An Interview with Sasha Senior of Bliss Skateshop
— If you’re a skateboarder who has grown up with a local skateshop, you know how crucial they are to the scene....
Who’s involved in the shop?
There are four owners: Kyle “Tuble” Robertson, Aaron “Vulture” Cayer, “Captain” Tom Pajdlhauser, and Adam “Polski” Wawrzynczak. We also depend heavily on our employee-of-the-year, Megan Dowe, and feel strongly that anyone who supports what we do, both skaters and non-skaters alike, are involved in the shop.
What’s the role of a skateshop nowadays?
Skateshops have two main roles. Obviously, they exist to ensure that the skaters in their community keep rolling; however, a good skateshop takes time to curate a product selection that reflects their specific version of skateboarding. Especially these days, when new brands are popping up daily, it’s important for a skateshop to know why they carry the brands that they do. In a sense, a skateshop should educate its clients through the sale of its gear.
Secondly, skateshops should be the hub of a skateboarding community. They should welcome skaters who are new to the city. They should organize and document events/trips that show the uniqueness of its community. They should look out for the interests of the skateboarding community and bring everyone together to have fun.
What types of events have you been doing since opening?
All types! Ottawa winters can be brutal so we try to make the most of summer with fun outdoor events. Some of our annual events include our tongue-in-cheek version of Olympic skateboard tryouts and our take on a classic: The “Tuble-style” Game of SKATE Tournament, which involves doing two tricks in a row as your set. Another staple is our “Beast Trick or Treat” Halloween contest where skaters in costume rip to the sounds of local heavy metal groups at the Charlie Bowins Memorial Skatepark. For larger scale events, we’ve also partnered with Vans Canada and Beau’s Brewery for the annual Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill, Ontario. We also host The Moto Social once a year, an international event that brings hundreds of bikers to check out local businesses in their city. When Old Man Winter finally rears his ugly head, we try to take the edge off with indoor events such as skate trivia nights and our social book exchanges.
What would you like to see more of in the Canadian skateboard industry as a whole?
We’d love to build more collaborative efforts between independent core shops. More communication and support between like-minded shop owners would benefit everyone. The same idea could be extended to distributors. What would be truly beneficial to Canadian skateboarding in the long run is for everyone involved in the industry to skate together more often and informally discuss ideas. A few years ago, Dave Larkin, a sales rep for Centre Distribution, joined us on our annual skatepark/camping tour for a weekend. It was awesome having him participate and it gave us a chance to see him in a new light, not just as a sales rep. We need more of that.
What more can distribution companies, magazines, and brands do to support shops like yours?
Personalize their support! The more we see people in the Canadian skateboard industry going the extra mile to support the promotion of their brands, the better. Whenever possible, if reps can make the trip out to be present at the events that they are supporting, it would truly make a positive difference.
What more do you guys want to do outside of the day-to-day shop business?
We love getting involved in interesting and creative projects. Our focus as a brand and shop is to highlight an attitude-free skate culture in Ottawa and to get kids interested in our city’s hidden stories.
Do you have a policy on how long a person can lurk in the shop?
Nope, in fact we encourage it. We’ve built in a nice little nook in the front of the shop for sippin’ coffee, socializing, and lurking the Wi-Fi. We’re preparing to open the backyard patio to the public this spring, so lurk away! That said, some folks still get chirped when they lurk too hard.
Any other out-of-the-ordinary rules in the shop?
Not really. We just ask our regular lurkers to use their brain and respect that they are in a store, first and foremost. So far this seems to be working out for everyone.
Are you seeing a lot of people buying their first boards from you?
“A lot” is debatable. We would say we have had a spike in beginner sales lately compared to five years ago. We also see a lot of folks coming out of the woodwork to get back into skating after 15-plus years off. Having the Charlie Bowins’ park around the corner helps with that. In any case, it would be nice to see skating rise back up to what it was in the early- to mid-2000s but we like where it is now. Lots of interesting, smaller brands doing creative things rather than just selling heartagrams.
Above photo of Tuble shot by Aaron Cayer.