Walking into Boulder, Colorado's Meta Skateboards, one gets the immediate vibe of feeling at home—the same feeling you used to get walking into your hometown's local skate shop, seeing the same steady stream of regulars come and go as they please. Such is the scene at Meta, as several high school to college aged customers come and go an owner Sam Hines addresses each one by name.
Meta Skate Shop sits on Boulder’s University Hill, directly across the street from the University of Colorado. While being located in the heart of a college town brings a fair amount of students in and out of the shop, its overall demographic ranges from young kids buying their first skateboards to fifty-year-old men looking to reengage with the skate scene. Whether first-time shred or returning veteran, Hines says he runs the shop with a one-word motto in mind: locals.
"We push really hard to cater to the local skate crew. The local skate demographic ranges from little kids to 40-50-year-old men who used to skate and have revived interest to get back into it."
While Meta's main aim is to cater to local Boulder shreds, neighboring CU Boulder—whose undergraduate student population comes in at over 25,000— gives the shop a nice little boost come fall when school begins. When we caught up with Hines at the shop, he was busy preparing for what he says is one of the busiest days of the year: Freshmen move-in day.
“I’ve been chalking the sidewalks, passing out fliers and trying to get a lot out on the internet about the shop. This time of year is definitely when things start to pick up and get busy.”
The shop's very first employee, Hines has transitioned from merely being on staff to working as shop manager over the past nine years.
We were fortunate enough to catch Hines during the calm before the storm and was filled in on the odds and ends of the shop and what makes it tick.
From the outside looking in, Meta looks like a small space. The walls, floors, and ceilings (yep, ceilings) are lined with everything from hardgoods to shoes. Perusing Meta’s selection, it is not until you tilt your head back and look directly up that you come to fully grasp the amount of skate goods that are packed into the shop; Lining the shop’s ceiling are row after row of collector’s skate decks, many of which are originals from the eighties that Sam has acquired over time and all of which serve as a source of pride.
“The collection started out as just decks that I liked and a few that were some of my favorites and then it just kind of grew from there,” Hines said of his collection.
Check out the gallery below for a glimpse at some of Sam’s collection of boards and pictures of the shop:
To many of Meta’s customers’ disappointment, the skateboards lining the ceiling are not for sale, but the shop has no shortage of hardgoods up for grabs. Real, Anti Hero, and Crooked are Meta’s top three selling deck brands, with Independent and Venture topping trucks and Spitfire and Bones doing exceptionally well in the world of wheels. Though Meta has a decent supply of shop decks, few are on display for customers to peruse, as Sam works to keep the shop stocked with what is in demand for his customers, first and foremost. In addition to a wide array of skate decks, Meta also stocks and sells clothes and accessories, with pants and footwear being top sellers for the shop.
Although Hines is more often than not the only one behind the counter, members of Meta’s skate team frequent the shop and volunteer their time to keep it running. There are about ten skaters on the Meta team, who are accompanied by 40 to 50 of what Hines calls lifers, who can be found out skating and repping the shop on a daily basis.
Hines boils down Meta’s business model as simply keeping the shop community grounded. "It's just one big community here. We don't have a big business motto. We just work to always be talking skate and always be pushing skate."
As Hines has seen the community grow and change over the years, so too has he seen the skate industry change over this 12 years working in the shop. While he mentioned the significant growth of the longboard industry as noteworthy, he said one of the biggest changes he has noticed has been within the shoe industry:
“It seems that now there has been kind of an accepted corporate takeover of several skate shoe companies, there are very few that are still skater owned.”
Hines’ sentiment, despite becoming seemingly more consistent among skate shop owners, does not come without optimism for the future.
“There’s definitely a line between maintaining your ideals and making a profit. But, for me, it’s more important to focus on how to keep the local community thriving. As retail stores, you can either be parasitic to the community or take your profits and put them towards the community where everyone can grow and benefit.”
And, true to the hopes of any local shop owner, Hines is hoping to keep talking, pushing, and slanging skate until Meta Skateboarding becomes synonymous with the Boulder skate scene.
“Ideally, as a skate shop, you want to be an institution in your city. We represent skateboarding in Boulder and are going to keep working to become an integral place in this community,” explains Hines.
With its 12th anniversary fast approaching, and with it the coinciding premiere of the shop’s seventh full length skate video—which has the working title “My Favorite Four Letter Word” (Meta, of course)— we’d say Hines is well on his way to achieving this goal.
For more on Meta, visit its website.