There aren’t too many brands that come to mind when I think about the UK skate scene. A few like Palace, Isle, and The National (Skateboard Co) are killing it, but it’s cool to see other brands coming through, making an impact.
I caught up with Andy Makepeace and Rich Smith of Skateboard Cafe to talk about how it all got started, the Cafe team, the new video ‘Milkshake’, and their plans for the future. In all truth, they kept their cards relatively close and didn’t want to give too much away because they’ve got a lot of ideas in the pipeline. But, with a little persuasion they came through with some interesting insights on how they run the Cafe on a day to day basis and some really nice words about the team and how everything came together.
Andy and Rich know what they want Skateboard Cafe to be, but are taking it slow. When new clothing drops from other skate brands are sold out online almost instantly, the guys at Skateboard Cafe are putting in the hours to make sure they’re fully happy with what they release, and are holding out from the temptation of releasing too much new product, too soon.
This careful and considered approach has enabled them to build a recognisable visual style, a super talented team and an impending video release which will, no doubt, be strong. Skateboard Cafe is one to watch, and keep watching, for sure.
Tell us about Skateboard Cafe and how it all started. Who was involved at the start? Do you actually sell coffee and donuts?
[Andy] It started with Rich Smith (co-owner) making skate edits under the name and people just seemed interested in the name, visuals and where it could go. I worked with him at the time and worked in the industry for years so it made sense for him to get me involved to sort a lot of the other side of things out. I still feel that we complement each other well in the way that the things I lack he brings to the table and visa versa. We don’t sell any food or drink at all yet but who knows in the future.
What makes Skateboard Cafe different?
[Andy] I’d like to think that people can tell that we are growing things slowly and very much in an organic way, sometimes I feel brands are on to a good thing they get a loan and flood the market super quick and sell to everyone and anyone. With the team we have, the graphics and anything we put out, I just hope people can tell the care we take in the brand.
You said that you and Rich balance each other out quite well, in what way?
[Andy] Well Rich started filming years ago and has a vision and style of how to make something seem like it’s Cafe as soon as you see or hear it, where I can’t do that side of things at all. But I can sort the day to day stuff like our accounts, organising drops, and orders. Rich wouldn’t know where to start with that stuff. The only thing we can both do is photography because we both did it together for a couple of years. But we both also have a vision for Cafe that is very similar which helps.
I agree that you are growing organically and not too fast but at the same time you have a lot plans and ideas for the future. Is it hard to hold back and only release new product when the time is right?
[Andy] It is tough to a certain extent, but to be honest we physically can’t go nuts on it because we both work other full time jobs at the moment. But also because we both look at things and even if we say yeah that’s OK, then we’ll drop the idea because even if we think something will sell I don’t want to look at something I made and think ‘oh that’s OK’ and neither does Rich.
What do you personally do on a day to day basis?
[Rich] At the moment? I’m basically a human camera trying to finish this video. Film, film, film. I also work at Fifty Fifty Store.
[Andy] I work for Rock Solid Distribution (who actually distributes Skateboard Cafe now) as General Manager, working with brands like Diamond Supply Co, Grizzly, Primitive, Isle, 5Boro etc. But then get home around 5.30 and we try and do a couple hours Cafe work in the evening most days… maybe less in the summer.
Who is on the Skateboard Cafe team?
[Rich] Shaun Currie, Josh Arnott, Harry Ogilvie, Korahn Gayle, & Mike Arnold.
How did you get to know the guys on the team? Why did you choose to sponsor them?
[Andy] Shaun was the first guy and we both just feel he represents the brand so well, he has such a super clean noticeable style and is a rad person so we spoke to him when he was between sponsors and he was down. I’ve known Korahn for years and needless to say why we hooked him up, but he actually came to us I think and we couldn’t say no. Josh just got too good and a few people were flowing him boards so we just pinched him before anything solid came along. Mike is a funny one because I saw footage from him years ago and said to a mate of mine to watch out for him, then I can’t really remember how it came up but I think Rich went up to Leeds and hung out with him for a bit and we decided to put him on when we realised he was keen then. I found out he was actually from a town just down the road from where I grew up. Then there is Harry Ogilvie, he’s been around with us for years as a mate and has such a unique style of skating and as soon as we could afford to give out a few extra boards we hooked him up. We’re super stoked on the team right now, everyone gets on and is a super tight fun crew.
When did Korahn Gayle get so sick?
[Andy] Haha he’s good right? I hate to say it because I’m super competitive and we both play football together but anything slightly athletic he kill’s it, it’s just so easy and natural to him.
Who would win in a fight, Korahn or Danny Wainwright?
[Andy] Korahn if he wanted to, have you not seen the size of him now? But that said my money would be on Korahn crying at the awkwardness of the situation and a Danny win.
How often do you get to go and skate yourself?
[Rich] I’ll have a little cruise around if I’m waiting to meet someone to go film but I haven’t actually skated much myself recently, I’m really looking forward to skating more after I’ve finished the vid. 8.25 Cafe board, Thunder Lo’s and Bones STF’s with swiss bearings.
[Andy] At the moment I’m not skating much maybe twice a week, Rich does a little more. I get a lot more time to skate in the summer because I play football in the winter to tide over those wet weekends.
I’ve been waiting for Milkshake to drop for a while – when is it coming? What are the plans for the launch?
[Rich] Alfresco*? Haha, me too! I’m actually starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel now, it’s looking like the vids gonna be done and out by early May. We wanna do a bunch of premiers across the UK and we’ve spoken about a few things for the launch. I’m trying to think less about launches and premiers at the moment though and just focus on the vid!
Could you tell me more about the video, where were you mainly filming? Any new names to take note of?
[Rich] I’ve been filming for it since 2013 but most of the footage will be from the last year. Everybody kept progressing and their footage became off cuts… The classic! It’s mainly UK footage, London, Bristol, Sheffield, Leeds and a few others places. Lost count of how many times we’ve escaped the winter for Barcelona. Prague, Berlin and my personal favourite Copenhagen. Yes – Big Wavey Mike Arnold!
Best video part this year?
[Rich] Man, I lose track of the parts that come out… I’ve been more stoked on certain edits. Butter Goods ‘ Indestructible’ promo got me hyped! The skating, filming and soundtrack was all spot on! Also HORNY was dope! Again, loved the soundtrack. Cyrus’s opening section in that was so good with that Tweet tune.
Do you produce all the graphics and artwork yourself or do you have others involved? Have you got any collaborations lined-up?
[Andy] Me and Rich come up with ideas, I’ll make some. If not we pass it over to a friend called Karim who is pretty rad at what he does, even though he’s moved out to Dubai he’s super keen to help so much respect to him. Also Dan Harker, who I think works for Ardman Animations now, helped out with the earlier stuff. We’re not actively working on a collaboration as such but I’d like to do something like the Passion For Baking project we did last year, just something that bridges skateboarding with something not traditionally associated.
What have you got lined up in terms of new decks? Any new artwork that you’re excited about?
[Rich] We’ve actually just been finalising a new graphic with our friend who’s a tattoo artist, we had a lot of people asking about our old waitress board so it’s along those lines. Maybe a pro board or two? We’ve also got a few graphics lined up with Rich T (who did our Cafe Boy graphic a few Summers back)
Where are the boards manufactured?
[Andy] They’re made in Europe, we always liked the shape and quality from the start and they haven’t changed much since the first samples really.
Have you ever thought about producing new shapes?
[Andy] We are actually looking at a few different shapes yeah, mainly for Pro boards or cruisers but we’re generally pretty stoked on the shapes and quality. That said, we’re always up for improving them if we can.
What’s next on the soft goods?
[Andy] We always try to tie things in to the board graphics so I’m sure you’ll see a continuation from the Boards.
Why do you sell umbrellas?
[Andy] Basically because me and Rich wanted Cafe umbrellas! Haha. No but seriously no brand does them really, just wanted to offer something different to shops that they’d sell and maybe not offered from other brands. Every year I’m like ‘damn I need an umbrella’ but never bought one because the shops I go in don’t sell them and I’m too lazy to go elsewhere.
What are the future plans for Skateboard Cafe?
[Andy] I guess that’s down to the reception of the next drop and video. But maybe looking at branching out slightly in other areas fingers crossed, we have a couple of International accounts but I’d like to maybe develop that.
Are you guys inspired to travel and tour more?
[Rich] Yeah I think after the video we’ll get away on some shorter breaks and put out more edits hopefully.
Where do you want to go for your next trip?
[Rich] We always want to go back to NY but I’m not sure how realistic getting all of us there is.
You guys are pretty much Internet based right? Where do you work from and where do you keep all your stock?
[Andy] As far as Skateboard Cafe directly yes, but of course we have all of our stockists. We used to keep it all at my house but it got too much so Wes at Rock Solid Distribution kindly let me store it there with his stuff and after a year or two we made the step to be distributed through him anyway so it’s all kept there.
So you’ve built up a pretty solid list of stockists in the UK now. Did anyone help you put that network together or was it all you?
[Andy] I was doing it initially on my own through people I’ve known for a while but it got too crazy so had to pass it on to Wes at Rock Solid and we added a couple more stores but like I said before we’re being careful expanding things and Wes has been super cool and helpful with not going too far too quick.
What would you say to someone who wanted to start his or her own Skateboard brand?
[Andy] Save. Make sure you know what you’re doing, only do shit you really want to do and believe in and you’ll be fine otherwise you might fail doing something you don’t believe in and that’d suck.
Words: Will Sleigh
Photos: Reece Leung