In time, skateboarding’s mainstream popularity will wane, but if properly nourished, ‘core, intrinsic skate scenes shouldn’t be affected too much.Louisville, Kentucky’s Home skate shop is a paradigm for maintaining a healthy skate scene. With local companies, demos, major televised contests, a downtown ripe with street spots, and a skatepark that concrete fanatics across the country make skateboarding pilgrimages to, the skate scene in this Middle American city has been on the rise for over a decade.
It’s A Family Affair
Home is the longest running skateboards-only shop in the city. Its legacy began in 1988 with founding skater Becky Hornung: “I just wanted to share with the local skaters and give them a nice place to come and hang out and buy the stuff.” Back then, the shop was called Skateboards Unlimited and was Louisville’s first skateboards-only skate shop. When skateboarding slumped in 1993, Skateboards Unlimited went under.
Sean Fawbush was the manager of Skateboards Unlimited when it closed down. He then started Home (a shop of his own), and Becky funneled her customers over to Fawbush-Louisville’s scene stayed alive. Current Home Owner Derek Metten says Fawbush has been an integral part of Louisville’s scene for many years: “During the 90s when skateboarding was shit, he kept the shop going. He kept the scene going.”
Fawbush’s choice of name is a good indication of Home’s desire to build and maintain a healthy skate community. “I knew if I wanted to make it successful, I basically had to be there 24 hours a day-the shop would have to be my home,” explains Fawbush. “And for the first six months, I really did live in the shop-I didn’t have any money to get an alarm.
“The other reason for the name was that I hoped that the skate shop would be a home for all the skaters. I figured, ‘You can come in, hang out, watch videos, look at magazines, whatever. You’re welcome here. This is your home, too-your home away from home.'”
In January 2002, Fawbush left the shop to begin Anthem Boy skateboards. The business went full circle, bought back by longtime Louisville skaters Derek Metten and Becky’s son Thom Hornung, whose history with skateboarding has been well-documented, with sponsors like G&S, Creature, Scarecrow, and Maple. After turning pro for G&S in 1993, Thom tore his ACL and moved back to Louisville.
One way to keep a local scene thriving is to support the skaters who are supporting your shop. Like most skate shops today, Home has a team of local rippers. Hornung says, “There’re about a dozen kids on the team right now. We basically look for attitude and skill, you know? It’s pretty mellow.”
As a store, Home is actually pretty modest-a mere 1,000 square feet. But Hornung and Metten keep it packed to the gills with hundreds of shoes and boards available at any given time. When asked what the most lucrative section of the store is, Metten says that shoes and clothing are the shop’s bread and butter. “We definitely make more money on softgoods. We’ve had the same prices on decks since 1989, so there’s not much of a markup.” Hornung and Metten each work three to four days per week and have three employees to help out.
But Home has a decided advantage that many skate shops across America do not: a 40,000-square-foot public skatepark open 24 hours a day-attracting unprecedented amounts of traffic. When asked how the skatepark has helped business along, Metten says, “Last year was probably our busiest year because so many people started skating when the park opened up.”
Metten feels not only has the recent surge in skateboarding’s popularity brought in a new breed of skater, it has also encouraged older skaters who have fallen out of skateboarding’s loop to get back into the game: “So many old guys started skating again. We definitely sell more old-school shapes than we ever have.”
In fact, business has been good enough to afford Home the opportunity of expanding. Hornung and Metten are currently looking into opening up a second shop, even closer to the skatepark. “We’d like to open up (a second shop) in the next few months,” says Metten.
Just getting the skatepark was a milestone itself. The skaters, Hornung and Metten included, attended city-council meetings for over ten years before anything was built. Hornung explains the surge in skateboarding’s mainstream popularity helped the city council to finally make a decision: “They have X-Games and B3 (contests) in Louisville, and they’re some of the biggest contests on TV. So the city saw dollar signs, and every time I went to a meeting, our budget would double. This happened for two years, and finally we had two-million dollars (in the budget), and they went for it.”
Nourishing A Scene
Home is dedicated to keeping the local scene alive. With an enormous skatepark to help attract skaters, a local board company to support (Hornung is pro for Anthem Boy), a shop full of local talent, and a video in the works, Hornung and Metten seem to have their hands full. However, a thriving scene still needs constant attention. For example, the skatepark.
There’s no question that the Louisville Extreme Park has drummed up a significant amount of business for Home in the past year, but it’s not without its share of problems. “We go to the skatepark meetings because they are trying to enforce a pad rule,” Metten explains. “We had to tell them that it wasn’t going to work.”
In addition to attending meetings and promoting local companies, Home also holds contests and events for the local skaters, despite interference from the city. Metten says, “We have tried to do them (contests) at the public park, but the city’s really (not) crazy about that. They want money for anything down there, so usually all our contests are at the indoor park (Riot)-we know the guy there.”
Hornung and Metten pride themselves on their dedication to skateboarding. With over 30 years of experience between the two, they understand that skateboarding’s fickle industry operates in waves. “Even though skateboarding’s taking a shit again, we’re not gonna give up. We’ll be right here through it,” Hornung says. “We won’t close if we’re not making money, you know? We’re not doing it to make money.”
Asked if the people behind Home have any sort of philosophy it adheres to, Hornung explains, “We try to hook people up, and help them out, you know? We want to make a video, try to get our team exposed a little better. Skateboarding helped me throughout my life a lot, so if I can encourage it more, I think it’s better for kids than doing drugs on the street.”