A south New Jersey skateboarding company put skateboarder Robb Hart on a billboard when he was 12.
Hart grew up in the Virginia Beach area, where skateboarding engaged almost all kids of the 1980s, he said. He took part in skateboarding competitions and won a few.
In his 20s, he tried music as a career, but gave that up. When he walked away from his music career, a high school friend named Dan McCollister pulled him back into the skateboarding scene.
“He posted on Facebook that he was opening a new shop in Long Beach Island, N.J., where as teenagers we spent our summers surfing and skating,” Hart said.
Hart commented on the Facebook feed that McCollister should let him run the shop for the summer. McCollister responded by calling Hart and asking him to run the Black Diamond Skate Park, which he planned on opening in Lawrenceville at Discovery Mills in 2012.
Black Diamond has closed, Hart said, and Hart, now 40, has been contracted by the city of Dunwoody to run Brook Run Skate Park.
“During my time running Black Diamond, some of the public started to rally and say that I should run Brook Run’s Skate Park, so I started to pay attention,” Hart said.
Dunwoody City Council on Sept. 22 voted unanimously to approve a contract for concessionaires Hart and Ian Awbery to sell drinks and provide skateboard programming at Brook Run.
Brent Walker, the parks manager for Dunwoody, said before Dunwoody took over the parks, in 2010, DeKalb was running the skate park and operating at a loss. Though the city charged $3 entry fees, overhead costs were more than the park brought in, Walker said.
Dunwoody allowed free entry to the skate park, and provided space for Woody’s Halfpipe, a skateboard shop. When the owners got out of the business, the city appealed to bidders because they wanted someone present at the park, Walker
What Hart and Awbery wanted to do met the city’s needs. “Their vision aligned well with the city’s vision,” Walker said.
The programming offered by Hart and Awbery will help “showcase the facility” with its concentration on programs, lessons and special events, Walker said.
Hart said he plans to focus on this business, which he and Awbery named Lay Back Grind, LLC. Their first goal is meeting the needs of the community with skateboarding-related programming.
They plan to ease into selling, starting only with drinks, Hart said.
“Our idea is to evolve it into something that isn’t just skateboarding. Our plans are to evolve the shack—that’s what it is right now—where Woody’s Halfpipe was.”
Growing the business from vending machines with drinks into a space offering affordable food, juice and coffee is part of the long-term plans for Lay Back Grind, Hart said.
They plan to help clean up the area by painting, power-washing and even scraping gum off surfaces, Hart said.
“Our first goal at hand is to clean up the skate park and get organization and structure in place,” Hart said. “I want to see what the needs are as we grow the business, but we know you need drinks, lessons and some kind of structure in the park.”
The business operates for profit. Council members agreed the city would collect a flat rate of $100 per month.
“I see it being successful because they’re knowledgeable business guys who are already familiar with the skate community, and [they] can get a feel for what the skate community will respond to,” Walker said.