Atlanta’s oldest skate shop changes with the times

Stratosphere Skateboard sponsors 8th annual Skateraid

By NATALIE STOUT

Skateboarding is not what it used to be before big companies started investing and the advent of the Internet, and Atlanta’s first skate shop Stratosphere Skateboards can attest to that.

Stratosphere Skateboards is a skateboard shop in the Atlanta neighborhood Little Five Points. It has been in operation for 27 years, which is older than the shop owner’s son, Grant Taylor, who is a professional skateboarder and Thrasher Magazine’s 2011 Skateboarder of the Year.

Stratosphere is owned and ran by Thomas Taylor, a former professional skateboarder and Little Five Points resident. Taylor taught his son Grant how to skate around the same time he learned how to walk, which led Grant to become a professional skateboarder at the age of 17 and acquire sponsorships with the likes of Nike, Alien Workshop and Volcom.

Almost every professional skateboarder from the past 27 years has walked through Stratosphere’s doors at some point, and Stratosphere plans to host a board signing in August featuring the Deathwish and Baker skateboarding teams.

Kurt Crocker, a manager at Stratosphere, has worked at Stratosphere for more than eight years and has seen the shop change drastically concerning the brands that are sold and the people who come into shop.

Big Corporations vs. Skateboarder-Owned

“These bigger brands have just made skateboarding more of a broader thing, and it’s not just the brands, I mean there’s people too that use skateboarding,” Crocker said. “Lil Wayne is using skateboarding to promote himself, Justin Bieber too.”

Graham Bickerstaff, Stratosphere employee. Photo by Natalie Stout.
Graham Bickerstaff, Stratosphere employee. Photo by Natalie Stout.

Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber are celebrity icons in the U.S., so children notice what they wear. Crocker said that children do not necessarily wear big-brand skateboarding clothes and shoes because celebrities do, but they are starting to veer away from smaller, skateboarder-owned companies and turning to the big corporations. He said the reason youth is switching is because they are starting to realize that big corporations make better products that will last longer.

“It’s not that kids don’t want to support the brands that have started from skateboarding,” Crocker said. “It’s just, it’s hard for those brands to compete with the bigger brands, which have control over better materials.”

In an interview with Jenkem Magazine, professional skateboarder Marc Johnson said that big corporation companies have a policy where “if a Skateshop wants to carry that ONE shoe that everyone wants, the Skateshop is forced to carry ALL of their shoes.” Crocker said that this is true for some skate shops, but not Stratosphere.

“There are certain shops that are selected that big corporations want to have their product in,” Crocker said. “Certain corporations make those policies, but we made it clear to them that we weren’t going to play by that game.”

Skateboarding on a Broader Scale

Skateboarding used to be much different before the rise of the Internet, and Crocker said that Stratosphere has felt the change among its younger customers.

“They don’t know anything anymore, they’re oblivious to it,” Crocker said. “Dan could be gripping a board, and these people aren’t even going to know who Dan is, whereas when I was a kid, if there was a pro inside the shop, I knew it, I knew all the pros.”

Dan Plunkett is a professional skateboarder who lives in Atlanta, and was setting up a board in Stratosphere while Crocker was speaking with customers.

“We had to work harder back in the day to get our boards,” Crocker said of professional skateboarders.

Though the advancement of technology has changed how adolescents view skateboarding in today’s society, Stratosphere continues to thrive and remains a well-known staple to Atlanta and to skateboarders around the country.

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