6125 Roswell Rd. NE Suite 212
Ian McPherson opened RUIN Skate Shop more than a decade ago. The shop, a 1,5000-square-foot space, was once considered a part of Atlanta, Georgia, but the town has since been incorporated and the shop now sits as part of Sandy Springs. As a former sales rep for several companies within the industry, and working at several skate shops before opening his own, McPherson says the scene has changed a bit since RUIN opened its doors. One of the most significant changes he cited was the industry itself becoming broader based, giving consumers more choices when it comes to product and changing the dynamic of small skate shops and the brands they stock. Despite the recent economic challenges, RUIN has maintained a team of local skaters, and the shop supports brands that have decided to limit their retail and online distribution. We caught up with McPherson to find out how the shop has been faring and where it’s headed in the future.
Why did you decide to open up the store, and what's your background?
I worked in shops for four years and had skated for twelve. I loved skateboarding and the math on running a skateshop was so bad, I thought at least I'd have no competition. Little did I know most people don't do math before they start a store.
When did you open the doors and how has business been so far?
November 4th 1998. As for business… well it's good in comparison to other skateshops, but it's not good compared to "real" business.
What has been the best part about running your own shop?
Sharing skateboarding with people. Really watching these kids grow up and grow as skateboarders, not just in skill but in attitude.
What type of challenges have you run into?
Recently it's been theft. I can't help but take it personally when I invite these kids into my figurative home, help them out, and they steal from me. None of them ever even attempt to make it up or make it better, they just go to another store, or mail order once I kick them out. They don't realize skateboarding is a small community and they marked themselves as thieves. It just minimizes what they'll be able to do with skateboarding for the rest of their life til they fix what they did wrong. I could have sent them to juvenile hall for a couple months and don't, and they have the attitude I just have it out for them. It's very weird when you think about it.
What lessons have you learned since opening?
Everything changes, what's hot today is gone tomorrow. Don't chase, you'll get burned in the end. You have to be there before, and not get caught after.
Do you have an online store?
No, and I don't think I ever will. Mail order is killing skateboarding. Mail order lets the blind lead the blind. A kid that starts skateboarding today can go online and buy a complete board or set up a complete board that a kid that's been skating for 2 years wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole. Mailorder is all "moving units" and "buyer beware." You can easily buy a mini board with some 60 mm wheels online, and people don't care as long as you buy something. That kid has no fun skateboarding and quits in two years. Kids are buying names and pictures online, they are not buying skateboards. What's the concave like? What's the shape of the nose? What's better for park? How do these trucks turn? How is a lighter setup different from a heavier one? What size wheels are "average" for what kind of skateboarding I am going to do? How do these shoes fit? What is the difference between a vulcanized shoe and a cupsole? What's an insole? Why does the hardness of wheels matter? How wide are these wheels? What does the width of the wheels matter? If you're shopping online you may just as well be buying flowers. A lot of the mail order companies will even hold your money and make interest off it while you stew there waiting a month for something that will never come, it's a part of their business plan. That is bad for skateboarding and even though there's probably money in it, that's not why I am here.
What products are currently your top performers?
The companies that limit their retail and online distribution.
What stores are your closest competition?
Ambush for the younger set and Stratosphere for the elder set. But, as you could maybe tell, mail order is our biggest competitor.
What are your overall expectations for your business over the next 6-12 months?
I have inklings, but never set expectations. I know this sounds crazy coming from a skateshop owner, but I think the economy will pick up in general by the end of the year as long as the European currency holds up, but who knows if that will apply to the skate industry as much as just the general economy. I've seen a decline in new skateboarders in rural areas and smaller towns over the past couple years. I think that skateboarding is becoming more wholly coastal and/or metropolitan again.
Have you or are you currently working more closely with brands, such as on collaborations or partnerships?
We've done stuff with Spitfire, we're maybe working on something with Real. We pay artists to do board series for us, so we try to get some interesting stuff in here and be a part of the whole skateboarding community as much as we can. We're designing a can for a competition Mt Dew is holding, we'll probably do a board with the graphic whether or not we win.