Skate Shop Showcase – Liberty Interview with James Craig
Interview by: Tim Martinez
Tell us a bit about your involvement and history with Liberty?
I have been a part of Liberty board shop for about 15 plus years as an employee, rider, lurker, resident pro, and positive motivator.
The history is just pretty easy, Liberty is “my” shop and most kids who skateboard have “their shop” and not that we own it, but we do have all the pride one could have for the skate shop we frequent.
You’ve been with Liberty for a long time, what has kept you with the shop for all these years?
What has kept me here all these years? Simple. The people who work there and the quality of the shop itself. A “real” or “core” shop to use the parlance of our time. Liberty is and has always been solely made up of a very tight-knit crew of friends that spills over past the hours spent working together, we are really friends outside of the shop.
How does Liberty differentiate itself from other shops?
Well we have never really tried to be different per-say but it seems that’s just the way it has turned out cause we know what we like or dislike and we really don’t let fads change who we are, which is a collection of skateboarders, snowboarders, artist, musicians, and all around just good people. We have done our best to be represented in the skate industry with things like 411 industry section many years ago, to more aesthetic looking ads as opposed to a skate photo and a product shot. We are also trying to back brands that back us and value us as a retailer cause these days ethics are out the window for some of the shops that try to become chain stores and open up right next to another skate shop.
What would you say has been the shops core strength throughout the years?
Yeah for sure it is one of our core strengths: the fact that we aren’t trying to follow the hot new trend but to do what “We” think is good and skaters/people have seemed to gravitate to that, or at least that’s what they are telling us, haha. We try to be humble and respect skateboarding as much as we can cause we really do love it, and, that being said, we want to offer an alternative to a mall or chain store.
In the last year or so it seems that the team has really grown, tell us about the current line up.
The team has always been made up of people who actually come into the shop but since the online mail order started we got more friends involved. Much of the credit goes to our riders Danny Garcia and Austyn Gillette for hooking up the current bangers on the Squad. Our current team is Danny Garcia, Stefan Janoski, Devine Calloway, Tim O’Connor and myself as far as pro’s and am’s are on fire we have Austyn Gillette, Massimo Cavednoi, Ben Paulsrude, Brad Herrera, Chris De Filippo, Brain Whalen, Chase Morse, Jeff Chickami, David Rodriguez, Steven Nunez, Shane Cox, Chirs and Pierce Brunner, and a few other rappers, Bikers, photographers and filmers. Snow team is Willie McMillon.
Who were some of the original team riders?
Some of the OG heads were Jeremy and Jonas Wray, Paul Luna, Gideon Choi, Tom Krauser (still on the team), D Gar, and well me again to name a few.
As a veteran pro on the Blind team what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen at the retail level in the industry and how have those changes affected your career?
The biggest change in retail from my perspective is the over saturated markets and the ability to get things from so many random places other than a skate shop. With e-bay, mall stores, CCS, oh I mean Footlocker, and other non-skate oriented online retailers blowing shit out at big discounts so kids have good choices to get boards, wheels, shoes etc. etc. at real cheap prices. How has this affected my skateboard career? Hhmmm how should I say…the amount of money I actually make as a pro doesn’t cover my half of the rent every month… truth.
How has Liberty played a role in your skate career?
Liberty has played a huge roll in my career in many different ways from getting flowed by DVS after placing orders for the shop to keeping a good perspective of what is selling in retail, to meeting people in all categories like production, sales, R&D and learning things from a company point of view of what people want to buy.
Do you think its important for skate shops to stay involved in the community through events?
Skate shops have always served as a central hub for the skate community at large including the art and music scene. It’s just good in general to give back to the community in anyway possible like contest, demos, signings, games of S.K.A.T.E and anything else we can do to show kids that skating is fun and for anybody who wants to try it young or old, blue or green, rich or poor it’s all good.
Could give me one word that describes Liberty best to you?
What is one thing you want the skate community at large to know about Liberty?
First and foremost: SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SKATE SHOP, cause we are a dying breed. We here at Liberty have been owned by the same guy who started it, minus one buy-out many years ago, but just him! No huge corpo cash flow or sister sites, just the same shop for the past 16 years, can you name how many shop’s are like that today? Not too many, for sure and we are trying to keep the same vibe with the online shop to provide a good skate shop for those that don’t have one, plain and simple.
Thanks James, see you at the Skate Shop Showcase.