NJ Skateshop: New Jersey

This year marks the 10th anniversary of New Jersey’s premier skateshop.
© Zander Taketomo/Red Bull Media House
By Chris Nieratko

Back in 2003 owners Steve Lenardo and Chris Nieratko opened their first store in the tiny two-road town of Sayreville, New Jersey, (boyhood home of Bon Jovi) to service the then-new Wally Hollyday designed and built cement skatepark around the blossoming scene.

Since then they have grown to as many as four shops with doors in the college towns of Princeton, New Brunswick and Hoboken. Over the past decade NJ has become a destination demo spot for teams that previously would beeline straight through the state from Philadelphia to NYC or vice versa.

Throughout that time they’ve amassed a team full of New Jersey’s top pros, bros and ams to help remind the world that New Jersey is more than an airport and a highway.

Quick Q&A

The biggest DIY move you can make in skateboarding is opening your own shop. What made you want to do it?

In 2002 the Wally Holliday built and designed Sayreville Skatepark got approved in our hometown. We knew immediately that we needed to open a skateshop to service the park and immediate skate community or else some goober with no ties to skating or the scene definitely would and it would suck because they always do.

When we opened we had barely 20 decks, a left shoe and a half a set of wheels but we didn’t care we were living out our childhood dreams. 10 years later we’ve grown to four shops around New Jersey. Now we make sure to always keep the wall stocked with wood.

Describe the scene in your area that you’re shop has helped cultivate.

Having stores all around the state of New Jersey we’ve supported various scenes in different areas. Sayreville/New Brunswick scene was originally based on the Sayreville Skatepark and as those skaters grew they developed into well-rounded skaters who skate everything.

Our Hoboken shop was the opposite. North Jersey has less parks and transition so we get a lot more street skating kids but thanks to the 660 Ramp crew and their constant efforts in building DIY (or as we call them, junk spots) that area is seeing a lot more rogue trannies popping up and this spot we chose is the epicenter of their efforts.

When you think of DIY skate spots, what comes to mind? What are your favorite DIY spots of all time?

The universal #1 answer has to be Burnside, right? That’s a gimme. It’s like getting points for spelling your name right on a test. Second, mainly because of our location on the planet would have to be FDR in Philly.

What those guys have done and continue to do down under that bridge should earn them the key to the city. At the very least their time-consuming dedication deserves to be recognized by The Skateboarding Hall of Fame.

Why are DIY spots so important to a scene?

Same reason gripping your own board is so important: if you don’t do it yourself chances are it’s going to suck. Who is going to give more effort into creating a rad spot than the guys that are going to skate it?

That’s why all municipalities should hire local labor crews when building their parks; they’ll make sure the job gets done right.


What were some of the DIY spots your skate scene has had over the years, even as far back as when you were growing up?

There’s been an ongoing spot in Sayreville for as long as we’ve had the shop if not longer. It goes through various states of suck and awesome, bust and hassle-free skating. Aside from the past mistakes of building things out of wood (a waste of effort on the East Coast with our rain and winters) lately a beachcooler crew of young guns have caught the concrete bug and the spot is probably the best it’s ever been with various ledges, quarterpipe and flat gap.

Back in the day there was a drainage ditch across from a seafood restaurant called Clare & Coby’s (Now Outback Steakhouse) that was one of the earliest DIY spots in the Sayreville area and that got hit up pretty hard for a while.

What are your thoughts on the recent resurgence of kids making their own spots all over the place? And why is it necessary, especially on the East Coast, when so many municipalities are making subpar parks.

It’s fantastic and necessary for this generation to take matters in their own hands and not sit around and wait for things to get done for them. Like we stated, when someone else is in charge, chances are it’s gonna suck: the ledge will be too high, the rail too low, the hip will send you right into a fence, they’ll be a crack right before the gap, there will be no flow, and on and on and on with the f-ups.

If you know what you like to skate then build it, don’t wait for a baseball or football fan to make a crappy version of your vision.

What is your take on the fact that for very cheap skaters can make a very good spot whereas townships spend ungodly amounts of money on awful parks?

Corruption is as American as apple pie so everyone in government must get paid whereas skaters only care about the greater good. It’s laughable what towns will spend on B.S. compared to how far a crew of skaters can stretch even $500.

We have to say we were fortunate to get a Wally Holliday cement park in Sayreville because 10 years later the park is still fun. Sure, it has seen better days but with what some towns are giving skaters as a sorry excuse for a skatepark for way more money we can’t help but be thankful for what we got.

Tell us about the place you’ve chosen to refurbish for this Red Bull DIY contest? Who started it? When did it start?

Mike Yannetta, Erik Mech, Ronnie Campone, Tall Mike, Corey Fleming started it about 4 years ago. They built the original two pieces there, which were the bank to ledge and the concrete ledge. Since then they haven't really built anything because kids would come with no respect and made them not want to build there anymore.

Then Bobby Puleo came and built two things that were horrible and once they saw that it made them want to use what he built as fill and take back the spot. Just as they were about to start with a new build we hit them up about this Red Bull contest; it was perfect timing. Thanks, Red Bull.

Who is your work crew that is helping on the refurbishing?

Unfortunately Ronnie Erik and Mike are no longer around to build so Mike Yannetta is relying on Matt Daniels and the 660 Crew: Brian Carlisle, Corey Fleming, Josh Ettinger, Davey Pelliccia, Daniel 'Sarge' Torres, Vadim Filatof, New Life Ryan, Rich Collins.

What does this Red Bull DIY contest mean to you and your scene?

It’s rare in this economy to have someone cut a check, tell you to do something good with the money and not ask for something in return. But that’s really what this Red Bull project is about.

Sure, we have to take some photos and film ourselves having fun on the stuff we’re building but the real motive here is to improve small scenes around the east coast with something permanent, not something that gets broken down and shipped to the next stop.

Hopefully kids that come to our spot, or any of the spots in the contest, get motivated to build something of their own so the movement continues.

Describe your dream DIY spot, if you had endless resources, what would you build?

The idea of a 1980 Chevy El Camino, the ones with the squared off hoods, with the wheels off, sitting flat on the ground has always been a dream to make a centerpiece of a junk spot.

You can build slant banks up to the quarterpanels and tailgate to make a pseudo pyramid where you can grind the back of the cab. But don’t fill in the truck so you have to ollie it if you want to go over it, no riding across the top.

That and you can line the back with plastic and fill it with water as a kiddie pool in the summer. The fenders should be a grindable height without the tires on or you can do tight banks up to them.

The hoods for that year were flat so you can ollie up onto them and then frame and fill the front window with wood and ‘crete so you can ollie up on the hood and do wallies into the banks on the quarterpanels.

Aside from that some quarterpipes at the ends of the spot for speed, some ledges and a skateable cement grill pit so we can fire up some ribs on a hot summer day with a couple cold ones. “I think a man working outdoors feels more like a man if he can have a bottle of suds.”

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