Inside Sidewalk Surfer, Arizona's Longest-Running Skateboard Shop
Dave Carlson, Keven Stern, and Tim Douds of Sidewalk Surfer.
On Saturday, October 15, Scottsdale's Sidewalk Surfer, located at 2602 North Scottsdale Road, starts its 40th year in business. The shop has been serving skateboarders, rollerbladers, snowboarders, and all manner of extreme sport enthusiasts and aficionados for, think about it, generations.
"There are people who came in here as kids who are now bringing their kids, or grandkids, even. This was the place to come and get your Vans or get your skateboard," says Tim Douds, one of three store managers who has been working at Sidewalk Surfer since 1982. That before he was old enough to drive.
The shop was first opened by Sandie Hamilton, who is now retired but still owns the shop, in a 500-square-foot space in Scottsdale Civic Center on October 15, 1977. So technically, it has only completed 39 years of business, but outside of a few skateboard and surf shops in California, Florida, Oregon, and Texas, Sidewalk Surfer is one of the longest-running skateboard shops in the world and definitely the longest-running shop in Arizona. Over the years, fads like rollerskating, rollerblades and inline skating, and go-peds (motorized scooters, essentially) have helped keep "Sidewalk" — as many locals refer to the shop — going, but the shop has always catered primarily to skateboarders.
"Skateboards and skateboard decks are the only thing I know that haven’t really gone up in price for 20, 30 years. It’s always been right around $45 for a board and grip tape," says manager Dave Carlson, who has worked at the store since the early '80s.
A complete deck is typically around $150 after adding trucks, wheels, and other hardware, and the guys who work at Sidewalk Surfer can put one together in their sleep. Carlson, Douds, and fellow manager Keven Stern have talked about having a blindfolded contest over the years to see who could do it the fastest, but each of them is confident they could do it with ease.
"We could all probably do it in our sleep, actually," says Douds, who has lost count of just how many skateboards he has put together. "It’s still fun when a dad comes in here with his 6-year-old kid and the kid’s watching you file the grip tape down or put the board together with just regular tools and making it look perfect. Their eyes get big and they’re just, ‘Wow, you can do that.'"
Just a few of the skateboards you will find at Sidewalk Surfer.
The store has also been known for many years for its excellent selection of shoes and, most notably, Vans, which for many years was the preferred shoe of skateboarders around the Valley and world. If you needed a pair of Vans, you could probably find them at Sidewalk Surfer, which, to this day, still has about a 1,000-square-foot storeroom filled with shoes. Whether it's shoes or clothes or skateboard accessories, the venerable Scottsdale store has their customers covered.
If anything, Sidewalk Surfer's customers are incredibly loyal, and word of mouth has been their biggest form of advertising over the years.
"We do a lot of stuff through schools and sponsorships of graduations and things like that. We’ve found that doing local advertising, like that, has given us the best results," Carlson says.
"Word of mouth has been the best," agrees Douds, whose easy demeanor and tremendous knowledge of his product line matches that of his fellow store managers.
Sidewalk Surfer's reputation has spread well beyond Arizona over the years as well. Douds tells a story about a group of skaters from Dodge City, Kansas, who found the phone number for Sidewalk Surfer in a Skateboarder Magazine in the '80s and began ordering from the shop because there was no local skate shop for the young skaters to buy gear.
The original store.
Courtesy of Sandie Hamilton
"They saw Sidewalk Surfer in the dealer index, and they would call once or twice a week and order something from us. It was on the phone, so they would just ask what was new or say they were looking for this," Douds says.
"They would order it blind," Carlson chimes in. "Every week, we’d send stuff. Darren Keebler [one of the Dodge City skaters] ordered more stuff last week. They’re still following us."
As the store's patrons, along with Carlson, Douds, and Stern, celebrate the big anniversary on Saturday, the shop will host one of its biannual swap meets where Sidewalk Surfer customers can come and buy/sell/trade their old skateboards, skateboard gear, art, snowboards, or clothing. For this special day, there will also be live music performances by Kevin Daly and Friends (including local skateboard legend Jean Rusen), Fat Gray Cat, and Shane Secor (of local skateboard company Rattlecan Garage). The party starts at 9 a.m. and goes till 3 p.m., but Sidewalk Surfer will be open until 10 p.m. — as they are every night of the week.
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