Shipyard Skates launched in Richmond, VA in 2009 in order to support, promote, and distribute American made products from skater owned & operated companies.
Owner Hank Fauerbach let TransWorld Business in on the ups and downs of being a skateboard “privateer”.
Describe the quintessential Shipyard customer.
Our customer base is someone looking for something different. Someone who wants to see graphics on boards again instead of corporate logo decks being produced by the thousands overs If you are that person, you are probably my customer!
What’s up with Shipyard’s name?
Shipyard came about due to my interest in the sea, piracy and WWII naval history as well as the do-it-yourself attitude of the skater owned and operated companies. To me these guys are the “privateers” of skateboarding; they are keeping it real and doing it for all the right reasons.
As in the naval shipyards, there is a ton of work running a small company by yourself and it takes a certain type of person to make it happen.
What other shops or companies do you think share your vision of skateboard “privateering”?
There are a ton of smaller skateboard companies that have the privateering mentality, but I have not seen any one shop dedicated to carrying only the smaller brands. I can understand why; it’s risky. It would be damn hard to stay a float if you only offered products people have never really heard of. Older skaters would probably dig on it, but the kids are all about being cool and having the “in” thing.
A mix of goods and screen printing generates enough net income to keep Shipyard going, but I am not quitting my day job anytime soon!
Speaking of day jobs, what were you up to before starting Shipyard?
I have an Electrical Engineering degree from Penn State University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Shipyard is a part-time business with 95% of ordering done online so I still have a 9 to 5-er running a magnet wire factory in Ashland, Virginia.
What influenced the business model you run your shop on?
Shipyard was started in order to fill a void; to provide an alternative to the big 5 companies. I operate on supply and demand. There is a demand for the underground, the skater owned / skater operated, and I am trying to gather as many of them under one roof as I can and supply them to the people. Shipyard is not looking to make a ton of money; but rather to supply people with high quality product at a reasonable price.
What brands do you carry?
The current skateboard brands consist of: American Nomad, Big Mess, Crappy Skates, Cock Fight, Never Again, and Wreckroom. In addition, Shipyard carries its own line of die cut “ship grip” griptape, Robot Guts Hardware, and Conspiracy wheels. The only non American product offered is ACE trucks. I let them slide since they rock and are the best turning truck out there.
Of those, what are the three best selling?
Never Again, Big Mess, and ACE
What brands would you most like to collaborate with and why?
In addition to the online store, Shipyard is a screen printing shop for skateboards. This being the case, I would love to collaborate with Zarosh Eggelston who rides for Death Skateboards out of the UK and runs Platipuss Skateboards. Zarosh is the ultimate definition of do-it-yourself. He runs a screen printing business, has his own board company, and is constantly building and skating at Cachuga Land. The guy is 100% skateboarding.
My brother Michael Fauerbach, Richard Kirby, and I are collaborating on some ideas at the moment. Richard runs Big Mess Skateboards in Tennessee and puts out some of the greatest shapes I have seen in a long time. He constantly puts out deck after deck with a different shape and feel and always hitting it with the graphics. We will have a Richard Kirby guest board screen printed by Shipyard for my brother’s company Never Again. I look forward to making this project a reality.
Confusion Magazines interview with Eggleston about Cachuga Land.
What percent of your inventory is dedicated to:
Have you considered adding any softgoods to your inventory?
I have carried some Shipyard shirts and hats and I will be running some work shirts this fall. I am not opposed to carrying other people’s soft goods by any means, but at the moment I plan on sticking to boards, trucks, and wheels!
What has been the best-selling product category in recent months?
My screen printing business has really been what allows me to keep product in the store. Boards move slowly over winter but with spring on the horizon I recently moved a decent amount of Never Again, Cockfight, and Big Mess decks. American Nomad is releasing an Eric Dressen guest model in a few weeks and I am predicting that to be a top seller. I also plan on running some Shipyard shop decks that would be screen printed in house, thus generating a higher profit.
How big is your staff?
I run the online store by myself. Any walk in business is usually by appointment while I am screen printing. On the screen printing side, John Bicknell and Richard Janusz are my “in house” artists (if a customer needs help getting boards designed) and Richard Kirby helps with film separations and preparation.
Are you altering the way you operate for 2011?
2011’s goal is to grow. This means further advertising, new products, and more offerings. I will also probably invest much more of my own money this year.
How were you going about advertising up to this point, and how do you plan on furthering that?
For the most part, advertising has been in smaller DIY style magazines like Born Ugly and Juice. The only thing I plan on changing this year is advertising more often. I plan on having a regular ad in certain regional mags and hopefully get three of four ads in Juice this year. My target audience is most like to read Born Ugly, Confusion, Juice, Low Card, and mags of the nature. I dont have the budget for something like TransWorld or Thrasher… that will have to wait until “013”!
What kind of relationship do you have with the Richmond community? Do you sponsor any local events/organizations?
Richmond has a great scene. There is a little of everything (except a concrete park). Most of what I have sponsored has been DIY projects like Patrick Lowery’s “Lost Bowl” and Stephanie Murdock with the “Skate Park of Baltimore”. I have donated time and material to screening decks for them to be used for fund raising.
How would you describe the local market of Richmond lately?
Hurting. I have been selling most of my inventory at cost just to move it. I would rather see the decks skated then sitting around my screen printing shop.
Do you have a team? What do you look for in a rider representing your shop?
I have a small team that I flow: Richard Kirby (Big Mess), Dan Tag (Crappy Skates), and local riders such as Travis Beattie and Clark Fraley. These guys are in it for the love of skateboarding and they do it for all the right reasons. We are friends first and a team second.
At what point do you consider yourself successful?
I feel I am already successful. My goal was to get companies like Never Again and Big Mess out there and I am. If I make any cash, it goes back into supporting the brands I carry by placing more orders. I am in the process of setting some new goals for 2011 and meeting those goals will determine if I am successful or not in the future.
What was the shops biggest obstacle and greatest accomplishment in 2010?
The biggest obstacle is getting your name out there and getting people interested in what you are doing and why. I think it’s a combination of the economy and the nature of what I am doing that is preventing me from growing. I am not offering the same ol’ same ol’ but something new and unknown. People are hesitant to buy something they never heard of. When money is tight are you going to buy what you know or what you don’t know? Most people go with what they know. This is why I rely on the screen printing as the number one source of revenue for the shop.
The greatest accomplishment was going from two brands to five or six brands of skater owned, skater operated companies. The idea is catching on and more people are buying from the privateers!
Looking back to when you first started, what do you wish you knew then that you know now?
I should have hired an accountant!