The shop is only three months old, but Souldiers Skate Shop has connections to the boarding culture in the city for years.
Having opened three months ago at their 67 Toronto Street location, Souldiers specializes in all things skateboarding. There are boards, wheels, clothing and anything else one might need to get their wheels moving. Dan runs the location (one of three) and knows the lifestyle that is skateboarding having been a part of it from a very young age.
“I was born and raised in Barrie and have been boarding since I was about 11 or 12 years old,” said Dan. “I started to find that this town didn’t have a true skate scene like it did when I was growing up. Everybody used to know everybody and hang out doing tricks; not a lot of people do that anymore or at least its spread out and spread thin. I want to help bring that culture back and see it thrive like it used to.”
The shop is located strategically near the skate park downtown in Queen’s Park and is hoping that gets kids and adults from one spot to the other quicker. Souldiers has all the gear you need to get started or continue on with, and stays true to the culture of boarding.
“Product -wise we are only skateboarding as anything else tends to rub us who are in the culture the wrong way,” said Dan. “We don’t carry anything that isn’t a skateboarding brand or isn’t from a company that doesn’t give back to the skateboarding lifestyle. There is probably a lot of stuff that would be more profitable and bring in more clientele, but we stay away from that because again, we’re trying to pull things back to the way it used to be. Real skateboard brands have a hard enough time coming out on top with everything that’s out there, so we try to do our part and stay true.”
Companies like Creature and Antihero are popular and in abundance at Souldiers as are other products from businesses that are skater owned and operated. The “underground” feel has long been associated with the skater lifestyle and is something that skaters try to maintain as society tends to usually look down on them for. The double standard of ten kids playing ball hockey on the street being so Canadian while ten kids boarding is a bad thing isn’t lost on Dan.
“Barrie used to have a really bad reputation for skateboarders and the park we have,” said Dan. “I can remember not even a handful of incidences where cops busted people at the skate park and folks started looking down on us. The truth is, the people busted had nothing to with the boarders and didn’t even have skateboards; they were there doing bad stuff and the culture got blamed. None of us ever wanted the bad people and drugs coming around because it looked terrible for all of us.”
All sizes of boards, brands of skater clothes and grips fill the store, but it’s again the culture that Dan and Souldiers are trying to promote. With product availability obviously key to getting the activity more popular, Dan has long been having events and even an awards ceremony much like the Academy Awards, which are created to get people more involved.
“We’ve done several events already as the whole idea was to give back and positively promote boarding,” said Dan. “There’s an event held every year called Go Skateboarding Day and we went out with a couple thousand dollars worth of product and gave it out to just about everybody; it didn’t matter if you good, bad, new, or a veteran, we just did a product toss. But there were fun things we sponsored like best trick on a certain obstacle and that type of thing was really well-received. We do Slappy contests at a guy’s house where close to 30 people came out and tried different tricks. It was like a scene out of the eighties with all the people ranged 13 to 30 just laughing and hanging out. Most recently was our King Of The Road competition which is kind of like a scavenger hunt but with tasks that you do around town. We had different teams trying to get the most points and then turned it into a video premiere that we held at The Foxx on Dunlop.”
An annual event also held at The Foxx is the Barrie Skateboard Awards which has skaters film their best tricks and send them to Dan where they are looked at and trophies are given out in Oscars manner.
“It started about seven years ago as a joke and has really taken off,” said Dan. “Its just funny to go up and announce ‘and the nominees for the Best Kick-Flip are’; it’s all done with humour but it’s also such a great way to boost that community spirit. Boarding is usually, for me anyways, a sport where the parents didn’t have money to put the kids in hockey or baseball so you get a board and off you go. It starts as a great release and turns into a great life-long passion.”
You can find more information on the shop on Facebook and Instagram @SouldiersBarrie