Vu Skateboard Shop
Owner/Manager: Gary Smith
Number of storefronts: 2
Locations: 7118 Harford Rd. (OG Shop), and 3608 Falls Rd. (New Location) Baltimore, Maryland 21221
Gary Smith opened Vu (pronounced View) Skate Shop in June 2008. A professional skateboarder, Smith has been a part of the industry for more than 20 years, and says taking the next step to become a retailer made sense, “because I love skateboarding and wanted to stay a part of it.”
The first shop location was a no-brainer for Smith, who was working for Sears as a visual merchandiser after one of his sponsors closed its doors. The shop on Harford Road was close to Smith’s house, had cheap rent, and was centrally located in Baltimore. Vu came to life in the neighborhood, hosting contests, skate camps, and launching a skate lessons program. The shop also makes a point of donating used boards to underserved youth, as well as organizing demonstrations at local schools and events.
Of the name, Smith says it’s a reflection of how the community collectively and personally perceives skateboarding. “We offer to share this perception and help educate the masses on the unique culture and chosen lifestyle of skateboarding,” reads a shop statement on Vu’s site. “Our team riders and fellow supporters are more than just friends… we are a family. Showing positive vibes both inside and outside the shop, we hold an open mind, bringing love for skateboarding to the streets.”
Smith recently gave us on overview of what’s moving at the shop and what brands are doing to support Vu.
What makes your shop unique? What do you think you're best known for?
We have a free indoor mini ramp inside of our shop. Everyone who works for us are total skate nerds, so they provide great customer service, and really listen to what our customers want and fill their needs. Also, we teach private lessons on our ramp, as well as teach skate camp at public skate parks.
What have been some key milestones in the shop's history since you opened?
Key milestones would be paying off our loan [laughs], staying in business for more than 5 years, and doing shop collaborations with companies such as Chocolate, Expedition One, and Habitat. We also put out a full length shop video "Down To The Wire." Being featured on The Berrics and shop checkouts in almost every major skate magazine is also up there on the list.
Are your private label sales a significant percentage of your business? If so, what percentage?
We do a lot of our own brand stuff. Yeah, we sell a good bit of our shop products.
Define or break down your customer base.
Mostly true skaters. Ones who won’t shop at the mall and want to support skater-owned shops.
What brands have you carried the longest?
Skate One, NHS, Deluxe, & Girl
What has been your best selling brand over the past 6 months?
What are some things that brands are doing to help your business?
Free shipping helps out, bakers dozens, and also when companies send us promo stuff for all of our skate camps.
Are there any brands or programs that really stand out?
Deluxe, Kayo, NHS, Baker Boys, & Skate One.
What brand(s) has/have stood out as the best overall "partner" since you've been in busines?
Kayo has been great, as well as Deluxe , Baker Boys, & Skate One.
How have you altered the way you buy over the past few seasons?
Slimming down on soft goods. T-shirts have been hard to move.
Are you altering the way you buy for next year?
We are pre-booking less so we don't get stuck with as much product.
Are there any profound trends that you're noticing right now in your region? Overall?
The rise of small brands, and a lot of East Coast love again.
Where are you seeing the best margins?
Our shop stuff.
What brands are consumers coming in and asking for the most?
Deluxe, Theories Of Atlantis, & our shop stuff.
What new brands are gaining traction for you?
The smaller brands like Politic & Poler.
Last specific moment that really made you love your job?
Every time I sell a kid their first skateboard.
Do you sponsor a shop team? Who are some of your standouts?
We have a huge shop team. We are a huge family who all get along and love to skate together. They all standout for different reasons.