Company Spotlight: Tri-State Skate

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I may not know Greg Kieffer that well but I do know that he is very supportive of rollerblading, especially in the Tri-State Area. I bumped into him at practically every comp and big session in NYC over the past year. And when I do see him, he is always loaded with products from Tri-State Skate to give out. In this “Company Spotlight” Greg opens up about the beginnings of the shop, misconceptions, and more as well as 2 big announcements to usher in 2012.

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*TSS owner Greg Kieffer captured by the talented Shardy Nieves.

SUAS: Just in case some people may have been misinformed or may simply not know, who are the founding fathers behind Tri-State Skate?
GK:
As far as people behind the shop itself, despite what many people may think, I am the sole owner. I started TSS with 100% my own money, and did almost all of the work getting the shop together along with the help of my close friends Jim Koenig and Joey Zitelli.

SUAS: Funding your own skate shop is a risky investment but at least you had a couple of helping hands. What were some of the key elements that led to the creation of TSS?
GK:
There was a lot that led to it. First thing was I lost my job working for BMW, and when unemployment stopped I needed to find another source of income. It just so happened that my good friend Mac McMeans from Sunshine Distribution who I met while living in Esco, CA had moved out to NJ only about an hour south of me. He played a huge part in helping me get things rolling. Right before I opened the shop I was at one of the lowest points in my life due to my best friend passing away, losing my job, and making a few very poor personal decisions that led me into a deep hole. From there I managed to turn everything around and open Tri-State Skate.

SUAS: Glad to hear that you overcame those trying situations. TSS has an ever-growing team of impressive bladers representing the shop, who is on your roster for 2012?
GK:
I am definitely lucky because I have in my opinion some of the best bladers around skating for the shop. Right now it’s Ryan Many, Bobby Reichel, Sean Agoliati, Franco Cammayo, Crazy Pat, Tim Franken, and recently Sam Williams was added, who was an easy choice because Sam is just a real dude who puts in work. And I guess now would be a good time to let everyone know our newest rider is E-Rod(Erick Rodriguez) from Long Beach, CA. Get ready to see what I can only imagine is going to be another one of his amazing edits dropping soon officially announcing him as the new rider.

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*TSS newest rider “E-Rod” Erick Rodriguez.

SUAS: E-Rod is my bro, he treated me like family when I lived out in Long Beach for 3 years, its always good to see him get some shine. Now, opening a Skateshop is never easy and there seems to be a constant struggle to keep its doors open for more than a few years. What are some of the hardships of running your own shop?
GK:
Well, the hardest part was learning that just because I’ve been skating for 16+ years doesn’t mean I know how to run a rollerblade shop. I had zero knowledge of how to run a business, and to this day I’m still learning by making mistakes. On top of that is obviously money. Being we have such a small amount of rollerbladers it makes it very hard to generate enough sales to keep the shop stocked, and in business. Another difficulty was dealing with my friends as majority of my customers. I’ve met a large amount of friends through skating over the years, and it was difficult at first to look at them as customers and not friends.

It wasn’t long though until most of my customers/friends realized that if I continued giving them discounts, it was only hurting myself and the shop. Other than that, everything came pretty easy for me, and I have no one to thank but all of my amazing loyal customers, awesome shop riders, and extremely helpful company owners and sales reps, who now I consider most of them friends. It’s people like that who REALLY keep the shop not only alive, but help it to thrive and constantly grow every single day.

SUAS: It all boils down to loyalty which is something I take very seriously. Now, people always have something to say and things have been said about you and your shop but I’m not going to get into specifics and give any b.s. any light of day but I would like to ask you what are some of the biggest misconceptions about you and TSS?
GK:
I’m glad you asked that question. A lot of people assume that being I’m a white boy from the suburbs that I’m a spoiled brat (What up Tee!) and that my parents gave me the money to open the shop when in fact it’s the complete opposite. My father was a mechanic for 37 years at a Mercedes Dealer and my mother a waitress majority of her life. Not exactly 2 professions where I could just borrow money from them to open a shop. I opened the shop by myself, with my own money that I saved from when I started working at 13 years old as a busboy and dishwasher at a restaurant my mother worked at. It really wasn’t enough to open a shop the right way, but it was all I had and decided to just go with it.

Luckily, I turned the shop from having barely anything in stock when I opened, to now having nearly 5x the amount of inventory from what I started with, on top of creating a shop that now not only has customers all over the country, but all over the world as well. Other than that, after almost 3 years in business, I feel the shop is at a point where people know what the shop is about, and that I put everything I have back into the shop as well as the local scene. So, I hope by now most people know what TSS is all about.

SUAS: On a more positive note, how do you plan on growing TSS even bigger this year than it was last year?
GK:
I’m going to keep doing the same thing, but on a bigger scale. We will continue doing ad’s in ONE Magazine with hot babes in them to make the shop look cooler than it really is, and besides that the shop riders alone rep the shop hard enough between edits, and just going out skating to get the name out there even more. I’m lucky to have the shop riders I do because they all put in serious work to rep the shop 200%. I also feel TSS has the best, most loyal customers around, which is something I am extremely grateful for. I don’t think there has been one day I haven’t seen or heard a customer talking about the shop and spreading the word. Seeing people like Brian Aragon and Dre Powell rocking TSS shirts frequently is definitely huge as well!

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*TSS shop tee.

SUAS: You have an advantage of being located footsteps away from a decent skatepark, was that part of the initial plan or did fate play a role in the location of the shop?
GK:
Oh it’s a huge benefit being located inside of a skatepark. It gives me the opportunity to allow customers to not just meet, but skate with their idols. And when the younger skateboarders see the best bladers in the world KILLING the park, it’s not long after that they are upstairs with their parents buying skates and throwing their skateboards in the garbage where they belong! It’s amazing to know that the shop I created, created TONS of new rollerbladers. The joy I get out of setting up a kids first pair of skates, seeing kids mesmerized when they get to meet their favorite pro’s, etc. is what really makes what I do worth it. Back to your question, it was 100% part of the plan to try and have the shop located in a skatepark, it just seemed like the best place possible to have a shop.

SUAS: Erick Rodriguez has been announced as the newest addition to the TSS team. But, there is another announcement that you would like to make as well. Are you ready to let the cat out of the bag?
GK:
You bet I am ready! TSS and Drop-In Skate Park are moving! But only 2 buildings away. Best part is the shop will be twice the size, and the park will have an upper level which will be setup as a REAL street oriented spot. Cement ledges, long ROUND grind boxes, curve ledges, and even more! This gives us the opportunity to make the park more rollerblade friendly, and thanks to the park owner Darrell, he gave me $800 to use for materials for new blade oriented obstacles. The move is happening mid February, but the park and shop will still be open during the moving process. Get ready for an even better TSS and Drop In than ever! TSS as well as Drop-In will keep everyone up to date with all information regarding the move and its progress.

SUAS: Now that is exciting news, any movement forward is a good one and it doesn’t get any better than that. But, with all of the time-consuming responsibilities of running your own shop when do you find time to blade and what are you rolling on when you do?
GK:
Although I literally run EVERY aspect of the shop myself, I actually do have plenty of time to skate, but unfortunately it’s become almost 100% skating downstairs by myself. I really miss skating street because that’s what I grew up skating. But being able to walk downstairs and skate the park whenever I want isn’t too bad either! As far as skates I have gone through plenty, but as of now I’m rocking SSM Montre’s with Create Originals, wheels are always changing because I like to test ALL the wheels I sell to give accurate info when kids have questions, and I don’t know if I’m allowed to spill the beans but for bearings I am currently testing a sample Ceramic bearing one of the major rollerblade bearing companys sent to me.

Before that I was skating Bones Ceramic Reds which were AMAZING. When I put the sample Ceramic’s in, they were JUST as good as the Bones, which says a lot because Ceramic bearings don’t reach their peak performance until they have been skated for 6-12 hours and these were brand new. I can only imagine how amazing the final product will be just based off the samples I tested. Once I’m done I will be sending them to Bobby Reichel to test out. Thanks to Brian Lewis for the frames, Wally from M1(oops!) for the bearings, and Shima for the blades! When he asked if I wanted some blades how could I say no to Brian Shima!? I had to rep the only boot company in our industry that is 100% rollerblader owned!

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* Back Torque with the ever-important grab for the lense of Sam DeAngelis.

SUAS: Any last words or shout-outs?
GK:
I want to thank Brian for giving me the opportunity for this interview, all of the shop riders, and especially all of my amazing customers. All of you guys are the ones to thank for bringing TSS to where it is now. ..I’m just the dude that puts the skates together! Sam DeAngelis & Ryan Loewy for always coming thru with amazing photos! Also, a HUGE thanks to Mac McMeans from Sunshine Distribution, Dan Fabiano, Wally, Shima, Brian Lewis, Damien Wilson, the guys at Roc City Skates, my parents and sister for always believing in me, Rachard Johnson, my homies Aragon and Dre for always reppin the TSS shirts, and lastly every rollerblader out their who consciously decides where to purchase their products, whether its from TSS, SDSF, Amall, or whoever. Know that where you spend your money really does matter, and to support your local shop if your lucky enough to have one! Over and out, peace and love to everyone that has rollerblades on their feet.

CHECK OUT TRI-STATE SKATE ONLINE
www.tristateskate.com

ERICK RODRIGUEZ NEW TSS RIDER TEASER
http://vimeo.com/36121167

SNEAK PEEK OF THE NEW SPACE FOR TSS & DROP-IN

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SAM WILLIAMS TSS DRE POWELL 2 PROMO

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One Response to “Company Spotlight: Tri-State Skate”

  1. Awesome job Brian! Came out great, with awesome questions.

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