The Rules of Skateboarding #3: James from Labor

Illustration by  Sam Cardelfe

Illustration by Sam Cardelfe

To continue our series on the 'rules' that exist in skateboarding, Ian Browning asked Labor Skateshop's owner James Rewolinski: What should everyone know about skate shop etiquette?

How long can somebody lurk without buying something before it gets awkward?

Well, I feel like I need to preface it by saying that there’s a difference in a city shop versus a suburban shop. I think lurking is limited by design in the city. I don’t think there’s as much of a desire to lurk outside the shop all day when you have New York City outside the door.

Our shop is so small that the lurking issue isn't really about buying something. If you’re just in here and you aren’t conversing with us or anything like that, that can just get frustrating because you’re just taking up space. You know? If someone else is trying to find a shoe or find a deck or something like that. I feel like if you’re outside of the shop it’s kind of endless lurk possibilities. Within reason.

I would say on average, stopping and saying what up, 10, 15 minutes is usually pretty solid. Much longer than that and we have to do other stuff. We might feel weird ignoring you if we have to do our jobs, I guess.

Packages ALWAYS make their way to the shop. Via the  Labor Instagram .

Packages ALWAYS make their way to the shop. Via the Labor Instagram.

Is there an etiquette to lurking? And if there is, what is the most egregious violation of that etiquette?

I would say the etiquette specifically for us would be being aware of the space, because it’s tiny. If it gets too crazy in here and you’re lurking, just go outside and wait until it gets calm, and then we can talk.

I would say the biggest violation is just straight up being in someone’s way. Standing in front of the [board] rack. Or standing in front of the shoe wall and being oblivious to somebody trying to actually look at stuff. And people just trying to get in and out. If three kids are standing right here in front of the register and you come in and need grip tape real quick, that’s obnoxious. I’d say the biggest violation is just not being aware. Because it’s cool. We have the whole area outside that is almost an extension of the shop.

Lurking outside the shop, as seen here, is it's own thing. Via the  Labor Instagram .

Lurking outside the shop, as seen here, is it's own thing. Via the Labor Instagram.

Are there different tiers of lurker? Can a local lurk for longer than a tourist?

I mean, yes. I would say that within that there’s different tiers, if it’s a fun lurker like you said earlier, versus if it’s just somebody that’s being awkward, someone who's not saying anything and hanging out.

There’s a good crew of kids that come in and tell us what they’re doing. They might show us a video they made, or they might tell us a story that happened in school. And that’s cool. I think people visiting are less likely to lurk because just because they don’t have as much to talk about. But they’ll say what’s up and obviously we’re going to welcome people to see what they’re doing and what they’re about. It doesn't happen too often that somebody overstays their welcome. Although that does happen.

Frontside boardslide.  Milwaukee Skateboarding #34 ,

Frontside boardslide. Milwaukee Skateboarding #34,

What about bringing food and drinks in?

Oh dude, this is my most hated one. Some people say that I’m too high strung for this, but, like, don’t bring food in here. Just don’t. Especially not açaí bowls. Especially not pizza. Especially not coffee drinks that are always overflowing, which they almost always are. I just hate it.

Full disclosure, and again you might say I have a stick up my ass for this, but I don’t even let the guys [that work here] eat in here. I ask them to eat outside. And honestly, one of the main things is that we’ve never had a problem with any rats or roaches, or anything like that. And this city is full of rats and roaches and bugs and everything. And I don’t want that to change. I think a big way of making sure that happens is you don’t have any food for animals and bugs to eat. It’s a lot easier, especially in Chinatown.

Free stuff: what is acceptable to ask for, and what is the worst thing that someone has asked for for free?

I mean, you’d be surprised on the last part. I guess in terms of asking for stuff for free, we usually keep a stack of old boards outside, so if someone breaks a board we have whatever we have outside. We also have a box of old hardware and stuff like that. A lot of times there’s loose bearings in there.

Some people may think this is lame or whatever but we do have new axle nuts, kingpin nuts, and pivot cups. Little stuff that we charge really small amounts of money for. People still feel like they’re entitled to those for free even though we buy them. There is that whole thing where people think “Oh, it’s just a little thing” and it’s like yeah, but I have it as a convenience and it’s not a lot of money, it’s like 25 cents. Also, there’s a whole box of used stuff if you want to hack it out.

So I think free stuff like that is fine. But I mean, the sky’s the limit. I’ve been asked for every possible thing you can think of. People think they deserve free decks or this or that.

I’ve gotten asked for shoes, a complete, “You should give me this because I’m this.” People say—I'm not going to name the shops—but they’ll be like “At this place or this other place they hook me up fully” and I’m like, “Go there. Do it. It’s over there, you know where it is. Go over there and if they’ll give you the full board or shoes or trade your crappy stuff that nobody wants for something cool, then go for it.”

There's usually something to skate outside the shop. is Via the  Labor Instagram .

There's usually something to skate outside the shop. is Via the Labor Instagram.

What’s up with product trades?

That’s the bane of my existence.

We used to have a pretty strict policy where if it was a really good condition deck or set of wheels, as long as it was perfect in the plastic, I’d usually do a trade. I never did anything with shoes because we have such a small inventory. And as most people know, one of the only ways you really make money at a skate shop is on shoes. So that was pretty much it.

As we’ve grown we’ve had more friends and team riders and visiting pros or whatever, so with some of that stuff we’ll make a little leeway, but the trade always has to work in our favor. If you’re going to get something for something you didn’t pay for, usually it has to help us out too. Especially if it’s something coming out that may be more valuable.

On the face of it, if a person on the street comes in and asks “Can I trade this in?”, the answer is "No". Take it to where you got it. If you got it for free, just ride it. A lot of times people will come with bags of crap they got over the years or from some company. They want to trade all this crap for a brand new pair of Adidas or something, and that’s just not going to happen.

I understand when people are like “Oh, back in the day”, but it’s not back in the day. If you can make my rent what it was back in the day, I’ll start doing your trades. Until I can pay my rent to my landlord in bags of crap that no one wants, you can keep the trades.

Feeble grind,  Milwaukee Skateboarding #62 ,

Feeble grind, Milwaukee Skateboarding #62,

How many questions are too many questions?

Wow. I don’t know if we could put a number on it but I feel like you know it when you know it. I feel like you probably know it. I feel like, per subject area, maybe four? Four questions on wheels, four questions on decks, four questions on trucks, four questions on bearings, maybe four questions on shoes, maybe four on all other apparel and then you’re done. Although most of us are talkers and I could talk about product all day. I usually have to stop myself.

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