MAIN STREET — For the first time in more than 30 years, the birthplace of skateboarding revolutionaries the Z-Boys is just an empty shell with little to remind passersby of its historical significance in the world of extreme sports.
Horizons West Surf Shop, founded in 1977 by an original member of the Z-Boys skateboarding crew that developed an aggressive style of street skating that has come to define the sport, closed up shop last month, another victim of the Great Recession.
The skate and surf shop, owned by surfer Randy Wright, occupied a modest, one-story building at the corner of Main and Bay streets that was designated a city landmark in May of 2007 after neighbors and skateboarding enthusiasts erupted in outrage over plans to tear it down and replace it with a mixed-use development. The retail space was the original home of Zephyr and Jeff Ho Productions, whose founders, Skip Engblom and Jeff Ho, created the Zephyr Skate Team, which became known as The Z-Boys.
Wright did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
Those in the surfing industry said the struggling economy, coupled with competition from major chains and a gloomy summer season have put pressure on many mom-and-pop surf operations, which derive most of their revenue from the sale of clothing and other ancillary items, not surf boards or skateboard decks.
Wright took over the shop in the mid-’80s from Z-Boy Nathan Pratt, who founded Horizons after Engblom and Ho dissolved their partnership. Pratt and fellow Z-Boys Stacey Peralta, Jay Adams and Tony Alva, among others, would hang out at the surf shop after school.
Assaf Raz of Dogtown Realty is representing the property owner, Juli Doar, and told the Daily Press that previous plans to redevelop the 87-year-old commercial site have been put on hold because of the economy. Doar submitted plans to erect a LEED certified, three-story apartment complex and retrofit the space that housed Horizons.
Now Doar is looking to bring in a new business that respects the history of the site and the community, Raz said. Raz would not provide more details, saying a lease agreement has not yet been finalized.
However, Raz claims the new venture will “draw people from all over the world,” leading some to speculate that a museum is in the works.
“It’s not just about putting in any businesses,” said Raz who claims to have had several offers for the space. “The owner cares about the community and wants to continue the legacy of the building.”
A goal is to bring in a businesses that can generate more energy at the northern end of Main Street, which hasn’t seen the activity of the southern portion with its many bars, restaurants and boutiques. New developments in the last five years have created a buzz in the northern section, but it still needs more, said Gary Gordon of the Main Street Business Improvement Association.
“It would be great if they can come up with something that can bring people, attract people. That’s what this is all about,” Gordon said.
Decorative lighting was added to help create a sense of connection between north and south, Gordon said, but “the fulfillment is not quite there yet.”
Raz said he will release more details about the new tenant in September.
In the meantime, those with close ties to the landmark are concerned about its future.
Engblom said he was happy to learn that the building still stands, but had several unanswered questions as to what the owner’s plans entail.
“Are they going to have wax sculptures of us?” he said. “Maybe in my later years I could get a job as a curator or something. … Are they going to sell souvenirs? If they aren’t going to have someone in there that is selling surfboards and wet suits and trucks, then it becomes a museum and you have to sell trinkets. … To me it seems like a very strange situation. Are they going to have some major companies come in and create a whole new line of stuff from that old label?”
Engblom feels the old character of Main Street has been diminished by an influx of yuppies and would welcome some venture that works in tandem with the California Heritage Museum to celebrate the Dogtown culture. Engblom said it could be a viable venture given the popularity of the museum’s current exhibit “Skateboard: Evolution and Art in California,” which features more than 275 rare skateboards and has been extended several times because of demand.
“Whomever takes it over, they should do something with the museum and have rotating exhibits there, like an annex space,” he said.
Without some connection the Z-Boys, the historical significance of the worn building is lost. The retail space itself is indistinguishable from like structures. It is the people affiliated with Dogtown who have made the space relevant. It remains to be seen if that will continue without Horizons.