Mark Nardelli on 5boro
We’re back! On the heels of NYC-mainstay 5boro debuting three new pros, we caught up with the company’s boss man Mark Nardelli to talk about the company's past (Join or Die, Dan Pensyl), present (new pros!), and future (new video).
It seems like there’s a lot of momentum behind the brand right now.
Can you tell us about the 3 new additions to the pro team?
Starting with Neil Herrick, he was overdue for some attention from the brand, he’s been with us for so long. With our last video, 5BNY, we had a big crew and there are only so many dudes that you can bump up at a time. Rob Gonyon, Sylvester Eduardo and Jordan Trahan had all been with us for a while and had banging parts coming out, the time was right for those 3 to go pro. Neil was with us then, but it just didn’t feel like the right time. He stuck with us and continued to kill it while Gonyon and Dougie (Sylvester) moved on, and it just felt like the time was right to put his name on wood. He moved to NY, we got closer and worked together more. He is stacking footage right now and we’ll have something with him in it coming out soon.
Then there’s Jeremy Murray.
Some people are saying ‘Whoa he’s already pro for 5boro?’, but we just didn’t drag him through the mud like we usually do (laughs). He’s been so dedicated and is just so talented and supportive of the brand and what I’m doing. I am super psyched to have someone from the DC area, too. It’s so sick to have 5boro growing to more than just being a local crew. Everyone makes sense together, whether they’re from here or not.
Tell us about Pori.
Shinya Nohara is his real name, his nickname is Pori. He’s from Japan, but last year he was on my couch for 5 months. Pori’s skating is just so smooth, it sounds like Sade is playing when he steps on a board. He was doing switch wallrides at the banks the other day and I had to check myself, like ‘Which way does he skate again?’.
Our distributor (in Japan) Uru is an ex-5boro pro, and Pori actually works for him. It’s sick that our distributor was a pro for us, and now Pori is working for him and is now our pro. It is just like a family vibe. Back in the day you’d have a Euro rider, or a dude on the Japan team, but now it’s just one family. Pori is actually here more than a bunch of the other dudes, honestly (laughs).
Pori, Jeremy and Neil, all good energy on a board - we needed it and they are stoked. You’ve just got do your due diligence for dudes like Dougie and Gonyon first, and even Tombo, our former filmer who was with us for over ten years. He was in a transition from 5boro and moving on in life, so there were a few years of growing pains and just trying to survive. We had a quiet transition period of just existing. Doing boards the whole time, but just a little quieter, and we’ve been around since ‘96, no breaks. We’re psyched to have this new momentum.
Was it tough seeing Dougie and Gonyon go?
Dougie was so amazing, but I think he was just over it, over me nudging him. I don’t know exactly what he wanted, but I couldn’t do it. He was cool about it, but I think he felt like the skateboarding game changed, and his generation of 5boro was changing. Gonyon was moving on, Tombo was moving on, and I think for Dougie, he was just like ‘I put my time in, I went pro, I put out my parts, I am going to move on.’.
Gonyon... at one point I thought ‘I want Gonyon to run the fucking brand!’. I just wanted to hand the keys over. I really value his taste. Everything about him, it was just like ‘That’s how I want 5boro to look.’. Dude is wearing bronze colored Jordans, charging like the most pissed off dude, crushing a nose blunt with all of his weight. Who the fuck is an East Coast skateboarder? Rob Gonyon. When he hits me on a DM like ‘Yo, this board is awesome!’ I’m like ‘Fuck yeah, I’m killing it!”(laughs). His voice and opinions on 5boro mean a lot to me. I miss him.
So with 3 new pros, do you have any new ams?
There are a few kids from the Gang Corp crew we’re hooking up. Shacore Penny, he’s my bro. He is focused on all kinds of stuff. Making music, skating, he’s a rubix cube genius, just a sick kid. He is part of the 5boro fam.
We also hook up this kid Amir Dennis. He just has the flow with skateboarding. I am about the same age as his kids dad, and his dad used to skate and had really good taste in skating, so Amir was raised watching Jason Dill and just has the right influences. He has such a good back 3, probably from watching Dill growing up. He has a bright future in skating if that is what he wants.
And then, we’ve been hooking up Matt Militano. He is someone who is new to the 5boro family. I think he was on Habitat and it just fizzled. Dude is sick, Neil was just like ‘This is my boy, he’s looking for some support’. He’s in Philly, he ripping, and he totally ‘gets it’. He’ll have some clips in this new project we’re working on.
When is the new project coming out?
Everyone is asking me! The whole team is like ‘Hey! We turned pro, where the fuck is this?’ I’m used to being able to lean on Tombo, but now I have to coordinate it all. Chris Mulhern is going to edit it, and I still have to figure out music rights. I’m also trying to get it the most exposure possible, I mean I owe it to the guys (the team)...I don’t want to see it up for 20 minutes online, then have it be gone. 5boro is a smaller brand, and we don’t have the bandwidth to promote it in a huge way. If you put it on your Instagram, only the people who followed you before will see it, no one new. I want our shit out there!
Going back into 5boro history a few years, tell us about what was going on when one of our favorite videos ever, Join or Die, came out.
It struck hard at the right time. I had a lot more help at that point. Tombo was with us full time, we had a deeper crew, and we had a dedicated sales person The whole package was so tight - the board with the snake graphic, the soundtrack. It was cool man.
We were actually the first brand to do a video takeover on Thrasher, for Join or Die. When we did it, we all saw it up there and flipped out. ‘It says 5boro all over the Thrasher site!!!’
But yeah, times have changed. I’m bad at self promotion, and everything relies on Instagram right now. Like, I have to lean everything I do on this shitty app?
Speaking of promotion, back when 5boro was first starting, how were you guys promoting it? Were you doing demos?
Our Instagram was a van, a crew, stickers, and good times. There was no online sales, no mall stores, it was just skate shops and VHS tapes. We had to find somewhere to make copies of what we’d filmed, or just make them ourselves and hand them out.
Steve had an apartment in the city, and I would bring my parents’ VCR and remote in from Jersey, we’d post up in the apartment and duplicate the tapes ourselves, hittting pause, then play, then pause again. At one point Steve finally got a Mac and we learned Final Cut, but it was still so primitive. 5boro got known for getting on the road, bringing a crew somewhere and making an impression.
If you could have any former 5boro rider back on the team, who would it be? There are some good ones...
Hmm, probably (Aaron) Suski. I just sent him a box, actually, but I haven’t seen him skate in a long time…(laughs). He’s out in Arizona, he’s got a job and all that but he’s still ripping. I saw a photo of him not too long ago, doing a Suski grind. I think just because I’m close to him and he’s just such a rad skater.
Then there’s Dan Pensyl.
Dan never really left, man, he’s still part of it. He’s got a family and a full-time job, but he defined 5boro in that generation of the brand. He endured so much pain of just being the dude who helped define this whole thing, not to mention the pain he put himself in physically. We’re not really in touch, but we’re in touch.
It’s pretty sick, especially with how many DIY-type brands there are now, that 5boro has been doing, carrying the torch for the DIY companies for a long time.
Yeah, my inventory is over on Ludlow street, and I just sit there at my desk and…(displays manic look on face), I don’t know...PMA! I don’t know how other companies operate, and not that we’re a huge company by any means, but I don’t think there’s another company that’s been going as long as we have, that puts out as quality of a product as we do, has supported skaters as much as we have, that still exists by itself. Skate Mafia maybe?
Well, there are some giant brands around, but do you even count them?
Or like Black Label? Now Lucero is doing it out of his garage! He’s still going.
I feel like I’ll always do the brand, regardless of how I survive outside of it. I feel good about what we do, we blaze our own path. It’s a mystery to me how I make it work sometimes. Even talking to the woodshop for this last batch of boards, they were like ‘Did you sell as much as we’ve been shipping? Are you going to be able to pay this bill?’. It was beyond the comfort level for both of us, but all I’ve been doing is sitting here, selling, and figuring out how to ship them. Now I have to collect the money, it’s a vicious cycle. ☉