Shopkeeper: Justin Allain at Working Class

Date: May 14, 2017 Author: King Writer Categories: features
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Workingclass shopkeeper 01 web

Shopkeeper

Justin Allain from Working Class in Moncton, NB

Interview by Paul Gonzalez

Photos by Myles Ross

When did you open?

Working Class opened in August of 2015.

What was your background prior to opening the shop?

Well, I've always worked in skateboarding. I started skating when I was 10 and started working at a shop when I was 13. Then I competed a lot, got sponsored, moved to Vancouver, and worked at Centre Distribution for a few years. So I did the whole retail thing and then wholesale. When I was ready to come back home to New Brunswick, I did the school thing and did a civil engineering technologies course. I worked with the construction industry for about year and I realized, "Fuck this. This is not a good environment to be in," and saw the opportunity to open the store because a local shop had closed. I just saw an opening and I used all my experience through retail and wholesale and living in a bigger city to open up something a little bit different. So yeah, I guess I've got 15 years of being a sponsored skater and competing and traveling and shooting photos and also working the industry side. Some people get pretty burnt out working in this industry, but I think being away from it, going to school and doing something different, it felt way better when I jumped back in.

When you first decided to open the shop, what was that process like?

It was really, really quick. From the conception of the store to opening day was probably like three or four months. I did some government programs. The New Brunswick government really helps start up companies because there's not a whole lot of industry here. They're trying to stimulate the economy by helping out people with start up businesses, so that made it pretty quick and pretty painless for me.

Was there any other store that you wanted to model the shop after or that gave you ideas to bring towards Working Class?

Yeah. I think mainly for the local shops that were here, like Skate to Snow was the shop that I worked at and grew up with. That was the core shop. We did lots of really cool stuff, like events and contests, and we took trips together as a team. There were some really cool things happening at that time. Then as things moved forward when Skate to Snow closed and other shops opened, I saw what not to do. Like living in Vancouver and seeing how the shops run there it was good to pick out all the best things from those. I guess the most influential shop that I take inspiration from in the Maritimes would be Pro Skates in Halifax. They've been doing it for over 30 years now and I really like their vibe. That's probably the most amount of inspiration that I pick up out of a local shop.

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Since you've opened the shop, how has it changed?

I don't like keeping anything stagnant, so as far as the layout goes, as far as the way that I display things, it's always changing. I guess one shift in what I've seen since opening would be opening the online store and seeing sales generated through that. Other than that, I'm just trying to do different events all the time. That's always changing, which keeps it exciting and fresh.

What's the scene like in Moncton?

Moncton's always had like a really strong skate scene because we're kind of like the hub of the Maritimes; we're right in the middle of everything. I don't know what we would really do if there was no core shop because other than this store, it's like you're looking at mall stores that don't do anything for the local scene. I felt somewhat of an obligation to support skating and make it exciting for the younger generation.

What do you think the role of the skate shop is now in 2017 versus when you were a kid?

Now, with how accessible everything is, it's a lot harder to make kids realize how important a local store can be to the local skate scene, so that's been a challenge. I just always kind of think back like, "Oh, when I was a kid, I worshiped the shop. Everybody was all about the skate shop." Now it's kind of like, kids don't automatically just think that way. Now it's a little bit more kind of like, okay, you've got to tell these kids what's up, you've got to tell them why they should support your shop and maybe not support the big box stores that just don't do anything: no events, no sponsorships, no nothing.

Where do you see the shop in five years and where would you like to see it going in the next couple years?

I'm always looking forward and seeing what I can do to make it better. I want to be able to do more events, grow skating in the Maritimes, and not only just Moncton. Whether it's opening another location or just building upon what I've been doing, I'm just looking forward. Hopefully doing more online business, too, because that's the way to stay potentially with one store and then expand nationwide.