|February 26th, 2015||#1|
Join Date: Nov 2013
Skateboard shop hangs on in hard times
Aaron Costa was skateboarding before it was cool. At 20, he hatched an idea that grew to provide skaters in Rochester with their gear through the sport's golden age in the 1990s. Now, after 20 years in the business, Costa still acts as a local skateboard guru and founder of KrudCo, his skate shop on Howell Street with sticker-covered counters and named after Costa's first skate crew, the "Kruds."
But skateboarding is struggling as an industry, and with mall-dwelling skate stores like Zumiez attracting today's skaters, Costa is fighting to keep his shop and his culture relevant.
KrudCo became the linchpin of local skate culture after a few years in operation, and Costa expanded the shop and hired a lot of his skating friends to work there, he said. "It started as a clubhouse thing, and it grew into a community," Costa said.
His shop sells skateboards, sneakers, apparel and other miscellaneous skateboard odds and ends, and was centrally located, which attracted Rochester kids who wanted a place to hang out, said Brian Potter, who skated and worked with Costa.
"That kid who wants to skate who's in the city but doesn't have any friends or a license to drive can't go out to Webster or Greece to skate," said Potter. "So they came here."
Other skateboard shops came and went, but KrudCo hung on through ups and downs of the skateboard culture. Sales went down after the early 2000s and bigger stores started popping up in malls and on the Internet. Costa added KrudCo online shopping to his repertoire and had to lay off several employees several years ago.
"The past five years were when it really started to hit," Costa said. "It's a weird time right now, because the big companies are really getting in ... kids are coming into the store with stuff and they're not buying it here." As the shop's neighborhood changed and it saw fewer customers, Costa got behind on his rent. He posted on KrudCo's Instagram this week that he was facing prohibitive rent prices at his current location, and that he may be forced to leave.
Regardless of rent issues, Costa was already thinking of looking for a smaller space — his current shop is 695 square feet, including back rooms and a bathroom — in a more trafficked area, like South Avenue, he said. "It's a good community and there's a lot of traffic because there's a lot of like-minded people," he said. "There's cool opportunities out there, but it all comes down to money."
Costa hopes to relocate soon to a place with comparable rent to his current location — around $1,000 per month — while paying off his backlogged rent to his current landlord. If budget constraints are bad enough, he may be forced to go completely online, but that would be a last resort, he said.
"In the store, we connect people to people … that's what we've done for years," he said. "It's about the pride of KrudCo and that people are psyched to be a part of this." Ajani Jeffries, a Rochester resident who started an apparel business called Goldn Rd. and sells merchandise at KrudCo, feels the skate shop represents a breed of local business that's tough to find nowadays.
"I'd rather support local business than shop at malls," said Jeffries, adding that KrudCo helps multiple local businesses in Rochester get started by promoting or selling new merchandise in their shop. "They're legends — they really did it," Jeffries said. "The whole skateboarding culture in this city started here."