Phase 2: Decking out skateboarders for decades
When Mark Zitzer and his family moved from Arizona to Milwaukee in the early '80s, they were disappointed in the lack of skateboarding shops.
In 1985, when Mark was 15, his parents, James and Priscilla, opened a skateboarding / snowboarding / BMX shop on Milwaukee's East Side called Rad Sports, 2224 N. Farwell Ave. In 1993, the family changed the name to Phase 2.
Mark and his brother, Paul, started boarding as young children. Neither of their parents are skateboarders, but were extremely supportive of their sons' sport of choice and decided to open a store that could accommodate their needs. When they opened the shop, Mark worked in the shop every night after attending high school all day. Today, he is the co-owner of the company.
Paul skated professionally from 1993 until 2003, currently writes for The Skateboard Mag and is a commentator for the Dew Tour, NBC's version of the X Games.
After a few years in business, Phase 2 phased out BMX and snowboarding equipment. Instead, the family-owned shops specialize solely in skateboards, clothing, hats and accessories.
The most popular brand names fluctuate, but currently, the most coveted boards are made by Antihero, Almost, Baker, Element, Girl, Chocolate and Toy Machine. Top-selling skater clothing companies include Krew, Altamont and Matix.
"Basically, we have everything you need to partake in skateboarding culture," says Brian Alland, an employee at Phase 2 on Farwell Avenue.
In 1995, the family opened a second location, also called Phase 2, at 17000 W. Bluemound Rd. The Brookfield-based Phase 2 will move a mile away to a new location, 18110 W. Bluemound Rd., on Aug. 1.
"It's a bigger space with lower rent," says Mark, 39. "Times are tough. Of course we're gonna make it, but we have to figure it out, tighten the belt and keep moving forward."
According to Mark, the Brookfield store sells primarily to kids between the ages of 12 and 18. The East Side shop's customers are generally college-aged or older. Many of the East Side customers started out as Brookfield patrons when they were kids.
Alland says the sport gained popularity with females in the past few years.
"I see a girl in here almost every day," he says.
Mark says, unfortunately, his female customers have a very low return rate. Most girls, he says, buy a board, give it a try but usually don't become repeat customers.
"There's a lot of falling down," he says. "I've been pretty lucky. A couple chipped teeth but no broken bones."
Mark says natural ability is the most important factor in successful skateboarding, closely followed by determination. Alland says his skateboarding varies from day to day. One day he'll have a great experience on the board, and the next day he'll struggle with it.
"It takes countless hours of practice," says Alland. "Commitment and determination are key. You gotta have stamina."
Mark says helmets and pads are important for beginners, even though you rarely see a skateboarder wearing them when riding for transportation.
"I had full pads from my wrists to knees when I started," he says.
Since the mid '90s, Phase 2 has specialized in longboards, which are longer and wider skateboards that were invented in California in the '50s during the surf craze. Longboard riders usually rely on the boards for transportation and, because of their size, are less likely to perform skateboarding tricks with them.
"They're easier to ride," says Mark. "And they're a cheaper, easier form of transportation than a bike. You don't have to lock 'em up."
Alland says skateboarding's popularity waxes and wanes, but events like the X Games and professional skateboarder Ron Dyrdek's TV shows, "Rob and Big" and "Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory," have made the sport more mainstream.
"X Games really made skating more 'acceptable,'" says Alland. "Before that, a lot of people saw skaters as just a bunch of punks."
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