Many fledgling companies emerged from a garage, including Apple, Google, Amazon and Disney.
Now, a College Estates garage has birthed the artsy Gram and Pop Skateboard Shop.
Launched by Ricky Milroy in 2012 out of his grandparent’s garage, Gram and Pop sells an assortment of affordable, high-quality skateboard products.
“It’s really word-of-mouth right now,” said Milory, 23, a Southwestern College student. “I’m in the process of making a website and being able to please a bigger customer base.”
Milroy’s shop touts a gamut of hard goods like boards, wheels, bearings, bolts and trucks.
“I started with a few boards and I grew from there, getting all the parts, getting all the accessories, different shapes, cruisers and long boards,” he said.
Milroy said his best sellers are blanks, boards that are generic and have no graphics whatsoever, which customers prefer over pricey brand-name boards. A unique service he provides is “customs,” boards he designs based on his customers’ specific instructions. Laser engraving, applying sticker decal and spray-painting stencil images are a few options.
Although Gram and Pop is currently resigned to a garage, Milroy said he sometimes takes his shop on the road via his 1985 Toyota van. In addition to visiting local skate parks where he scopes for prospective clients, he said he sets up shop at local venues such as Bonitafest, Chula Vista’s Lemon Festival, Bonita’s Chili Cook Off and SWC’s OpenAire Marketplace. Sometimes, he said, if he gets a text or call, he can even deliver for a small fee.
Patti and Walt Roberts, Milroy’s grandparents, are Gram and Pop’s namesakes. Mrs. Roberts said she is extremely proud of her grandson. She said she and her husband raised Milroy and his sister, Mikayla, after their parents died when they were two and 10-months old, respectively.
Roberts said in 2012 when Milroy broke the news about the shop’s name, she was quite surprised and it brought a tear to her eye. She is his unpaid staff.
“If he’s not home, the kids know – a lot of kids come with their parents – and so I’ll call him and say ‘Ricky, (customers) are here. You have to come home.’ And he does,” she said.
Roberts said she used to run a ceramic business and currently runs a gardening business with her husband, which explains where Milroy inherited his entrepreneurial spirit.
Bianca Farias, Milroy’s girlfriend, said his skate shop is “awesome” and added that he has wanted one for “so long.”
“Not many people can say that they’re doing what they want to do,” she said.
Last semester Milroy had an exhibit in the SWC Student Art Gallery where he sold products. Artists he knew contributed boards. A projector streamed skate videos onto a white backdrop as herds of students wedged themselves through eager crowds.
“A lot of people went out of their way to promote what I did,” he said. “Someone made a full slide show and put it up on Google.”
Despite his growing reputation, Milroy said Gram and Pop is far from where he wants it to be.
“I want to work towards having maybe a warehouse and my own skate park and skate shop in the warehouse,” he said. “Kind of all in one.”
Milroy said he supports San Diego shops like Route 44, which are not mainstream, and deplores shops like Zumiez, which are. Overall though, he said he felt like there was something lacking in every shop and wanted to create his own to fill the void.
Jim Ruonala, owner of Pacific Drive Skate Shop in Pacific Beach, wanted to fill a void, too. In 1987 he founded Pacific Drive in tiny 500-square-foot space. In 1991 he moved his shop to where it has been ever since, a narrow garage near the beachfront boardwalk where bikini’d blondes tan and skaters skate. Ruonala said it is important to support local shops because it helps the progression of skateboarding.
“(Local shops) bring up kids that are good and help them out,” he said. “Skate shops are there to find those kids, bring them up and get them in touch with the companies (and) be the intermediary between them.”
Skateboard product manufactures, he explained, are in industrial complexes, which are often found in the middle of nowhere.
“Selling skateboard product at other places… doesn’t do skateboarding as much good,” he said. “The board of directors at Zumiez… they are not involved in skateboarding day to day, so they really don’t care that much about skateboarding. They care about the bottom line.”
For now, Milroy said he buys boards and other products from a third party at a slight discount. Other items, like trucks, he reluctantly buys from Zumiez. Companies that sell trucks at wholesale prices will not sell to him, he said, because he does not have “a brick building.”
Perhaps now a Hollywood ending is in order for Milroy, who does not expect get rich quick, but has dreams.
Garage legends Apple, Google, Amazon, Disney and Pacific Drive have shown that a business card-carrying member of their club can go big. Milroy, the Chairman of the Board, is clearly on a roll.