“Skaters serving skaters.”
That’s how owner Ray Young describes his new skate shop, which sits conspicuously on a small retail stretch along S. Front Street in Steelton.
For years, Rayzor Tattoos was, well, a place to get a tattoo, though always with one foot in the skate world. But now, right next door, it has vastly expanded its commitment by opening The Skate Shop, featuring a variety of gear, whether you’re a ripper or don’t know an ollie from a tail grab.
The shop, with something of a steampunk aesthetic, gives the impression that it’s been around for years, when it actually just celebrated its grand opening in August. I found myself staring at the Japanese-style art adorning a back-exit door while waiting on Manager Joe Vandalle, who was tightening a set of wheels for a customer.
As I walked around, the pair’s commitment to art was clear, both in tattoos and skateboarding. And the shop itself showed a carefully curated selection of boards, parts, accessories and apparel.
“Having more space allows us to have more brands,” Vandalle explained. “We are 100-percent skater owned and operated.”
This is beneficial for two crucial reasons. First off, by having more room to work with, the pair can continue to expand their business. Secondly, as skateboarders, they have firsthand experience with the goods for sale. You wouldn’t go to a car mechanic to fix your guitar. The same rules apply here.
“We’re skaters serving skaters,” Vandalle reiterated. “We basically don’t sell anything we wouldn’t ride.”
Vandalle and Young did not seem quite the typical businessmen. Young had slicked-back hair and strutted in the casual-yet-determined manner of a rock musician. Vandalle was more clean-cut, yet wordier. Each seemed perfect for their roles in the shop.
Quite possibly the only thing they had in common with tradition was a commitment to their brand and an animalistic tendency to guard it. On the idea of other shops following suit, Young said, “They may be copying us.”
The pair is also about community, devoted to re-energizing Steelton. They were instrumental in working with the borough to replace little-used tennis courts in Municipal Park with the area’s first free skate park, a 10,000-square-foot skaters’ paradise that opened last month.
“We love skating and what it does for the community, and we’re proud for the park to be opening,” Young said. “We’re very pleased with what skating has done in our lives.”
In addition to their work with Rayzor, they also find time for Get on Board for Autism, a charity that works with autistic kids. The program teaches children the joys of skateboarding in a safe environment, away from any competitive pressure. It also hosts skateboard art exhibits, most recently at Zeroday Brewing Co., which helps to raise money for the organization.
Indeed, Rayzor has gone far beyond any old cliché of a tattoo parlor, reflecting a modern trend of commitment to art, community and family, something also increasingly seen in the skate world. On a given day, you’re just as likely to see a mom stop in with her kid to shop for a new board as a tattooed ripper.
“Skateboarding is diversity,” Vandalle explained. “People come in, in all aspects.”
Rayzor Tattoo & Skate Shop is located at 2-4 S. Front St., Steelton. For more information, visit www.rayzortattoos.com or call 717-939-2222.