I was delighted to see Burt Navarrete pictured on a skateboard on the cover of the March 6 edition of U.S. 1 at his newly launched Tigerlabs entrepreneurship center. As someone who both skateboarded and started a business as a teenager, this image — and the inclusion of words like “Innovation” and “High Energy” with it — were particularly appealing to me.
I started ABF Skate Shop Inc. at the front of my mother’s florist in North Brunswick in 1988 when I was 13 years old. During the ensuing decade ABF Skate Shop came to dominate the Central Jersey skateboarding scene. I learned a great deal about small business, entrepreneurship, and most of all, PASSION, during that time — traits that serve me well today. (I closed ABF in 1999 to pursue other interests.)
I have always felt that there is a strong relationship between the creative, solitary nature of skateboarding and the successful entrepreneur. Being able to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds when almost everyone is against you. Perhaps skateboarding legend Tony Alva put it best in a 2006 Entrepreneur Magazine article when he said “[Skateboarding] is about getting on the board and feeling that exhilaration, the speed and control; business [is the] same.”
And Alva and I are not alone, as many of ABF’s old skateboarding customers now run successful, creative businesses of their own. Like, for example, New Brunswick skater Ian Haliday, who now runs the nationally renowned Coffee Slingers Roasters in Oklahoma City with his wife.
Or Califon’s Todd Laffler, whose Laffler Photography is one of the premier wedding photographers in the Tri-State area. When he wasn’t riding his skateboard himself, he was shooting his skateboarding friends and their death-defying moves.
Or Bernie Cuddy, a North Brunswick native who is busy growing his Dato Skateboards and Clothing into an international brand.
I wish Navarrete and his entrepreneurship center success. And I thank both you and he both for providing a positive, uplifting image of skateboarding that, I feel, is sorely overdue.
I realize Navarrete’s Tigerlabs has little to do with skateboarding, but nevertheless the image is meaningful and powerful. As I put it on the ABF Skate Shop Facebook page recently when I shared the U.S. 1 cover photo: “Is the skateboard coming to represent high energy innovation and entrepreneurship? This is good!”
Matthew A. Danza, PE
Danza, former president of ABF Skate Shop, is now a structural engineer at John Maltese Iron Works Inc., a structural steel fabricator and erector based on Jersey Avenue in North Brunswick.