“This is sweet,” says a passerby as he wanders into Orillia’s newest skate shop on a sunny afternoon.
“Skateparker” shirts are hung underneath a wall of locally made art; shoes and skate decks pop with colour against the opposite red brick wall.
Pocket Skate and Vintage, on Mississaga Street in downtown Orillia, is the result of collaboration between Mark Watson and Grace Schofield, longtime downtown Orillia locals.
After a soft-opening on Aug. 15, their doors are now open.
Even though the shop came together quickly — the pair spent just over a month prepping the Mississaga Street storefront for business — Watson and Schofield have both dreamt of a shop like this for years.
“It’s kind of been like a long time coming. Kahuna’s been great for years, but skateboarders want their own little spot, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Watson.
The shop is also their little spot; owning a business was a dream for both.
“I was selling tie-dyed shirts out of my locker in high school and that sort of thing,” says Schofield with a laugh. “Even though I’m only 21, it’s been a dream for me for a long time. And for Mark as well.”
Watson has worked in the skateboarding industry for years. Everything from the shop’s mission to product line has been percolating in his mind all that time.
“I’ve had an image in my head for 20 years of how I’ve wanted it to be,” says Watson, “and how I wanted it to look.”
And that look paired perfectly with Schofield’s eye for trendy vintage.
“I think it comes with both of us having an idea of what we wanted in our heads for so long,” says Watson.
“Vintage seems to go hand in hand with people who skate,” Schofield says, mentioning how the retro look — fanny packs and high socks — has been adopted by skateboarding culture.
“It‘s taking something old and reinventing it,” she said.
But what was it like to open a new shop during COVID-19? Not that tricky, says the new business owners.
“I actually feel bad saying that,” said Watson with a chuckle.
While they had trouble finding a loan, both dove into savings to get the shop up and running, lining the shelves and hangers with everything from hats to skateboard parts. So far, sales have been encouraging.
“If it continues to go the way it has been for the last week, then we might not even need anyone’s money,” Watson said.
“Everything has been falling into place,” agreed Schofield, “and people supporting small businesses right now: we’ve seen a lot of support that way.”
But they want to give support as well. A founding member of the Orillia Skateparkers, a group lobbying for a new skatepark, Watson’s been invested in seeing Orillia’s skateboard community grow.
“We’ve been building that community for the last few years, and we wanted to continue it with our own shop,” he says.
That very night, Schofield and Watson planned to lock up shop and join some friends at the waterfront skatepark. But the shops quickly becoming a local skateboarding hotspot too.
Already, skateboarders are hanging out in the shop, and in the future, they plan to host movie nights, skate days and just be a place to come relax.
“We want to be the heartbeat of the skateboard community,” says Watson.