Interview by Allan T.
Location: 39332 US-19, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
Phone number: (727)-939-2308
For this interview, we trek down to the sunshine state. A land which consists of many retirees and people tend to think more about golf and tennis than skateboarding.
Actually, Tampa has a fantastic skate scene. Starting with the Skatepark of Tampa and a wide network of skateboard instructors.
1. What is your name and background in skateboarding?
My name is Bob Levoy and I run Westside Skate Shop for former New Deal professional John Montesi. I have been skating since 1989. I have been the manager 15 out of the 18 years of operation here at the shop.
2. How did the shop get started?
Back in 1997 when John’s career was winding down, he was working at a skate shop/ rollerblade store in Clearwater. He had noticed the need for a core skate shop, since most stores in Florida had to expand certain inventory to cater to the clientele (most being surf/skate hybrid stores). With a personal loan from his parents, he opened the shop mid October of that year. I was at the time was working construction framing houses, and had the tools available to help build the shop. Once opened, Nick Halkais was recently let go from the Skatepark of Tampa, he came aboard to manage the shop and began to bring in brands until he had the opportunity to work for Nike, where he still is employed.
3. Where did the name come from?
We get that a lot. The name comes partially from 2 Pac, funny enough. John was listening to 2 Pac a lot and as you may know, he said Westside multiple times throughout his music. The other reason for the name is that we are on the west side of the state of Florida and the store is located on the west side of the highway
4. What makes your shop different?
Everyone who works for Westside skateboards, and for the most part, all rippers. The business motto here is also not the same in other retail, where we believe being honest with the customers in more beneficial in building a consistent client base, as compared to having to meet certain sales quotas and hounding customers to up buy for things not necessary. Word of mouth goes a long way, and the feedback is warmly received. Plus I know the product better than most sales representatives, and will do my best to acquire items for customers that you cannot get from larger chain stores.
5. Why have you decided not to get into selling scooter part and accessories as other shops have?
We have thought about that multiple times, but why jump on something that might hot at the time and ruin any street cred we have to make a buck? Also, selling something that you do not believe in fully, leaves you with an empty feeling that we could do without.
6. With big brands, like Nike and Adidas, getting into skateboarding, do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing?
The slippery slope question… answer is it can be a bad thing and a good thing. Good thing is sometimes they give back to the skateboard community by having events or building parks such as Nike with their 50th and Kent skate park in New York. Also they have the capitol to spend advertizing dollars to promote skateboarding to the mainstream kid to possibly hype them up to start skating. Those larger brands also bring in other clientele to the shop who might not skate but wear the product. Then there is the bad thing… opening the door to non-core stores to carry the product and essentially take revenue from core retailers who have supported the brands since they entered the market. I will tell you what though, I have had people camp out before multiple times for a limited edition Nike SB Dunk, those brands have helped keep the lights on in some core retailers across the nation.
7. What do you think about the battle between chain mall stores and local skate shops?
I think it has it’s up and down’s. Sure they are taking revenue from us, they employ people that do not skate let alone how to build a board, but the good is that they can also bring a kid into skateboarding. Once that kid realizes he is buying a skateboard from corporation who has no care about the customer, only his dollar, he then will come to the shop and really get the service they need to progress in skateboarding. Business is business, but being true to your personal values and treating the skateboarder as you would like to be treated, makes what we do much more fulfilling than what the employee at those locations feel. So if you want to go the mall and get shamed on from security for carrying your board, more power to you.
8. How can people find out more about you? Any closing shout outs?
Any closing shout outs? We have two locations, the original location in Tarpon Springs and a second in Largo, as well as a online store at www.westsideskateshop.com . I would like first John for everything he does, to all of the brands we have relationships with, and lastly to our customers. Without you, we could not be here. Now go skate? Respect.
For more info contact:
Westside Skate Shop
News & Trick Tip Articles