Skateboarders welcome at this shop

January 19, 1995|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

Most merchants shoo away skateboarders because they seem like troublemakers -- loud, grungy, clannish. But Nadja Hardy welcomes them.

"The skaters have a bad reputation. [But] 97 to 98 percent are good kids," said Mrs. Hardy, 47, owner of the Slick Boy Skate Shop at 10 South Crain Highway, in the heart of the Glen Burnie Renewal District.

Her shop has become a favorite of local skaters, who say her prices for skateboards, called "woods" or "slicks," are at least $10 lower than those at stores in Annapolis Mall and Marley Station.

That is quite a bit for a serious but cash-strapped teen-age skater. Some skaters break three to four boards a month doing tricks, flipping in the air, jumping off steps. The least expensive board costs $29.95.

In stocking her store, Mrs. Hardy often turns to her son, Dave, 17, for advice. He works at the shop when he's not in school or skating.

"I learned a lot from my kids," said Mrs. Hardy, who also has another teen-age son, Ryan 15. "They say, 'Order this. This is real cool.' "

Being "cool" is important in the skateboard world, and it is easy for a store to be out of date. Styles change faster than Paris fashions. New lines come out every two months. Mrs. Hardy's young consultants have kept her 2-year-old store fresh with the latest in boards and clothes, name brands such as Alien Workshop, Element and Girl.

"You have to listen to the kids. That's the bottom line," said Ray Fennessey, president of Thirteen Colonies Skateboards, a Baltimore-based maker of skateboard equipment and clothes. Many stores sell only the colorful silk-screened boards, starting at $50, he said, and most teens can't afford to pay that much.

"Graphics [used to] sell a board, but now price sells a board," said Mr. Fennessey, whose company distributes to 300 shops on the East Coast.

During the summer, throngs of teens hang out in Mrs. Hardy's 600-square-foot store. She also sponsors demonstrations at the Lansdowne Bowl and invites professional skaters featured in Thrasher, a national skateboard magazine.

Mrs. Hardy also tried to get the Northern Arundel County Chamber of Commerce and local politicians to help build a skating park. The politicians supporting her lost in the November election.

"If we had a legal place, kids would have more fun, keep them occupied and busy and out of trouble," said Mrs. Hardy, noting that many skaters now use empty parking lots.

Not all parents share Mrs. Hardy's enthusiasm for skateboards. In fact, her point of view is uncommon among parents. Skaters inevitably get sprained ankles, scraped elbows and knees -- and there is the look, the image.

"I could take a lot of fads, but I can't take skating," said Julie Schoeberlein, who brought her 13-old-son Jason into the shop to exchange some baggy jeans. "I don't mind the skateboard. It's the clothes I can't stand."

She's talking about the T-shirts with skateboard company logos, pants so oversized they hang loosely around the hips and bunch at the ankles. Every time Jason walks up the stairs, he has to pull up his pants, Mrs. Schoeberlein said.

Her consolation is that Jason earns his own money doing household chores to support his habit. "I can't pay for clothes that don't fit," she said.

Mrs. Hardy, a former real estate broker, opened her skate shop after watching her sons grow up skating for several hours almost every day.

But she could never find affordable equipment, she said, so she opened Slick Boy. She has poured $40,000 into the store, she said, losing money the first year, and breaking even last year. She plans to step up her mail order business to help turn a profit.

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