Nick is the proprietor of The Palomino Club (with whom we shared a studio with, until recently) – something of an enigma in skateboarding, it’s half skate shop, half skate-culture-nucleus and 100% skating. He’s been growing the business steadily and carving out a unique niche – finding, selling and curating unusual products that lots of other shops won’t touch, or are too lazy to root out.
We’ve always enjoyed shooting the breeze with Nick: his artful honesty, and his enthusiasm eases social tension. It’s this quality amongst many others makes being around Nick – and by extension the shop – completely unique.
We’ve not done a Beach Meets with a non-artist for a little while (there was one with Goodhood and one with a nascent Camden Town Brewery a while back), but Nick seemed a good fit a he’s definitely someone to listen to if you’re interested in carving out a living in an industry you’re super passionate about. So without much further ado, let’s get to it:
It’s obviously hard times for skater-owned shops. Amongst other things, the pinch of Brexit is showing itself in many ways, we’re seeing less and less consumer spending, higher both commercial and residential London rental prices, and ever increasing competition online… Do you see these burgeoning issues as truly malignant forces against the shop or are you plain not fussed?
Although this plays a part in the struggles that face the shop, I don’t blame any turbulence on those issues. Everything is in my hands: I remember when I started the shop and I heard about other shops struggling, I was like “well…. I’m kinda doing well at the moment, year-on-year I’m doing better and better and I’m sourcing these little companies from Australia, Japan or East Coast America. I’ve seen this happening and if you don’t, that’s your own fault and you’re responsible for your own demise.
Six years later, it’s on me to work out how to adapt to the current landscape, and how to change my business to continue to be successful. If I don’t then I’m responsible for my own demise. Yeah, London is tricky, and if I were to move back to the Midlands I’d probably have an extra £400 quid in my pocket per month and wouldn’t be struggling like I am. But I choose to live here and I understand why that’s part of the reason I don’t have as much cash in my pocket as I might want.
But fuck it! There’s more skate spots here!!!
Where is skateboarding right now?
I remember (and this is going to seem completely fucking cliche…) a time when you could get the shit kicked out of you for even walking down the street with a skateboard.
With that question I don’t think you can avoid Skateboarding’s recent inclusion in the 2020 Olympics. I really fear that skateboarding could stop being an outlet for kids who don’t subscribe to regimented mainstream sports: you know: the one’s who don’t fit in.
If skateboarding ends up being in the Olympics three times it runs the risk of becoming completely commonplace, and it will no longer be a place for people who don’t want to be part of the norm. If you read the forums you’ll consistently hear the argument that there’s room for everyone in skateboarding, and room for every kind of skateboarding, which I whole-heartedly agree with. It’s just that when you have these Olympic/Street League things there becomes this trickle down effect of dilution and it will slowly become just another sport in the public eye. All the new skateparks will be built to the specifications of skateboarding as a sport like a football or cricket pitch and it will inevitably become homogenised. On the other side of things though, the fact that we’re in a time when there is just so many people doing so many new things – it’s just incredible!
Like, with board companies, DVDs , ‘zines… as a skateboarder there’s just so much out there to digest. Even with the magazines…how many free magazines there are now. If you’re a skater nowadays you can go to a shop, buy a deck and walk out with four magazines for free: ten years ago that would have cost you an extra £20.
Most brands retail through their own websites now. How much of a dent do you feel direct-to-customer makes?
We’re lucky that so many skateboarders are driven by ethics: if you really like a brand and want to continue seeing them grow then you know if you buy from them directly then they’re going to get more money, than if you’re purchasing from a skateshop.
If I were a punter and not a shop owner, I think I’d spread my disposable income between buying direct from the company and shopping in a skater-owned shop. So yeah – it obviously takes from the retail part of the industry. It’s really amazing nowadays that anyone has the resources to start something: You can get decks printed at a minimum of 25, you can get stupidly low numbers of printed t-shirts, you can go on sticker websites and get half decent stickers and you don’t need to be a developer to have a website with things like Sqaurespace. I’m pretty sure if I was 16 now I would start my own thing: I actually did when I was 16 and wasted all my money on it but it was fucking rad!
Ultimately if you blame the descent of your company on the way things have changed out there you’re a fool! You’re the one in control and you have the power to do all you can you adapt.
Skateboarders are known for constantly tip-toeing between being unabashedly positive and then obsessively negative, how do you balance the line?
I think I’m generally a hugely positive person about most things that happen within skateboarding. If you’re out there doing something – even if it’s just going skating – just because I, or someone else doesn’t like it, who give’s a shit! You’re out there doing it, you put a ‘zine out and I think the photography’s shit, that’s my personal taste. It doesn’t take away from that fact that you’ve got off your ass, gone out with the homies, shot the photo, and got it developed/printed.
Some stuff I’ve had on the shop may not be the best as far as content or production, but ultimately it’s still fucking rad because the vibe is sick – it exists for all the right reasons!
There’s a time and a place for complete honesty. If you bump into someone at the pub or the spot and they’ve just put out a video part, if I thought it wasn’t the best I’m probably still going to say to them “fair play that was sick!” they’ve gone out and worked for it – they’ve contributed something. I’m not going to heckle them for having one too many back tails or whatever, nothing good’s going to come from that. It’s just being negative for the sake of it.
And… skate graphics?
Well.. this is one place where I’m 100% happy to be openly negative….. (laughs ensue – ed). We are lucky enough to be a part of a community that’s so creative I feel almost sorry for anyone who doesn’t have what we have.
Endless, infinite and unbound creativity: anyone can do anything that they’re stoked on. Constantly there’s new and original things that come out: Take (skateboard co’s) Fucking Awesome and Hockey graphics for example: I cant ever remember seeing a lenticular graphic like the AVE Terminator or Dill Twin Towers graphics, that’s fucking sick!
Then Alltimers with their shitty Google screen grabs printed onto boards purposefully lo-res. Yardsale, a bunch of young’uns doing something completely fresh and new.
What’s sad to see is that when one amazing creative idea comes out, how many other people are quick to rip off the idea. It’s sad that as such a creative community we’re still happy to do that. Where’s the line between innocent influence and appropriation? Appropriation has been a massive part of what skateboard graphics have always been – take the Jason Lee burger board for instance, that’s just a straight ripped-off logo, I mean i’ve just ripped off a logo for my new shop shirts!
Your office is full of little gems – what are your personal favourite treasures here?
*1 – Skate shop stickers.
This is rad because its kinda like, keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer haha!
*2 – Rich Hart and Benjamin Deberdt photos .
I mean how good is that! hand written letters on the back of prints from two of my favourite skate photographers ever, I’m not trying to cool-guy it but… look at that!
*3 – LovenSkate deck
I suppose i’m slightly desensitised as I’m here all hours, but i guess any of the Lovenskate boards… It may seem a bit biased as its one of my best friends who runs it (Stuart Smith), but the amount of work that goes into producing one of these in comparison to the vast majority of skateboards that are out there is insane. These are produced as skateboards to ride for roughly the same price: You’re paying a regular price for a skateboard, and yet they’re all fucking hand screened on that bench right there (points to paint-splattered printing bench in the corner of the studio). It embodies what skateboarders do, like ‘yeah we could do this so much cheaper’ but there is a craft involved and the actual skill/artistic talent involved to make them is incredible.
Kyle Eggers sends these to me for free and then in return I send them out for free to people, they just front the shipping. This picture is all the other envelopes he has sent out to people as well, and this is literally how it comes in the post, and it all survived! Rad! That came all the way from West Hampton, New York State to London – No wrap, nothing. Hand-painted epic envelope. The dude spent $35 on shipping it here alone.
*5 How Dare You ‘zine’ envelope.
The sticker is of John Cardiel just after he fucked himself and it’s just printed directly on some US Postal service thing or something. This is one of the envelopes that copies of the zine were sent to the shop in.
*6 Vladimir Film Festival poster
For four days every September they put on one of the most incredible skateboard events I think’s ever happened: an independent skateboard film festival in Croatia. No corporate sponsorship whatsoever. Nikola who does it doesn’t actually watch any of the new videos before he puts it in the festival, he picks what he’s going to put on by the vibe he gets from the person he’s speaking to…
*7 – Sticker door
The highest concentration of radness in this room for sure.
*8 – Josh Kalis deck –
It’s an iconic photo for one, and also happens to feature two of my most favourite skateboarders. I’m happy to say that if Kalis and Stevie William ain’t two of your favourite skaters then…. you’re an idiot! Each to their own but if you don’t like them then there’s something a bit wrong with you. In our culture, it is so…’of it’s era’. Confidence and swagger and they owned Love Park in Philly (iconic 90’s/00’s skatespot – ed) at the time. The shoes, the jeans, the size of the tee’s. I would go as far as to say it could even be iconic to people who don’t even skate.
In the world of skateboard advertising, Palomino undoubtedly has some of the most interesting and iconic UK skate adverts. Can we get a little retrospective of them: your process, why it’s important, and where the inspiration comes from?
There has been a couple that I’m particularly proud of, but to begin with when I first started the shop I didn’t have a team. No-one skated for the shop because no-one had heard of the shop, and I didn’t know any skaters who were of the standard I would want to ride for the shop.
There had to be something about the shop that would make someone want to ride for it, and as I couldn’t run skate photo ads I had to think of other things. When i got to a point of having the money to advertise, I wanted to advertise in a physical magazine for my own enjoyment of having the physical advert, and I also wanted to support the magazines by putting my advertising budget their way. Every single ad has really just come out of an organic moment. I never really sat down and thought about it or brainstormed anything, something will just pop into my head and then I’d sit on it for a couple of days and then just do it.
(So on that note we thought we’d run through a few of Nick’s ads – Ed)
VHS AD –
I mean, I was super stoked on how this one looked. But I suppose the real appeal will only be appreciated by people from a certain generation who spent their formative years dubbing VHS tapes of skate videos between each other.
First-ever *skate* ad – I was speaking to someone recently who was like ”your shop is different from every other skate shop, so why would you advertise with just a skate photo like all the other shop’s do?”. Well… my response to that was like “yeah its different but at the same time I feel like being a part of the culture and having a team, you wanna give the boys some shine you know”.
Plastic Toy ad – This one was on deadline day and I had to send the ad to print. It was like 5 o’clock and I had no idea what the fuck to do. I stare at those figures all day, the dog, the wank off guy and I was like “fuck it lets just take a photo of those and see how it goes”. So that one was born out of desperation but I think it worked out pretty good anyway…
Mailorder ad – This one’s maybe my personal favourite. In the style of an old shop ad you would get in R.A.D magazine: I hand cut and glued it all then fucked about with it on the scanner. As with the shop sign advert, I actually wanted it to be a physical thing rather than all Photoshop work.
Skatetools ad – This one sent me nuts, it took me soooo long! Copy and paste that fucking drain cover tool…. over and over again.
Guy Mariano ad – this is a curveball but it’s Guy Mariano’s whole Mouse section but written out: all the tricks he does. Again pretty niche: and again, cut with scissors and glued with Pritt Stick.
The first ever advert (last photo of ads) – When I first started out I was like “well… I want everyone to know that all these companies are available in the UK” and at that time, this was the only place you could get them, so I just listed them all. Looking back on it, it’s a bit design school but fuck it!