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Editor's note 4:30 p.m. We have a correction. Phil Kennedy works for Circa, not Adio. It is the second time we have made a mistake with Phil in stories. We are sorry, Phil.
Story and photos by SHELBY STANGER
I stopped by Crossroads Wednesday. It's a trade show dedicated only to skateboarding, held in the back parking lot of Black Box Distribution's 122,000 foot office and warehouse space on the eastern side of Carlsbad, Calif.Frank Messman, CEO and partner in Black Box Distribution
According to Black Box CEO Frank Messman, Crossroads started as an open house for key skate industry leaders and Black Box's local distributors who were in town for ASR.
A year ago, Jamie Thomas invited industry friends like the guys from Deluxe and Tum Yeto to showcase their lines, and it evolved into a barbeque type atmosphere in their back parking lot. Then last January, Jamie decided to name the show Crossroads and invite anyone with a legitimate tie to the skate industry. It costs brands $500 a booth and that includes free food and drinks for everyone.
"There were some frustrations about the cost of being at ASR, especially for skate brands whose revenues aren't as high and whose business is mostly at-once. Spending thousands of dollars being at ASR didn't make any sense" for them, said Messman. He said that this year's show had 65 booths and more than 100 brands. The January show sold 45 booths.
While some business is done at this show, the vibe is more about bringing the skate community together than tallying up sales orders. There's no admission fee, every brand has a similar sized pop-up tent, and everyone can literally roll on their skateboards from booth to booth or skate in Black Box's 22,000 square foot skatepark, where they hold a best trick contest at the end of the second day of the show.
"It's amazing that Jamie got all the skateboard companies and no filler at this show," said Converse's brand Manager Steve Luther. "Its cool to walk around a show and have it be skateboard driven. Not that I don't mind bikinis at ASR, but this show has legitimacy."
"This show is all about skateboarding and I love it," said Shannon Fang, who is opening a core skate shop in the Inland Empire in Southern California called Agency.Pro Skaters Richard Mulder and Christian Hosoi at Crossroads.
ASR Show Director Andy Tompkins went to Crossroads on the Tuesday and says he would like to find a solution that works for both skate companies and buyers.
"I admire what Jamie has put together and that it truly represents skate culture," Andy said. "I think it was missing some of the key retailers that usually come to ASR. I'd love to develop a solution that creates the same community feel, the same kind of setup as Crossroads but still give buyers access to those key brands. ...Many retailers sell both surf and skate on the same floor and it's hard for retailers to be everywhere."
While there were not a ton of retailers early in the morning on Wednesday, there were quite a few international distributors on site. John Sherwood of Globe said he sees a lot of international people at this show. "We see people from Florida and all around the world."
For the smaller hardgoods brands that have a tougher time paying costs to show at ASR, Crossroads has been important for writing orders.
"Speaking with a few vendors their view was that this show will grow more next year because retailers discovered that hardgoods companies presenting here will not be presenting at ASR," said Vans' VP of Sales Jeff Moore. He said that from Vans' point-of-view, this was an important show to be at to support skateboarding.
Yet for larger footwear and apparel brands, Messman said Crossroads isn't the perfect venue to do big business.
"This show certainly fits the environment for the moment and it's nice that it's so relevant to skateboarding, but it's not the right environment to go through a big apparel or footwear collection. Business is still being done, but to do a detailed showing you could better do that in a showroom or with a big rep bag at a key account. Most people are just showing key pieces."
Will this show replace ASR? I asked a few industry leaders what their take was.
"From Vans' view I believe it's an important show to support business. I think for some it will possibly replace ASR, but that's on ASR to create an environment that's more appealing to skate-specific hardgoods companies."
Phil Kennedy of Circa also commented on the positive community feel of Crossroads, but said that for business, footwear deadlines in general are so far in advance that most trade shows now are just too late to write orders. He said his reps have had samples for the last two months.
Jamie Thomas said, "In speaking to brands it seems like a show like this is really needed regardless of how much business is done. Everyone seems pretty stoked and if everyone's happy, I'm happy. We hope to top it off with some great skating tonight so everyone leaves with a good impression."
Black Box founder and skate legend Jamie Thomas greets fans.
With that, a young teenage boy interrupted me, awestruck at the skateboarding pro. Jamie introduced himself. "I'm Jamie," he said. The kid looked at him, wide-eyed. "Yeah I know. You're a legend." Jamie humbly smiled back and shook his hand and invited the star-struck kid into his booth.