Chris Cantwell figures if he couldn't go to work because of skateboarding, he might as well go to work for skateboarding.
The Bradenton resident, who's part of the core skateboarding community in the Friendly City, has opened up The Shop Skateshop at 540 13th St. W. His plan: to help provide a nearby place for skaters at the Riverwalk to pick up new gear and talk shop.
Cantwell previously worked at MacDill Air Force Base doing concrete construction. But after his skateboarding injuries caused him to miss too many days to work, he figured he was doing this all wrong.
"I kept getting hurt from skating every once in a while, and that put me out of work for a couple weeks at a time, so this kind of fell into place," Cantwell said inside his shop near the downtown MCAT bus station. "I figured I might as well check it and see if I can make it happen."
Cantwell opened the store July 13, and has lined the store with some of the trendiest boards, trucks, wheels and skater clothing and shoes. He also has his own private label line of boards and clothing emblazoned with The Shop on them. A new line of plaid shirts and zipped hoodies will be on their way to the store's shelves soon -- and he's posting the merchandise on Instagram @TheShopSkateshop to tease his loyal customers.
A new board costs about $50 at his shop and can be fully equipped for about $100, he said, and the shop also offers custom orders and repairs. The store also carries penny boards and long boards.
"A lot of guys are looking at what size boards they ride, so we have a pretty good stock of six to seven sizes," Cantwell said.
Cantwell, 37, brings a generation of skateboarding with him, starting at age 10. He's so dedicated that his West Bradenton home isn't hard to pick out. His driveway morphed into a skateboarder's dream with a small bowl, a pyramid and a quarter pipe. He was also instrumental in helping design the waterfront skate park at Riverwalk and previously worked at the Payne Park skate park in Sarasota.
He knows what skaters want because he's lived it.
"With as a high of a caliber of what the skate park is, I'm very proud to be Bradenton's skate shop that is skateboarder-owned," Cantwell said. "It's always good for any skate scene to have a core shop, which is what we are."
The Shop Skateshop Instagram Feed Cantwell is definitely still one of the skaters. You'll see him frequently at the park, with a hint of gray in his beard, with his clothes from The Shop on, doing jumps with teens half his age.
"Some of the little kids get a big kick out of it," he jokes. "'Are you really skating out here?' Uh, yeah."
Parrish resident Ben Orville is happy The Shop is open and respects what Cantwell is doing. The skater was sporting a Toy Machines board from Cantwell's store Wednesday afternoon at Riverwalk.
"He's a skater, and that's what makes it awesome," Orville said.
Dave Gustafson, executive director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, touted Cantwell's shop at a recent Tourist Development Council meeting, noting that Riverwalk is spurring economic development.
"He feels the mojo of what's occurring in this downtown, and we talked to him multiple times about the business opportunity and opening a shop," Gustafson told the Herald, adding that downtown "needs more cool shops" like Cantwell's to bring a younger, creative crowd here.
The next level for the park would be competitions, which could help bring business to his shop as well. The park attracts skaters from as far as Gainesville and professional competitors can be seen taking a spin around the course during breaks from events in Tampa, Cantwell said.
"I'm really anxious to get events going, especially at the park," he said. Kids just want the chance to be competitive and be recognized for their skill locally, and Cantwell plans to work with the city to bring these events here.
Word moves around easily in the close circles of skateboarding.
"You'll be surprised how tight-knit people are in Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and even beyond Florida," Cantwell said. "A couple nights ago I was there and there were these four guys from Gainesville who drove down just to skate for a couple hours, and drive three hours back because it's open all night, and it's free."
The Shop is open noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Sunday hours are expected to change soon, but is open now from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit facebook.com/theshopbradenton or call 941-524-4457.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.