Today we’re visiting Satellite Boardshop in Boulder Colorado. We sat down with owner Raul Pinto to talk about how the shop came into being, their mission, and above all, how they give back to the community.
First of all, tell us a little about your shop. How’d you get started with skateboards?
We started in 2002. Basically, the majority of the crew was either involved with or worked at Brothers Boards prior, and when Brothers decided to close its doors, we thought it was a good idea to sort of pick up the staff and keep going.
What’s your background as a skater?
I grew up in San Francisco. I actually worked at Surf Sports, which is now Proof Lab. Proof Lab got sold to a couple of kids I went to high school with, actually. So that was kind of my first job slash first time gripping boards as a kid growing up. I was probably like 14 when I worked for the Campion brothers. Then I moved out west for a couple of things, did a little stint at Beyond Waves in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was basically involved with a handful of shops. Had my own little skate brand for a minute through one of the shops with the team. And like I said, it almost kinda fell into my lap with Brothers closing. We were so loyal to Brothers, I don’t think we ever would have opened a shop had it not been for them calling it quits. And so JG Mazzotta, my business partner, jumped in, decided to go full on, and then asked me to partner in it. And Travis Towe, who was the graphic designer at Brothers, took over and did the first board graphic. And the rest is history. We’re here 20 years later.
What would you say is your company’s mission at this point?
To continue to educate people and get people in the right way to start skateboarding. I think our big goal as a shop — since we’ve done the shop thing for so long — is really building more spaces for kids to skate. We’ve been working on the Green Block project, which is our nonprofit. So we built a skatepark here in Boulder over the last few years and that’s not completed because the idea behind a Green Block is that it changes and can be redeveloped all the time. It’s like DIY as opposed to a permanent structure. So we kinda want to continue with that.
We partnered up with Chill in the summer to work with at-risk youth and underprivileged kids to get them into skating.
It’s cool to sell stuff, but I think in the end, the thing that drew me to skateboarding was the community side of it. I grew up in a single family home, just my mom and I, so skateboarding was like an outlet, with lots of other friends, community, adventures and trips.
So we do a tour with Ride With Us. We’ve been doing for, gosh, it’ll be 17 years! Basically, we just go to a lot of the outlying skateparks that don’t have skateshops near them. We bring our team and our kids and kinda show kids how it’s done, what’s up with it, and kinda build with that side of the community, too. I think it’s hard when they get this really nice skatepark dropped in their yard, but don’t have any skateshops or other kids to look up to. You’re kinda making it up. So those kids end up scootering, or the parks end up sitting dormant without a scene to get built around it.
That’s really exciting! Do you have any local events coming up?
We’re doing a thing at the Denver RiNo Art Park which is a little area in Denver where they just built a new art park. It’s going to be a DIY bring your own obstacle Halloween skate contest. We do another event called the Catalina Grind Mixer. And really we’re spending a lot of time focusing on our 20 Year. Getting the guys to film, trying to get a recap — it’s going to be a lot of work to collect everything from the last 20 years and tell that story of why it’s called Satellite, the connection between two people, how we’re always putting out information and being that hub for kids to get involved in skateboarding and be a part of that community.
What are some of the more exciting products you carry in your shop right now?
For skateboarding, I think it’s probably like the new brands, the new blood that’s coming into skateboarding. Whether that’s Polar or Last Resort really just executing their own image of what they think their idea of skateboarding is. They’re not copying anyone, they’re doing stuff pretty original, and really taking a chunk of skateboarding with them to make sure it’s still run and owned by skateboarders. At the same time, brands like Deluxe that have always been owned and operated are continuing to just do the right things for the community. Their Sketchy Skateshop Program has been amazing. Really, just trying to always give back and be involved. Keep it community-based. On a national scale it’s like that, but when you get on a local level, it’s less like that. There’s a lot of little things that are always going on that you hear about. So it’s nice on a national level when you can have brands and shops more involved in larger, broader goals to just to keep kids stoked and grow this thing the right way. Keep it run by the right people.
Other big ones being Vans, some of the other small companies are really doing it right like Quasi. I gotta give a shoutout to SB for keeping things fresh with all the dunks. Keeping the lights on for many shops. It’d be hard to not include them in everything that we’re doing from product support to creating that draw to keeping people coming into stores to buy stuff that’s unique and original.
How has your shop navigated covid?
We were pretty lucky! We sort of have been around so long that we figured there would be a big boom over the last two years. So we overprepared for that and doubled down on our investment prior to covid. We just happened to be sitting on too much skate stuff and that’s sort of been the case the entire time, luckily for us. I know there’s a lot of shops that just didn’t have anything.
And it wasn’t because of covid or anything. We knew the Olympics were coming up, we knew this summer was gonna be crazy, we knew there was an overall interest. You were seeing parents even before covid wanting to try other sports and get their kids into this stuff. Colorado is this insane market where you’ve got 150 plus skateparks, and they just keep continuing to multiply and pop up. And that had a lot to do with our personal investment into, you know, let’s keep this going and try and provide all the best products — and have a lot of it, not feel like we’re sold out. So we were lucky. There was only one or two times in the last two years where we felt like, whoa we’re out of something, because we really overbought. If anything we had too much stuff!
I guess that worked out pretty well then! Do you have any fun stories you’d like to share with us?
There’s definitely a lot over the last 20 years! Probably this one isn’t like necessarily fun, but funny. It’s just part of the practice of running the shop. In the first couple years we were open, we had a young kid decide to go in a dressing room and swap out a pair of his pants for ours. And he left his cell phone in the pocket of the pants when he placed them back on the shelf! So we called him and let him know, “Hey come pick up these pants and pay for the pants.” He was obviously surprised and he ended up coming in right away, probably worried we would call the police or something. He showed up in a new pair of pants of his own, and he brought in the pants he was attempting to return. We offered him to pay for those or deal with the police, so he paid for those. We kept those pants, and we kept his two pairs of pants because we asked him to leave the store without any pants on. And I think that was a pretty funny life lesson for the other kids around the shop at the time, seeing it going down. They were like, “Whoa these dudes are no joke! This dude’s out three pairs of pants and the cost of the pants and so I probably shouldn’t steal from the store.”
That’s a good lesson! Thanks so much for talking with us today.
Satellite Boardshop has been a vital part of Boulder’s skate scene for almost 20 years. Visit them at 3044 Valmont Road, Boulder CO or online at satelliteboardshop.com