HOBBYMASTERS SKATES BACK INTO BOARD BIZ

Hobbymasters employee Mychael, who declined to give his last name, shows off a board. Below, a board equipped with underside lighting. (Photos by Dan Natale. Click to enlarge)

By DAN NATALE

The zenith of skateboarding’s popularity  in Red Bank may be past, and skating downtown could land you in handcuffs these days. But after a nearly two-decade absence, Hobbymasters on Monmouth Street hopes to pick up where now-defunct skate retailers Revolutions, Circles Bike and Skate, and Stokaboka left off.

Since last month, Hobbymasters has been carrying skateboards and associated paraphernalia, such as wheels, trucks, bearings, and anything else that a skateboarder would need to start shredding. It’s now the only skateboarding shop in a town that not long ago had three.

This is the second time that Hobbymasters has tried the skateboard market. Owner Alan Placer says he sold skateboards throughout the 1980s, but stopped around the mid-90s, once skateboarding declined in popularity.

Today, skateboarding is on the rise in popularity, Placer said, which prompted him to oblige the many curb-hungry skateboarders. Placer says that he would have started selling boards sooner, if not for his store policy of carrying only merchandise that’s unavailable nearby.

Currently, the selection is relatively small, compared to that of the now-gone specialty shops. Placer expects to grow his inventory as demand rises.

While some may consider Hobbymasters an odd outfit to sell skateboards, given its focus on model-making and electronics. Placer sees no problems with it.

“Skateboarding: it’s a hobby, it’s a sport, it’s for transportation,” he said. “So yeah, it fits, because it’s a hobby, and nobody else is selling it, and kids need it.”

Unlike many of the hobbies available at the store, however, skateboarding has a stigma, associated with anarchism, drug use, punk rock, tattoos, and all around bad news. Placer says that he’s not interested in catering to that audience.

“The boards that we sell have to have wholesome family values paint schemes on them if we’re gonna hang them in the store,” said Placer. “I have one of the Creature boards here. A lot of them are really pushing marijuana use, and that is not appropriate for a majority of the skateboard riders.”

Placer is also not worried about the legal issues of skateboarding in Red Bank, where a local ordinance prohibits it on many streets and in parks.

“It’s not illegal to own a skateboard, and it’s not illegal to use it in the proper ways, so that’s what we’re gonna promote here – make sure the kids know where they can use it, and not to destroy public property or private property,” said Placer.

Dan Natale of Red Bank is a student at Brookdale Community College, where he’s the assistant editor of the student newspaper The Stall, and an intern at redbankgreen.