Retail Profiles: Brooklyn, NY’s KCDC

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KCDC Skateshop
90 N11. St @ Wythe
Williamsburg, BK

Words/Photos: Agatha Wasilewska

KCDC Skateshop definitely walks to the beat of its own drummer. Part skate shop, part skate ramp, part gallery, it’s one of the coolest places to spend an afternoon skating and chilling. This shop is where its at in Brooklyn.

Created by a pair of life-long skaters, Amy Gunther and Nevett Steele, this creative retail gem has the right frame of mind. According to Gunther and Steele, the shop is "accessible to all kinds of skaters. It doesn't matter if you are young, old, male, female, beginner, lifer, pool, street, vert, downhill, slalom, tech, or hesh. We carry all varieties of skate gear, including fashions from local designers. KCDC doesn't exist to give off heavy vibes; we just want to keep skating positive and keep people skating."

Located in the now super-trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn, KCDC has stayed true to the roots of skating in this hood. People have been building skate spots in abandoned buildings, under highway overpasses and in vacant lots where high rises and luxury condos now stand. KCDC is a new shop helping an old scene grow, and is keeping the beat of old school Brooklyn alive and kicking.

In addition to the shop, KCDC has gallery space and houses a mini-ramp. Art openings, video premieres, and other parties are held regularly in the space. The shop recently hosted a Ladies Lotto meeting, with girls from all over NYC coming in to hear the infamous photographer Angela Boatwright. KCDC feels very strongly about keeping these kinds of events going as they help promote up and coming artists and companies in the skate industry and the culture of NYC. TransWorld Business sat down with co-owner Amy Gunther recently to talk shop, and here’s what she had to say.

What's the deal with your store name? What do the initials stand for?
KCDC SKATESHOP. The initials we keep secret as to the meaning but our most recent t-shirt offering was based on artists' interpretations of the name. Jeremy Fish did "Kitty City, Doggy City", Beau the Barbarian did "Kill Crush Destroy Corp", etc.

What was your motivation behind opening KCDC?
Nevett Steele, my partner, lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and wanted to open a shop. I had been involved in running a shop in Westchester,New York and joined forces with him to figure out how to give the community what we had benefited from as kids- the true feeling of the skate scene. We set out to open a retail shop that combined skate events, art shows, and an indoor mini ramp.

How long has the store been around?
KCDC opened in November 2001

How has the skate environment changed over the past few years in Williamsburg? Is the changing landscape of Brooklyn affecting your shop?
Our shop has evolved quicker than we ever expected based on the changes of the neighborhood and customer base. The changing landscape of the neighborhood has been a positive challenge for us to keep up with the demand of all sorts of customers. We have tons of kids that come in on a daily basis to fix their boards, watch who's skating the mini, hang out. Also newly transplanted locals that are looking for cruiser boards to get around to save money and more durable clothing to last longer, and funnily enough tons of European tourists that have seen us in magazines come in in droves- it's great!

What did you do before opening KCDC?
I modeled, acted, was a professional baker, did event planning, was in a band, and threw parties, I think that are about it- a mixed bag as you can tell.

What percentage of your business is online vs. brick and mortar?
We do minimal online sales right now, just our shop tees and branded items. 90% of our business is in-house.

What are your top three most profitable product categories?
Softgoods, hardgoods and accessories.

What are your top three best selling brands overall?
Vans, Sole Technologies, and Insight

Who are your top three reps that service your store?
Chris Cottle (Vans), Joe Bragan (Sole Technologies), and Brett Schillaci (ex-Podium/ current Nixon)

What's the single best-selling brand over the past six months?
Deluxe Distribution (Spitfire, Real, Antihero, Krooked, Thunder)

Can you describe the local market of NYC over the past six months?

What store(s) is/ is your closest competition in the area?
Autumn NYC in Manhattan but we have tons of love for them.

How are you faring in the tough economic times? What are you attributing your success to?
We're going to make it through but it constantly feels like I've drunk 10 espressos. It's tense but I'm wide-awake. I've spent the last year re-structuring our business model from the bottom, up. I go home feeling as if I've been sparring all day. It's really tough but we got this.

What do you see, in a macro sense, as far as the retail landscape? Is it still tough, getting tougher, or is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
Every day is a crapshoot. Our sales have been all over the place. The weather hasn't been cooperating either. I think this will last longer but not forever. We do what we love and we've always supported our local community and the New York skate community so we are in for the long haul.

Are you altering the way you buy for 09? If so, how?

We are trying to work more closely with brands on the marketing side of things to help with better sell through. We have the capacity for so many different types of promotion here and I think it's important to stand behind our vendors and do everything we can to work together in making this all work and staying on top of what's selling and what's not and planning accordingly. It's very hand to mouth right now which scares the shit out of me but hey, I'm a New Yorker, I've been through worse! We have had to be more strategic about our buys and it's tough because forecasting and budgets are out the window right now but as I said before, we've been doing this a long time and are just staying honest and grounded and realistic about the current situation.

Your plan of attack sounds great. What are some things brands are doing to work with your shop in 2009?
We are doing a mini ramp contest with DC this weekend, and we are constantly doing in-store events, etc., with Vans, they have been a huge support of KCDC and NYC Skateboarding. Sole Technologies has also been great with coming up with unique promotions that are tailor fit to our store and demographic.
5Boro, Hopps, Substance, and Zoo York have all done a lot to help the NYC skate scene for sure!