Andrew Martin opened Galaxie Skateshop
in October of 2007 with a small loan and big plans. But Galaxie was the last thing the Cincinnati skate scene needed with four successful shops already in the area all within skating distance of one skatepark or another. Add to the fact that Martin, whose friends call him "Highschool," does not possess a killer business mindset - his business model consists of giving discounts to nearly every person walking in the door and hand-outs to anyone who desperately needs it, and you would think Galaxie would be a recipe for disaster. Fortunately for Newport and the rest of area's skating community, Martin didn't open his shop to make money; he just wants to support his community and be a welcoming hub to anyone involved in skating.
Martin says he founded Galaxie around the idea of supporting smaller, local and national skater-run organizations. "They might not make me rich selling their products but it helps out skating more than supporting large companies, so I'm all for it," he says. He admits other shops score higher profits by carrying larger, logo-recognized accounts such as Vans and Nike shoes, but he sees this as a blessing. "Not getting those accounts worked out better for me," he says. "One: I supply things no on else is supplying; two: it opened my eyes to a lot of stuff that fits my personality way more, and [three: it] fits in to my desire to help out small companies. That's what skating is all about."
The stockpile of equipment in the small Monmouth Street shop reveals both his passion and commitment to the home grown skateboard community. One wall holds the 50 or so different boards he keeps stocked regularly, and the centerpiece of the room is a large table covered in shirts, pants, hats, coolers, jackets and flannels. Some of the clothing was designed by Martin's close friends who also designed the Galaxie Skateshop logo which adorn the shirts displayed around the shop.
Skating has always been Martin's passion. Growing up in Oxford, Ohio, he began skating at ten after watching his brother do it in the front yard. He has been hooked ever since. Breaking into the scene was more difficult than he thought it should given the vibe at his local skate shop which always felt too exclusive.
"I saw the way people were treated when they came in," says Martin. "It was harsh." Finding a few local skaters outside of the shop helped develop his sense of inclusion and kinship he felt for his fellow skaters. "Skateboarding is already looked at as the sport for outsiders and non-conformers," Martin says, "So why would we want to make people feel more out of place?"
That philosophy permeates the walls of his welcoming skateshop and is evidenced by the number of clients that walk through the door on any given day. A skateboard on the back wall designed specifically for him by local skate company, Effort reads lovingly, "Highschool Sucks!" The shop's back walls are covered in posters signed by the many professional skaters that frequent the shop when they are in Cincinnati.
Nearly every day, the small shop's hardwood floors are crowded with kids playing videogames or watching the newest skate video on the vintage 1970s TV. Once a month Martin hosts a clam chowder or taco night where he provides free food to anyone who shows up. "Every skateshop provides the same thing, so we try to do things a bit different than everyone else," Martin says.
But a skate shop cannot survive on community alone. Martin has yet to be able to hire extra hands and running a skateshop takes time. "I work here every day after I go to my other job fixing computers," he says. If he's worried about his business, he doesn't show it. Since he has opened in 2007, three of the four other skateshops in the area have closed. "In December I had to choose between closing the doors for good or sticking it through," he says. "I stuck it through."
And lucky for the Cincinnati skate scene he did. Wanting to do more than just run a skateshop, last spring Martin got to work on identifying a space for a new skate park. Attending every Newport City Council meeting and lobbying for his cause, the "skateboard punk of Newport" was able to convince council members and Newport Mayor, Jerry Peluso to provide the land for his new skatepark. An abandoned slab of concrete under the highway was made available with the blessing of Newport's forward thinking city administration and the mandate to "do whatever you want with it." Almost immediately he began pooling the resources necessary to get the park started. "Every bit of profit I made the first month went directly into the park."
Martin also holds regularly scheduled contests in an effort to raise money and awareness for the skatepark. One contest was strictly off a homemade kicker – a launch ramp that shoots skaters into the air – he built himself at his home. The winner of that contest won a cooked Thanksgiving turkey stuffed with wheels, bearings and the metal part of the skateboard that holds the wheels on, called the trucks.
"I still have the huge trophy Highschool gave as the prize," says Scott Licardi of the prize he won at another of Martin's fundraisers called Stalled Out. Licardi is also one of a handful of kids Martin took to Columbus for Go Skateboarding Day, this past June. Martin rented (at his own cost, of course) a 15-seat van with for the adventure. "He didn't even ask for anyone to chip in any money," Licardi says. "I just happened to be in the shop that day and he asked if I wanted to tag along. Highschool's just one of those guys that will do anything, for anyone."
"Rollin' on the River" was Martin’s latest contest/fundraiser Martin through in collaboration with Able Projects
, a local visual agency cooperative who pitched in to to paint the ramps and help promote the event. Newport's Mayor, Jerry Peluso, was on hand to watch the celebration that saw nearly 100 skaters from all over Ohio and Kentucky coming to his city. Southgate House, Newport's premier music venue, held a special benefit concert for the event.
At the benefit concert Martin said he was impressed with the turn out. "We had a lot of people come out and support the shop and support the park. I mean, even the Mayor stopped by on his day off just to watch," he said excitedly. Martin has been fighting for years to legitimize his community of fellow skaters and the success of this event demonstrates his hard work has not been in vain.Photography by Scott Beseler
Andrew "High School" Martin
Under the bridge
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