Beantowns Wonderful Horrible Skate Shops

Boston, Massachusetts will have a page in the book ofskateboard history.

Does it start with the Cambridge bowl? Would New Englandlegend Sid “The Package” Abruzzi be an appropriate prologue?Where do names like Jahmal Williams, Panama Dan, and RobbieGangemi fit in?

Perhaps Bostons first entry into the record books will bedated the year 2002. Its the year a pair of shops named Coliseumput out a shop video that dumbfounded the industry by outsellingalmost every major company video in contention. Its the year thatColiseum shop riders like Jereme Rogers, Ryan Gallant, and PJ Laddwent from virtual no-names to ams for skateboardings most eliteteams. With an obvious eye for talent and the heart of New Englandsskateboarding populace, Coliseum might be leading the first comingof Beantown.

It all started way back in 1996 when Matt Roman and ArtyVagianosfriends, skaters, and inexperiencedbusinessmendecided to open the first Coliseum skate shop inMelrose, Massachusetts in a whopping 700-square-foot space.”There were no real skate shops,” Roman says, “Most areas have alack of real skate shops. People cant get it together, so the bigcorporate guys take all the business.” Knowing the local scene, theysaw what it was lacking, and Coliseum was born.

As anyone whos ever opened a skate shop knows, its ahuge risk and a lot of hard work, but Roman is able to put it intoperspective: “Nothing to lose, nothing to gain. Fun and enjoymentcome in many forms, but few are as great as skateboarding.”

Commonly referred to as a core shop, they wantednothing to do with corporate sporting-goods chains and shops thatsandwich skate decks between Rollerblades and scooters. “Pleasedont ask for anything non-skateboard or youre going to get kickedout,” says Roman. “Its 100-percent raw, 100-percent skate.”

And that first shop did so well, the second Coliseum wasopened in downtown Boston in 1999 with only 600 square feet tomanage.

When questioned on the shops financial prowess, Romanseems to shy away from business-speak and would rather respondcomically: “Is this the IRS? This is skateboarding! Who pays attentionto that.”

Known loosely by locals as “the peoples skate shop,”Coliseum has the same business ups and downs as anyone else, butRomans more concerned about supporting the right companiesthan making a buck. “We sell skateboard goods, and only great onesat that,” he says. “None of this Kreper, Termite, or blank shit thatthe kooks are jamming down peoples throats. You want to skate,spend the fucking money and support a company.” This is thementality that has magnetized core skaters to Coliseum since dayone and has now propelled it to cult fame nationwide.

“Our customers want something you can only get atColiseum or the few remaining real skate shops,” Roman explains.”Its not a purchase, its a fucking experience.”

These days the Coliseum clientele is as diverse as ever.Their customers are everyone from lifetime skaters to jocks andbeginners. “That poseur or kook with a little guidance could reallyget his shred on,” Roman kids. “I love the crazy mix of shredders.You should see our team show up to a spot, its all of the above.”

And some team it is.

Theyve got Southie, a hard-handed Irishman clad in a golfhat who drops as many beatdowns as he does hammers; AlexisSablone, one of the best up-and-coming females in the game; RyanGallant, a red-hot Expedition One and DC am with amazing style;Baby Schizo, a mixture of Chad Muska and Sean Sheffey with morewild tales and myths surrounding him than the Loch Ness; JeremeRogers, a youngster sought after by the likes of Girl and DVS; andmost importantly PJ Ladd, the most talked about skater this year dueto his mind-blowing skating that finally found the right vessel forexposure.

When this colorful crew got together and put out theprecariously titled video PJ Ladds Wonderful Horrible Life,the ball really got rolling.

But first they released a teaser.

The promo premiered at the 2002 Long Beach ASR, whereColiseum didnt have a booththey just barged other companiesand put their vid on, and then circulated within the industrysunderground and created a wild buzz among those in the know. Andwhen it was reported that PJs upcoming video part had alreadylanded him a spot on the coveted Flip roster, anxiety reached afevered pitch.

The video dropped in May 2002 and delivered. Amazingfootage amid jocular anticsit was the right video at the right time.”We set out to make a video that was a little less torturesome thanothers released recently,” Roman mentions. “More matter and lessart!”

Coliseum set new standards by which shop videos will beforever based. On the subject of securing distribution, Roman againjokes, “Who wouldnt want to distribute the video and make afucking fortune? Thats the point isnt it?”

Thats the Coliseum way.

PJ Ladds Wonderful Horrible LifeStatistics

Title: Matt Roman came up with the title by acombination of things. The title of Blinds classic Tim AndHenrys Pack Of Lies had a hand in it as did a documentary onground-breaking filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl called TheWonderful, Horrible Life Of Leni Riefenstahl, due to her amazingcinematography that was funded and intended to glorify the Nazis,although Riefenstahl was not a Nazi herself. Roman thought thename applied well to PJ, who has an amazing gift for skateboarding,yet his life is consumed by it. Hes known to skate from 7:00 a.m.until 2:00 a.m. on a regular basis. “Sometimes PJ wishes he couldjust not think about skating all the time,” Roman explains. “When hehas a bad day skating, its just horrible.”

Filming Time: Approximately two years. “From thepoint where we thought, Okay, lets do another video until itactually came out was a couple years.”

Expenses: Travel, two video cameras, a computer,lights, and a generator. “A lot of travel. Our camera got stolen once,so we had to buy a whole new setup, so it actually cost us somemoney.”

Distribution: Originally Giant was supposed todistribute, but upon PJ Ladds quitting Element to ride for Flip, Giantbacked out. Coliseum went on to secure distributors by themselvesvia phone calls and mailing out promos. PJ Ladds WonderfulHorrible Life is now distributed around the world by AWH,South Shore, Eastern, Blue Collar, and Overboard.

Units Sold As Of August, 2002: 200,000 VHS,with the DVD to be released in November 2002. Hows your shopvideo doing?

Visit Coliseums Web site at coliseumskate.com.