Shopkeeper with Syd Clark

Date: July 13, 2017 Author: King Writer Categories: features
Teensyd shopkeeper thorburn web
Teen and Syd


Syd Clark

Menu Skateshop, Vancouver, BC

Interview by Paul Gonzalez

When did you open Menu?

We opened five years ago, and we actually recently just moved to a new location about one block from our old spot.

You've been involved in skateboarding as a whole, and specifically the Canadian skate industry for a really long time. Let's talk a little bit about your background and what you were doing before you opened the shop.

Well back, I guess in the early '90s, I started off from Vancouver Island, grew up in Nanaimo, moved to Victoria for a few years and I ended up getting sponsored by Etnies through Timebomb Trading. I ended up moving to Vancouver in '95 and started riding for what was RDS Skate Supply at the time, which is now Red Dragon clothing. I started running that store and then doing their other store in California, then doing RDS Skatepark. I worked through that company for 16 years. But, it just sort of all came to head where it was just time to do something on my own, that was for me and just taking all that experience and going back to basics. I was running RDS stores and being a rep for RDS and Indy and Fallen as brands and felt like it was time to do my own thing. Running their stores and then being on the other side as a sales rep, all that knowledge I applied to my own thing and I opened up Menu.

What was the transition like working with brands like RDS to owning your own shop? Going from being on one side of the business to the other side of the fence as a retailer?

I think it really taught me quite a bit. Running the RDS stores was one thing, but then being a sales rep—I think at one point I had 100 different accounts that I worked with, and seeing how all those other skate shops run, and how different they can be. We're fortunate here in Vancouver where we can have more core skateshops but there's small towns where you couldn't just be a skateshop, you have to sell all kinds of other stuff to help carry that. You can also see how well people run other shops and how poorly some shops are run. Really, I learned a lot on what not to do and what to do.

Seeing a bunch of shops over the years, were there any that you visited or that you saw that were inspirational or gave you ideas of things you wanted to do with Menu?

Yeah. Definitely. I'd always loved what (Glenn) Suggitt was doing in Edmonton with Plush and Famous. Sk8 Skates in Winnipeg stuck out. I've always really liked what Antisocial's done; they really do a lot, community-wise. They do a lot for skateboarding but also for art and music, and encompass and bring a lot of different people together. I think it's also a lot of shops that are huge into snowboarding, which is hard for me to get inspired by because I'm certainly not super interested in it and never really have been, so, I tend to lean more to skateboard-only shops but—I think like Sk8 Skates for example, Ninetimes, Tiki Room. Even The Source, I really liked The Source. Unity in Osoyoos was definitely a close one for me, that's the most creative guy doing that store.

What was the process like from concept to opening? Did it all happen really quickly or how did that come about?

It did. I lived in Gastown, I lived there for about a year, I saw a space around the time that I really wanted stop traveling so much and stop being a sales rep. When I looked at Gastown, it was the only place that you could open a skateshop without stepping on anyone's toes. It was a bit of a fashion district and also I lived there so to go from commuting to work to walking to work was such a huge part of it for me. Gastown is the oldest part of Vancouver; it's grimy, but it can also be high end. There's lots of cool restaurants. It just really appealed to me. I ended up pulling the trigger on a lease April 1st and then we were open June 1st. It was two months of pulling together, and I still kept things cool with Centre (Distribution) and they were really helpful as far as helping me get the doors open, so that was pretty cool.

Since you've opened, have you noticed any substantial changes in the shop? In your product mix, or the way you're focusing things or has it been pretty gradual to build and find your groove?

When we opened, not every brand would sell to us so we had to try what we could get our hands on and slowly prove ourselves. There are brands that we couldn't get when we first opened that now, two years down the line, after proving ourselves and doing some good business, we ended up getting. Now we're at the point where we're able to curate exactly what we want and present brands in a good way as well as keeping it a lot of good, smaller independent brands as well.

What do you think the role of the skateshop is now in 2017 versus when you were a kid or even since you guys have opened? Have you seen that change or how do you see that fitting into the world of skateboarding?

I think there's a lot more responsibility and communication, as a shop owner, to the customer. I think that there's this divide where there are the mall stores and there are the core shops, and a lot of times the core shops will take more time explaining brands, explaining the history of brands. Back when I was younger, late ’80s and early ’90s, the skateshop was kind of a grimy place. There were no mall stores to compete with, and I think over time skateshops have had to step it up. I've always thought just because it's a skateshop doesn't mean it has to be a dump. I think definitely we have more responsibility to educate kids. All walks of life skateboard now, where when I was younger it was this illegal punk thing that you were doing, and now all different kinds of people have access and are exposed to it. You also have this mix of fashion kids coming into it. I think it's a balance of being kind and making it a real friendly environment and a place that everyone wants to come to, let alone if you skateboard or not.

Looking into the future, where do you see the shop going in the next couple of years

We definitely want to work on more events. We did sponsor a contest at The Plaza last summer and we want to work harder on that and make it bigger and better this year. Try to get more involved; there’s only a couple of us working here and we definitely want to do more contests this year. We have a huge team of skateboarders that we hook up. We make a lot of our own clothing and we hook our team up with that. We try to give back to the community, and want to work harder on that in the way of contests and different events this year.