded parking facilities and easy access to Fairfield's new skate park at Jennings Beach.
In fact, after being approached by some of the families who are loyal customers, Walsh offered advice and support for the park's new renovation. Previously, the skating facility was operated by the YMCA.
"It was smaller and made of pre-fab ramps," Walsh explained. "Now its run by the town, it's free and it's a lot bigger and nicer."
All that's required to use the skate park is a local beach sticker. And skaters are flocking to the new facility.
Patricia L. Ritchie, president and chief executive officer of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, said that the park is always busy. She has visited it in person so that she could watch her grandson, an avid skater, perform his tricks.
"He goes there almost daily," Ritchie said.
Although she would like to see more adult supervision, especially in overseeing a mandatory use of helmets and other safety gear, Ritchie admitted that it's a positive and healthy recreational activity.
"All in all, it beats having a kid sit in front of a computer," she said.
Ritchie has not yet been to Day One Skate Shop, but her daughter, Lee Passios, is a frequent customer.
"She is thrilled to have a shop close by," Ritchie said.
Walsh's close proximity to the Jennings Beach park has definitely been a boon to business.
"So far, the new location has been a success and business continues to grow," Walsh said.
Mark Barnhart, Fairfield's director of community and economic development, said that the town was happy to assist Walsh in his move to town.
"Small businesses are the backbone of the local economy, and Day One Skate Shop is a great addition to the Fairfield business community," Barnhart said. "With the reception given to the new skate park facility at Jennings Beach, we think he'll do very well here."
Walsh explained that the majority of his business is in selling customized skate boards. He said that novice skaters are content with using a pre-assembled board, while advanced skaters prefer to pick out the different components of the boards.
Skateboard shoes are also a popular item. Day One Skate Shop offers well-known brand names, such as Nike, Adidas and Converse as well as shoes from smaller show companies. Skateboard shoes provide extra support and allow the skaters to grip and work in conjunction with the board beneath them, Walsh explained.
The company's website, www.dayone
skateshop.com, provides complete descriptions and photos of all new products. It also lists the latest skateboarding videos that are available for purchase. Each week, Walsh continuously plays one video and skaters are invited to come in and view it while relaxing on a couch in the store.
"If there's anything to do with skating, you'll find it at the store," Walsh said.
In addition to the retail business, Walsh also used his Black Rock space to showcase local artist's work.
"I dedicated a wall in the store as an art gallery and every first Friday of the month we had a party and art show," he said.
Although he plans to continue this tradition, Walsh said that he wants to first get settled into his new location.
"A lot of skate boarders tend to be artistic and we think it's a good idea to support our local artists," he said.
For Walsh, opening Day One Skate Shop was "a lifelong dream." After working at ESPN, in the corporate world, he wanted to pursue his longing to be an entrepreneur in a field that he is passionate about.
"When this opportunity presented itself, I knew I had to give this a try," he said.