The seaside town of Margate is situated on the eastern coastline of Kent and has been a leading holiday destination for over 250 years. Boasting a proud history of maritime tradition as well as being the subject of a classic Chas & Dave song, the town is also the home of Skate Pharmacy, an independently run skate shop owned by Nic Powley. Now operational for just under three years, we took some time to speak to Nic about the store, brands, as well as the effect the closing of a store can have of the local scene.
Hey Nic... Ok lets start with the basics, can you tell me about why you started Skate Pharmacy and when you first opened to the public?
Ha, I honestly have no idea why I started it! It happened pretty suddenly. I think in a way I panicked about becoming a dad and decided I needed a ‘proper job’. Who knows what goes on in my head! I’m basically unemployable and I have no experience in anything much other than skateboarding these days so my career options were limited. So yeah I guess I opened it because I didn’t know what else to do. Don't take that the wrong way though, I’m stoked on owning the shop and how much we’ve achieved in under 3 years since we opened, overall I’m glad I did it.
So how has it been since the Christmas period, I noticed a lot of stores running huge sales throughout January, how has business been?
Business is tough for everyone I guess, not just skateboard shops. Between Brexit and Trump we’re in a funny place at the moment and it must be having various impacts on business. For us though we had a decent Christmas and January has been good. Sales are just part of the retail culture, pretty much everyone runs a January sale these days, it’s a good way of clearing old stock and getting fresh stuff in for Spring.
What about brands? Have you noticed a change in what kids are buying these days from when you opened your doors? Do you try to keep a healthy balance between skate and lifestyle brands?
What I’ve noticed really is that our customers buying is really all over the place! We get kids that just want stuff that’s been around for ever like Element and Santa Cruz and they seem oblivious to anything that’s come out in the past ten years or more but then we get the kids that are more up on the big newer brands and want Polar, Palace, Welcome too. That’s largely due to the internet i think, people have a huge access to skate content but it could be twenty years old or 20 seconds old so their tastes and brand influences are more eclectic than ever. Plus we get the older guys that are into some of the smaller brands and high end stuff such as Huf, Patagonia, Doomsayers, Yardsale, Theobalds Cap Co. and The Killing Floor. Then there’s obviously just your brands that transend all those groups - Vans, Converse, Spitfire, Indy, Bones etc. It makes buying a bit tricky and it seems the turnover of brands and fashion trends within skateboarding are quicker than ever before so pre-ordering stuff a year in advance is a nightmare a lot of the time. As new guys we don’t get offered a lot of the brands/collections that some of the bigger or more established stores get which can be really frustrating at times but there’s no point in getting wound up about it, that’s just how it goes! You can’t expect to get somewhere in 3 years that other people have worked at for 20 years plus... I probably nearly killed myself trying to do just that for the first year!
So what is the Skate Pharmacy team looking like at the moment? Whos coming up in Margate? We really liked your core store challenge entry, that guy was rad.
Yeah we were stoked with how that came out, we kind of suspected everyone would try and just drop hammers in their edits and get their full team in and we wanted to do something a bit different. People were either really into it or they weren’t which is always better than no emotion at all. Sam Murgatroyd kills it so him and Biscuits just hit up the local area for a few days and produced that edit. We’re fortunate to live in a beautiful place and there’s some really picturesque skatespots which lend themselves to filming and photos. The team is great and I probably don’t get to see a lot of them or speak to them as much as I’d like but that’s the downside of having guys all over the place. It’s always a bit of a trip to see footage of Jimmy Wilkins skating Hawks or somewhere mental wearing one of our shirts. It’s a real nice feeling to have a team of guys that I’ve mostly known for a pretty long time and I’m a fan of their skating. Guys like Charlie Munro, Kris Vile and James Bush are ripping on a worldwide level and constantly getting coverage and on the other side we have long time rulers like Cates, Marc Churchill, Dave Allen on the team too which gives it a nice balance. Locally there’s a load of good skaters...Off the top of my head I can think of Kane, Mike Morley, Alex Price, Ben Greenstreet and Pete Watkins who are all rippers but there’s a load more and new kids getting into skateboarding all the time. Obviously this time of year the weather can be a nightmare and it does seem to kill a lot of sessions but we’re blessed with a pretty mild dry climate most of the time, it’s definately dryer and warmer down here than up North thats for sure!
Last year saw the closure of several highly regarding indy skate stores. What impact does this have on their surrounding scenes? What do you guys do to maintain footfall and keep the scene alive and healthy in Margate?
Yeah generally the closing of a shop or skatepark has a devastating effect on the local scene. I’ve seen it happen too many times, like air being let out of a balloon. It’s important for skateboarding to be constantly changing and evolving with new energy being pumped into it or it just gets stale and people get bored. Luckily we’ve had 3 concrete parks open within a few miles of the shop in the past few years and unless if you've had your head in the sand, you may of seen a recent article about how Margate is an up and coming area which is probably helping us too. We’re still relatively new so I think we have a bit of a novelty factor which also adds to our appeal. In terms of the scene we host premieres, events, hook up some local guys and just try and keep things interesting in the process. I was pretty heavily involved with the three parks that were made and I try and keep an ear out for anything local we can get involved with and bring something to the table. We recently supplied a load of second hand boards for an art show with contributions from local artists which was a great thing to be involved with and it raised a load of money a community art program. These kind of events are one of the best things about having the shop, you actually feel like you’re doing some good and making a difference.
Head over the Skate Pharmacy website to find out more information.