No longer just a trendy hobby for wayward teens, skateboarding has evolved over time to a full-blown sport; one that can earn its professional athletes both fame and fortune through endorsements by big name companies such as Element, Zoo York and Spitfire. Anyone entering into the sport – whether in attempt to make a name or just to have some fun – will need to purchase the right gear. FlipSide Skateboard Shop in Bristol is skater-owned; owner Donnie Patchin is a veteran boarder with an extreme passion for the sport.
The first thing you may notice upon entering FlipSide is how vibrant it is: hardwood floors, neatly displayed products, a colorful wall of skateboards and an overall warm feel. Patchin is the only employee and he works six days per week, so the shop will only be closed on Monday. It is clear that he is the man to go to for expert advice. He has been riding for 25 years and has had numerous sponsorships over that time. Patchin moved to Bristol 12 years ago and lived above a vacant shop on High Street. It wasn’t long before he decided to put his knowledge and experience to use in the community, renting the space below. FlipSide was born.
Patchin’s customers are loyal because they know he is always going to give the best advice in spite of profits. “If someone comes in and they don’t need new bearings I’m not going to tell them they do and sell them something they don’t need,” says Patchin. It is a one-stop shop: not only does he sell gear and accessories, he also does in-shop skateboard repairs and gives lessons to new skaters (including the local cub scout troops). Patchin is always excited to get a new rider on the perfect board.
Recently, he believes, the sport has become more about the skater image and less about talent. FlipSide is taking a hit from online sales and wannabe retail shops that sell only what is trendy (often to people who don’t even skate). Big names like Nike and Adidas recently got into the sport and are trumping the lesser-known products, causing smaller shops to struggle. Donnie cares about keeping money within the industry so most of the items he carries are by quality, skater-owned brands that he himself uses. “It’s a huge industry but the people that should be making the money aren’t making it,” he says.
In spite of the competition, Donnie says, “The people that come, they like the one-on-one. I had a customer come from Cranston at Christmas time and he was stoked because he wanted to actually talk to someone that knew what they were talking about. People tell me they would rather spend a few more dollars to get the handshake, the personal service and the knowledge.”
Skateboarding shouldn’t be about looking cool, or dressing a certain way; it requires hard work and dedication, just like any sport. Patchin feels that the parents of the younger skaters are the ones he really wants to appeal to because they know the importance of buying a quality product and getting the right equipment to ensure their children’s safety. Catering to all ages is important to him as he considers himself an older skater. “A lot of the shops don’t carry stuff for older people, but I do because that’s where I’m at and I like to support the guys my age who still skate. I have the stuff that they can’t find; the stuff that other places don’t want to carry.”
FlipSide carries a great selection of clothes, sunglasses and sneakers that are hand selected by Patchin himself. He will show you what the pros are buying and get you on your way to becoming an old pro in no time at all. 170 High Street, Bristol. 401-253-3033.