Tag Archives: skateboards

Skateboard Underground

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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Drastic Plastic

February 12, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Originally opened at 24th and N streets back in 1982, Drastic Plastic was one of the first retailers to push major boundaries within the Omaha social sphere. The punk-rock shop sold skateboards, Dr. Martens, and punk records when mainstream culture consisted of top 40 hits and leg warmers.

Now located in The Old Market District on 12th and Howard streets, Drastic Plastic has been making waves for over three decades under the direction of owner Mike Howard and, more recently, store manager Neil Azevedo.

Azevedo was originally just a regular customer before joining Drastic in 2007. A record store that promoted alternative culture was somewhat of a godsend for Midwest high-school students like Azevedo who were seeking something else.

“Whenever I started coming to the store, I did it because at that time, punk rock and post-punk music was underground music. As a teenager, it was a way for me to understand who I was and push the bounds of what I could be,” Azevedo says.

Since becoming store manager, Azevedo has helped keep Drastic Plastic current, shifting some of the store’s focus to subsidiary ventures like Drastic Plastic Collectibles. The line specializes in toy manufacturing—more specifically rock- and horror-based bobble heads.

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Starting with the classics (e.g., characters from Night of the Living Dead, Fulci’s Zombie, and the one and only Iggy Pop), Drastic Plastic Collectibles is in full swing. Soon to grace shelves are Debbie Harry, Jimi Hendrix, and Marc Bolan of T. Rex.

Although dabbling in toy manufacturing, Drastic is still all about the music. Christine Fink is the coordinator for Drastic Plastic Records, a vinyl reissue label in the Impact Merchandising offices on 24th and St. Mary’s. With her hands in everything from marketing and production to graphic design and filling orders, Fink strives to keep some of the more obscure and overlooked bands and artists alive.

“A lot of these albums are so important to so many people, and a lot of them sort of just fell by the wayside, or they haven’t been reissued in a long time,” Fink says. “Because this music and this culture transformed so many people, we felt it was important to not only reissue these albums but do it in such a way that they are collector’s items.”

Focusing heavily on packaging and presentation, Fink hopes that these reissued records can also serve as art pieces for those who collect them.

“We try to make things as high of quality as possible. We are willing to spend a little bit of money in order to make things as perfect as they can be,” Azevedo says. “Our goal is not even to make money. Our goal for the store itself is just to break even, pay our rent, and buy as much vinyl as we possibly can.”