Every month, we feature the work of one of our members. Our members range from business owners to nonprofit leaders, and this month's feature is both. Here is our interview with Robert Boyle and his non-profit Alchemy Skate and business Grit City Grindhouse.
Tell us how you/the venture got started.
My business partner and I started Grit City Grindhouse, a retail skate shop, which is at the front of the Alchemy Skateboarding, partially because we didn't see a skate shop that supported youth and a community, which Tacoma really needed. We got our business up and running through Spaceworks. Alchemy Skateboarding was a small group of volunteers that were meeting in the extra 2,000 square feet. The vision was to develop an indoor skatepark that had services for youth. A year after that we had the opportunity to start the skateboarding class with Science and Math Institute and School of the Arts high schools. Six months ago I transitioned to be executive director of Alchemy. The retails store and the nonprofit works with one another to make one another stronger.
Who are your customers/community and how do they find you?
Alchemy has a wide variety of participants. The skate class are filled by local high school students. They participate in the class and get high school credit to learn how to skate, as well as learn about the history of skateboarding such as the history of marginalization in the 1990's so they understand the context of their skating.
We also sponsor an Alchemy Youth Leadership Team (SALT), which is a cohort of youth who get extra curricular credit to be more engaged leaders in the skateboard community. They do a lot of community service and speak to local entrepreneurs and business people, as well as advocate with local elected officials on behalf of skateboarding. Engaging them in advocacy gives them agency. They also get to be mentors to younger kids through our skate camps, which we offer the third week of July through August for ages 5-12. They are a fun way to learn to skate and teach kids determination, grit, and creativity.
[Our Skate Camps] are a fun way to learn to skate and teach kids determination, grit, and creativity.
We've been doing the skate camps for three years and have had a great success record with both safety and fun. We actually serve 150 youth a month. We also partner with the Pierce County Juvenile Court on a program called METALS (Mentoring, Educating, Transforming, and Leading, through Skateboarding) to provide active mentors and a positive environment.
Our secret is how we engage youth. Taylor (my partner) is an incredibly masterful teacher. He can take a group of kids that are not excited about anything and after two weeks have them deeply passionate, and use skateboarding as a compass to better their lives. That's almost literally what they said to us. They've said, "I never knew I could learn so much from one object."
We use skateboarding as a metaphor for everything. That's what powerful about it. It's not just a sport, it's an art form, it's a culture, and touches so many aspects of daily culture that a lot of people can engage with. We also have drop in hours, that is a chance for anyone in the community to come and skate at the park. It's $5 but we don't turn anyone away. Scholarships are easy to sign up for. We're all about providing a positive space.
We use skateboarding as a metaphor for everything. That's what powerful about it. It's not just a sport, it's an art form, it's a culture...
Tell us about one of the biggest obstacles you have faced in your work and how you overcame it.
We're a very young nonprofit. Capacity is our biggest struggle, as well as making time for the staff to have self care. It's all about the mission for us. We're so dedicated to serving youth in Tacoma, but we have to find that down time too, for ourselves. We'd like to grow and with greater capacity we could deepen our impact. That comes down to community support.
Where do you see the work/venture five years from now?
We'd really like to serve more youth, to be in more schools, and we would like to see skaters recognized in the city as an integral part of the Tacoma community. To see skaters thanked for their contributions to the city.
What do you love about Tacoma?
I think that Tacoma really has a lot of grit. Tacoma has seen a lot and there's so many people who are dedicated to making the city better for all of the people in it. Alchemy is a small piece of that.
What made you choose Union Club? What has your experience been like and who would you recommend it for?
It happens to be a block away from Alchemy. Part of my role is to be incredibly connected to hear from the community around me. Union Club is an opportunity for us. It's a great way to connect with folks. I'd recommend it for anybody who's looking for comfortable furniture, great internet, and an opportunity to network.
Where can people go to support your business/organization?
Visit us at alchemyskateboarding.org and check out our summer skate camps running now alchemyskateboarding.org/skatecamps. You can also come check out our skate shop gritcitygrindhouse.com at 311 S. 7th St (around the corner from Union Club) Tuesday through Sunday 11A-6P.