NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ– NJ Skate Shop has a lot to be celebrating right now, including marking their “lucky” 13th anniversary and moving to a larger location at 160 Easton Avenue, after nine years down the street at 29 Easton.
“That stretch of Easton by our old shop is facing some rough times,” said owner Chis Nieratko. “We wanted to be around the kids more and have a place where you can come and work on your board or even just hang out on the bench and charge your phone.”
Nieratko, who also writes for Vice Magazine and ESPN, is the community manager for @VansSkate. He runs the shop along with business partner Steve Lenardo, a schoolteacher at PS 24 in Jersey City.
“I’ve been skateboarding for most my life, that’s almost 30 years. And Steve, even longer!” Nieratko told NBToday.
The shop’s owners have given New Brunswick something really special: a home for any kid who may feel like they don’t have much guidance or even much love, plus a brand-name that would make anyone from this state stoked to wear.
“It’s not as much about skateboarding, as it is about loving this place we call home. There’s more to New Jersey than just the refineries off the Turnpike,” explained Nieratko. “We think life here in this state is beautiful and we want people to be proud to represent. It’s about being loud and proud and from New Jersey: NJ ALL DAY!”
Their shop is a testament to how positive the culture can be for kids.
“Steve teaches at a school in Jersey City that can be rough at times,” said Nieratko. “Some teachers can have a hard time with the kids but he thrives there and has a great connection with them and I attribute that ability to communicate so well, from growing up in a culture so diverse as skateboarding.”
Michael Torres, 22, a local skateboarder and aspiring music producer has been working at the shop for almost five years and is becoming a well known figure in the community becuase hes at the shop almost every day.
Torres loves the experiences he gains from his job: “I get to meet a lot of crazy kids. It’s almost overwhelming how many people used to hang on the front steps at our old location, I’ve seen everything from fist fights to prayer circles.”
Nieratko and Lenardo grew up skateboarding everyday together in Sayreville and would make trips to New Brunswick to visit one of the few skate shops in New Jersey at the time: The skate shop was called ABF, which stood for American Beauty Florist, becuase it was in the back of a flower store, Nieratko remembers.
“In the 90’s it was always comic books and skateboards or guns and skateboards, no traditional skateboard shops. So we always wanted to open a shop that was 100% skateboarding,” he continued.
The two men opened the first NJ Skate Shop in July 2003, in Sayreville. Four years later, they opened up in New Brunswick, and in 2008, they opened another location in Hoboken.
Their idea has definitely been working, as the team’s New Brunswick shop has become the home to many local skateboarders who are now amatuer or pro, such as Ron Deily who currenlty rides for Zoo York, John Gardner of Creature, and Josh Wilson and Dick Rizzo, who ride for Quasi.
“The job of a skate shop is to nuture the community. Most of us come from broken homes, so having a place for disenfranchised kids to go and be around like-minded people is really important.”
Nieratko said a new skate park set to open in the city’s Second Ward is going to make New Brunswick into an even bigger hub for skateboarding.
“We’re still seeing a lot of this with the kids in New Brunswick to this day, there’s a crew that’s at least 15 kids deep who call this place home and are really psyched about the new skate park in town.”
Most New Jerseyans by now have at one point seen a young person wearing an NJ T-shirt from one of their two shops.
“In skateboarding, clothes are utilitarian, becuase you’ll get hurt if you skate naked,”Nieratko explained. “It just comes down to a clean t-shirt, pants and a pair of durable shoes.”
“If you hold up a picture of Jack Kerouac from the 1950’s and skateboarder in 2016, not much has changed, it’s a white T-shirt and a pair of khakis, it’s a timeless look and thats what we want to sell. We want you to look back at a photo of yourself in 20 years and say, ‘Damn, I wish I still had that shirt,’ not, ‘Damn, what was i thinking!'”
Besides Celebrating NJ Skate Shop’s lucky 13th, this year also marks 50 years of Vans, 120 years of Levi and 40 years of Stussy.
“Those are my favorite brands, that’s what I wear everyday, and of course my own NJ gear,” said Nieratko. The shop also promotes timeless brands such as Adidas, Nike and Converse.
Be sure to stop by the new location at 160 Easton Avenueand get yourself a fresh “NJ ” t-shirt, beacause the one you already have is torn up and dirty from skating all day!
The shop is open from 11am-7pm every day except Sunday, when it is open from noon-4pm.
Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored content.