December 6, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Silo barely looks open. The only sign indicating its presence at 517 S. 13th Street is a small sticker that reads “SILO” in black, block letters. The sign, which sits slightly askew, is pasted on a glass door beneath a blank, gray marquee.

It’s intentionally vague. Enticingly exclusive. Silo, a skateboard shop which officially opened in June, doesn’t even list a telephone number.

“It’s almost like going back to beeper days,” says store owner, Brant Van Boening.

That throwback style is kind of the point. Silo, an expansion of the Grand Island original, sells skater fashion gear and lifestyle products to discerning buyers—those who, like Van Boening, 35, are seeking a return to the “glory days” of skateboarding—the early 80s and 90s when teens connected over grainy videos of flips and twists and daredevil rides. It was that time before corporate sponsorship and TV specials—when skating was rebellious, a counter-culture means to express individuality. “Our big thing, or this kind of movement,” Van Boening says, “is just finding kindred spirits in smaller companies that celebrate the uniqueness of what skateboarding was.”

Inside Silo, those kindred spirits are represented in backpacks, shoes, jackets, hand-stitched wallets, and select socks, each carefully arranged on sparse shelves. The store’s whitewashed walls are broken up by a colorful display of local and imported skateboards that look more like artwork than sporting gear. On the shelves, the products include handmade, limited and exclusive lines—outdoor jackets by Patagonia, a California-based company that traces its manufacturing “from fabric to assembly, all the way to our doorstep;” Syndicate, a limited line of VANS (staple of skater street cred) shoes; and CONS, an exclusive range of Converse shoes similar to classic Chuck Taylors but with rugged soles and cushioned insoles, that sums up Silo’s selection: comfortable, high quality, and distinctive.

“There’s not a single product in here that we [Van Boening and his small team] haven’t worn, had, put through the ringer in some shape or form,” he says, adding he hopes to create a personal shopping experience for his customers. “We want to connect with our customers on a face-to-face basis, and we want to take the time to talk about products in an honest way.”

Those products can be pricey, and there’s definitely an elite quality to them, but Van Boening notes they are not meant to be snobbish. “Everything in here is made to be used and abused,” he says. “[The products are] for that kid with that discerning eye for quality, durability, and specialness.”

So special, in fact, that even the president of VANS needed to track down a pair of his own line recently. Silo received an email (no phone…) from his assistant requesting a pair of the latest Syndicate shoes. “By the time he even saw them, they were already allocated [to select dealers] and out the door,” Van Boening says.

“We took care of him the same day.”

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