Catching Up With NJ Skateshop’s Steve Lenardo & Chris Nieratko

New Jersey Skateshop has been giving back to skateboarding since Co-Owners Chris Nieratko and Steve Lenardo opened the doors of their first shop back in 2002. Now, with four locations, NJ Skateshop continues to play a huge role in the skate community and industry as a whole—which became even more apparent after Lenardo and Nieratko were voted the Mid-Atlantic Regional Shop of the Year in our 2010 Industry and Retail Awards. [For more details and to see all the winners, grab a copy of our Janaury issue.]

We caught up with NJ Skateshop to find out its recipe for success, how the shop got its start and what we can expect from the award winning retailer in the near future.

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Tell us a little about your store(s), how long they’ve been around, what brands you carry, and who your customers are.
The First NJ Skateshop opened nearly eight years ago in Sayreville, NJ; a mile down from the cement Sayreville skatepark that Wally Holiday built for us. Next was NJ 2 in New Brunswick, then NJ 3 In Hoboken and recently we opened a fourth location in Princeton.

As far as brands, we carry all the key brands that matter. We are very selective about the quality of goods. We’ve been skating over 20 years, we know you only really need four wheel brands and four truck brands because those are, and always have been, the best on the market.

As for customers, we run the gamut from six-year olds to 46-year olds. If they love skateboarding, or just into the vibe of it, they’re down for us.

What’s the most rewarding thing about working with your brands and customers?
Hands down the best thing is setting a kid up with his first real skateboard. It’s like losing your virginity, you remember that first one forever. The next best thing is seeing that same kid five years later killing the park and knowing you helped nurture another lifer.

What’s your philosophy on the role of core retailers?
Be knowledgeable about the product your selling and actually doing what you’re part of. We don’t do snowboarding, pogo sticks, bikes, or anything other than skateboarding. It’s what we know best.

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What makes your shop different?
Our staff. They consist of all guys that have been family for nine years now and shred regularly. Recently we were in a TransWorld online video contest. A lot of the guys ripping in that video work behind the counter at our shops. On top of that Chris and I skate . We’re not good at it, but we still skateboard and kids see that.

Why do you think your brands nominated you for this award?
Cause we pay our bills? [Laughs] No, but we are always looking for ways to do things for skateboarding in our surrounding communities and I think people realize we put our kids and our scene before personal gain. We’re in this for love, not to get rich; that’s why we kept our day jobs.

What have been the biggest highlights and lowlights of 2010?
The highlight was making it another year, which isn’t easy as the big chains try to destroy the mom and pop shops. As far as any lows, we fought through those times and came out the other side.

This year was tough for core retailers. What have been the keys to your success through the recession and what have you done differently than in year’s past?

Our buying changed, we played it lean and partnered up with a lot of our key brands to work together to make it successful for all of us.

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What are your predictions for 2011?
Focus on our house branding and continue to support skateboarding. If your mindset is profit margins and take, take, take then get out. You don’t love skateboarding.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Skateboarding is and always will be about having fun. It helped us maintain and make friendships in grade school through adulthood.

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