By Candice Dungan
At the ripe age of 22, Ariel Ries, from Delkalb, Illinois, opened Fargo Skateshop. Nine years later, Ariel’s shop is still successfully providing skateboards to the masses. In today’s skate industry, sustaining a skate-specific shop is a challenge. Ariel shares insight on how she ran her shop for almost a decade and her thoughts on women’s skateboarding in the industry right now.
Tell me a little about your skate shop: What makes it unique? What are your goals?
The shop is unique because it’s the only place that caters to skateboarding within a 30-mile radius. My goal is to transition from being just a skate shop to include a community space for skateboarding. Earlier this year, we moved the skate shop a few blocks away to be located in a storefront that is adjacent of a 8,900 sq. ft. theater that was built in 1929.
For the past year I’ve been going through the process of rehabbing the theater to be an indoor skateboard training facility, and we should be open in the spring of 2016. Seeing kids over the years grow up, and continue to skate and progress, is really what I live for.
What are your marketing strategies? How do you get involved in the skate community?
My marketing strategies rely on a combination of social media, word-of-mouth, lessons we offer privately and through surrounding park districts, and community events that we run throughout the year. Check us out on Instagram we have two handles @fargoskateboarding and @fargo.tf, on Facebook we are Fargo Skateboarding, and two of our head filmer’s YouTube channels are Segatron Media, and Max Williams, you can see a lot of the footage of people skating our facility on their channels.
One event we run every year in February is our annual Skateboard Inspired Art Show, this will be our ninth annual one on Thursday Feb. 25th 2016. The art show celebrates skateboarding art, and everyone is encourages to participate! Throughout the summers we run skateboard contests, skateboard trips, longboard push races, and we do a summer festival where we close down a street in the downtown and set up ramps.
As far as a team goes my skate team is my family, and my favorite skaters (and people) in the world. We are about to release our first full length skate video this coming spring and I couldn’t be more excited! I help them pay for skate trips, supplies, and food, I want to help them with everything they need to skate and get footage and have a blast.
What motivated/inspired you to open a skate shop? What challenges have you faced? What are you most proud of?
When I started the shop I was motivated because I wanted to be an entrepreneur and make my boyfriend happy [as it was his dream], and after a few years of having the shop [and after a brake up/business split] I realized that I was in love with the shop and the skate community that it built.
I had fully dedicated myself to the business and committed my life to it. looking back at it I’d have to say it’s not that hard to open a skate shop, but it’s really hard to keep one running. The whole thing has been a crazy adventure and I’m happy that I went into it naively, I learned a whole bunch of stuff and if I knew what all went into it beforehand I probably wouldn’t have done it.
My current challenge is opening our indoor skateboard training facility. Since splitting ways with my former business partner in 2013 I’ve been renting this old theater building with a group of ten of my friends. We all split the rent and built ramps together and made the best of our winters. It was going okay, I was paying the rent and the shop was still making it, but I knew I had to do something different with the way I was doing business.
I decided to look for help and came across the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) which has helped me tremendously with figuring out how to run my business. In the last year, I changed the name of my business from Smalltown to Fargo Skateboarding (the theater we have has been known as The Fargo Theatre since 1929), moved locations.
I have been working with the city, the SBDC, my landlord, and a team of architects and engineers to rehab the building, bring it up to code and officially open it to the public. When the TF (training facility) is finally open and functioning, that is what I will be most proud of professionally.
On a personal level, I’m already so proud of my team – they are so talented and watching them skate is one of the best feelings ever. I’m so happy I can contribute to my team progressing by facilitating a place for training. Opening the TF on top of still trying to operate a retail store has been pretty ambitious, but I feel like the harder the struggle the greater the reward, I got to keep pushing for it!
What does skateboarding mean to you? How are you personally involved in the skateboard community?
At this point skateboarding is everything to me. It is my passion, my business, my hobby, and in many ways my family. Skateboarding is an art form, a physical and mental challenge, it can be aggravating yet rewarding, and it will always take your mind off of anything, so it truly is a form of meditation.
For me, skateboarding started when my friend and I found two boards in her parents basement in Jr. High. We got obsessed with bombing hills. That’s all it really was for me for years after that, transportation and going really fast down hills. Later in my teens, I finally got a Sector 9 and could really enjoy some speed. When I started the shop, I really didn’t do much park skating, so that’s when I started to dabble with it. A few years into having the shop, I got really into Longboard freeriding and sliding.
For the past few years, I’ve shifted my focus to skating parks and learning tricks. I love longboarding and skateboarding – they are two different things, and I appreciate them both.
I have fun organizing skateboarding and longboarding events and working with kids of all ages teaching them how to skate. I am so lucky to have a facility that is right behind the shop that attracts the community that it does, and I am so happy when someone can come to the shop when they need some new gear or advice. I even work with broken decks to create beautiful recycled skateboard jewelry. Skateboarding is life.
What are your thoughts on Women’s skateboarding in the skate industry? Where is it excelling? Where does it need work? How can we get more women involved?
I feel like women’s skateboarding is just now starting to gain recognition, and there is so much room for growth. As women we need to empower each other. Whenever I visit other skateparks around the country I’m always approached by the most fantastic ladies who are just happy to see another “girl” on a board. That’s what it is all about, making connections, pushing one another to learn new tricks, and most importantly to have fun.
I have organized a weekly ladies skate night at the Fargo to inspire this idea. I would like to make this an open invite to all the women that are in the Midwest to please contact me if you want to come out and skate, any ladies from beginner to expert are welcome!
I really wish there weren’t so many boundaries between “men’s” or “women’s” skateboarding though because it should just be about skateboarding. I have this feeling sometimes ladies keep themselves out of the park out of concerns about being judged or something, but in the end nobody cares.
Skaters are just excited to see someone out there really trying and pushing themselves to learn something. For me seeing someone do a really good ollie or dropping in for the first time can get me just as hyped as someone doing a heel flip krook for the first time.
So, that being said, ladies if you’ve ever wanted to skate but are feeling self conscious, just toss that feeling right out the window. No one’s making you feel that besides you. Get out there, take some lessons, or get some pointers so you can start out strong, and just keep pushing! The more time you spend on your board the more comfortable you will feel on it, so make it a daily habit! The most important advice I have is whoever has the most fun wins!
Ariel can be contacted at Smltwnsk8@gmail.com.