Galeazzo and Sante Bentivoglio grew up surfing and skating all over town. The brothers, Galeazzo, 27, and Sante, 25, skated at Douglas Park near their home, hung out at the old Boys and Girls Club skate shop and surfed as often as they could. Just like sharing a last name and DNA, they also shared a passion for skating and surfing. So it was no surprise that 14 months ago the two decided to open Bay Street Boards, their own surf and skate shop in Santa Monica.
“Basically we just kind of felt there was a need for a local shop,” Galeazzo said. “A lot of shops that used to be around closed. Now it’s the really big kind of corporate stores. A lot of what used to be in surfing and skating was missing. So we decided to open our own little thing.”
They don’t have a lot of apparel, just the “essential accessories.” They strive to carry locally made boards. And that seems to be working for them.
“I think the reception we’ve got, the feedback we’ve got is positive. We have a lot of friends we knew that surf, skate, whatever. Starting up was kind of difficult. You know at the beginning it is always tough. But we are in it for the long haul. And we got a following through social media and word of mouth.”
Bay Street Boards is small and family owned. Galeazzo and Sante’s younger brother Francesco, 16, helps them out sometimes. And that family touch may mean something to the community, but it definitely means something to the owners.
“We clash, we fight, we get at it but at the end of the day that’s another source of pride for me” Sante said. “I don’t work for anyone else. It’s my brother man. I really feel happy when I tell people [Galeazzo] and I started a business. We’ve been together our whole lives. It’s been me and my big brother always doing everything. We’re still here, we’re still doing everything together. We’re still learning, we’re still figuring things out. It’s hard, but I’m proud. I think we get a lot of things done and we both compliment each other in a lot of ways … Our differences are what really brings the shop together.”
Galeazzo is proud of Sante’s influence in the skating community, a photo of him skating at the Boys and Girls Club at 12-years-old once graced the pages of the Daily Press, as well as his artistic ability. Sante’s art, which can be found through out of the shop, is just another thing the brothers think separates them from the larger shops.
“A lot of big companies dominate surfing now. Everything is being manufactured really cheaply. That’s when all the small shops got run out. So we want to be local shapers, part of our local community,” Galeazzo said. And the shop is giving back to the community in several ways, including donating money to non-profits like Pier Drift, which provides water filters to communities that don’t have clean water.
But Galeazzo will tell you one of the biggest ways they give back is trying to bring back the surf and skate culture that originated in Santa Monica.
“Santa Monica and Venice really popularized modern surfing and skating. You know every pro skater has to come out to LA. If you are a really great skater in Minnesota you have to come out to LA. You have to be here. This is where it is at. But people don’t really care about the culture that was created 20, 30 years ago. It was such a close-knit community and I think it was such a big part of the Westside community. Skating crazy pools and doing crazy tricks. A lot of it is lost.”
And one of the ways they think they can bring back the culture is through the way they run their business.
“People really like us,” Galeazzo said. “We focus on customer service, try to be really friendly, try to talk to people. People like to just come here and hang out and talk.”
The shop also has something the corporate chains don’t, an Uncle Sherm.
“Sherman is our ding repair guy and he’s the best in the city,” Galeazzo said. “Sherman is a true Santa Monica local. He’s been living here over 60 years, surfing daily, repairing boards and occasionally shaping boards as well. He’s at the shop every single day … Really a staple in the surf community here. Everybody knows and loves him … He calls [the store] ‘the brotherhood of the neighborhood,’ and we like that.”
Galeazzo and Sante know they are out numbered by the big corporate stores, but they aren’t worried about it too much.
“That’s fine. There’s room for that. But people who live to skate, who do it all day. That’s what we do, what we love. A lot of people have forgotten about it. But we haven’t.”