More than just skateboard sales happens at Fresno's Shredworthy

The Fresno BeeMay 16, 2014 

A new skateboard shop, Shredworthy, has opened in the Tower District — but there's a lot more going on inside than just skateboard sales.

Besides the occasional skateboarder trying out new moves inside the store, entrepreneur Nick Jones, 27, runs a skateboarding smartphone app that is being used worldwide, started a small skateboard-making company and co-founded a skateboard shop in Arkansas.

The 2005 Fresno High grad and his business partner — former high school guidance counselor Gary Christiansen, 62 — hope the laid-back vibe of the shop, its couch and its "pingpong think tank" room will act as an incubator for others' business ideas.

Shredworthy is the name of both the shop and the app available on iPhones — skate lingo for intense skateboarding.

The store at 1302 N. Wishon Ave. sells several kinds of skateboards and parts, including limited-edition boards like the Star Wars-themed board with an image of Yoda and green wheels. Shredworthy also sells boards created by Fresno-based Risen, including one with an image of a Fresno Area Express bus.

And some of the merchandise was created by Shredworthy, such as the "Fresbro" T-shirts that are a nod to Fresno skateboarders.

That sense of community is key to Jones' business ventures. He was skateboarding back to his hotel from the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, about a year and a half ago, wondering where the good skateboarding spots in Austin were. He had recently been on the "Startup Bus," an entrepreneurial road trip that throws 25 strangers together for 72 hours.

All of it led him to think, "Wouldn't it be awesome if there was an app? If you could find spots to skateboard?"

Shredworthy the app was born. It uses GPS to determine where the skateboarder is and shows photos of "shredworthy" spots nearby on a map.

The locations are uploaded by users and aren't just skate parks, but spots for "different grinds" — for instance, a ledge at Fresno City College and a curb at an In-N-Out restaurant.

Skateboarders can message each other and set up skate sessions.

Jones says, "I want to capture these scenes all over the world."

The app has users in 37 states and four countries. It's free for users, but Jones says Shredworthy is making money on the back end; he declines to reveal details.

The next version he is working on will be available for Android phones this summer.

The app could one day help people launch new brands and sell products. Jones gives an example: Say the skateboarding "Oklahomies" want to make their own T-shirts. And there is potential for Shredworthy to interact with wearable technology such as Google Glass or Fitbit bracelets that track physical activity, he says.

The market he is tapping is part of a $6.1 billion industry, according to the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association. That includes both skateboarding and surfing, and the association doesn't break down how much comes from skateboards. Consumers spent $202.5 million on skate and surf apparel in 2012.

So much more

But at the little shop on Wishon, there is a lot more going on than trying to make money.

Jones and Christiansen hope the store will be a hangout where budding entrepreneurs can kick around ideas and encourage each other.

Already visitors are bouncing around ideas about real estate, charitable-giving apps and new products for women.

Christiansen brings his background as an investor and a retired high school guidance counselor to the business. He was Jones' counselor at Fresno High and later worked at Hoover High. Christiansen has invested in the Cafe Corazon coffee shop next door and was a partner in the former Iron Bird Cafe downtown.

He doesn't skateboard but is excited about the shop's connections to things as diverse as music, art, technology, clothing — even yo-yos, which the store sells.

Christiansen wants to eventually host an after-school art program in the shop and maybe sell prints from local "urban artists."

"How fun this is going to be if we can get people to create a product or a different app," he says. "It's not just a skateboard shop."

Jones savvy, too

Despite his youth, Jones brings business experience to the pingpong table, too.

He helped start a skateboard shop that is still operating in Fayetteville, Ark., where he earned a degree in finance and investments at the University of Arkansas.

The city is 20 minutes away from Walmart's headquarters in Bentonville — a fishbowl where students like Jones can learn how companies supply retailers.

Jones also started Lavish Longboards, a small company that makes skateboards from repurposed wood, like the scraps carpenters throw away.

He wants to bring those experiences to whomever wanders in the door at Shredworthy.

"If they want to chat about the trials of what it takes to go from idea to reality, I'd be glad to give them some of my time.

"My goal is to hopefully inspire someone to launch something or jump into something."

 

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6431, bclough@fresnobee.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter.

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