By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
Standing in the middle of the Ronceverte skate park, you look across the railroad tracks towards town. Underneath the old Workman Bridge, now stripped to its beams, you can barely see the soft glow of a leg lamp in a large frame window. It’s backlighting a black vinyl decal in the shape of a lightning bolt. Large block letters announce: “Ronceverte Skate Shop.” It may be on the wrong side of the tracks from the park, but it feels so right. Like it’s a long lost puzzle piece you’ve finally found.
After building a skate park more than a decade ago, the town is elated to welcome the Ronceverte Skate Shop as a new business. Located along Edgar Avenue by the post office, it’s set for a grand opening this Friday from 10am-6pm.
Like its owners, James & Joanne Holt, the skate shop oozes cool. Trucker hats, gum-soled shoes, fat tire bikes, and skate boards galore. Some of the skateboards are made right here in West Virginia (Apartment Skateboards, based in Charleston). There’s a living room in the back of the store with a couch that calls your name. And while the mural on the wall beside the couch is a surprise you need to see for yourself, let’s just say it’s a duck unlike any other.
Why is there a monkey on the logo?
The main store logo includes a monkey, an historical nod to the monkey graveyard located in town. Long story short, it was an awful mishap resulting from a stalled circus train inside a tunnel, which killed all the monkeys onboard after an exhaust buildup. Ronceverte was the next stop for the train, so they buried them here along the tracks before they set up the circus in town. It’s the only known grave of its kind.
‘Kids need to be kids’
When James and Joanne Holt moved to Greenbrier County from northern Virginia, they routinely saw vehicles with thousands of dollars of biking equipment. Yet, most of the vehicles were tourists. They didn’t see many locals, especially kids, taking part in action sports.
“Kids need an outlet to be kids,” says James. “There’s a lack of accessibility to action sports right now. This fills a gap.”
They chose to focus on skateboarding because, “It’s an easy entry sport,” according to Joanne. Meaning most kids can pick it up quickly.
James grew up skateboarding but says he doesn’t do it much any more. “My balance isn’t what it used to be,” he jokes.
“The only thing that separates a beginner from someone who’s really good is practice,” he says. He believes if kids have the opportunity to try out the sport, it will positively impact them. They may or may not keep skateboarding, but they will expand their horizons, get active, and be willing to take on new challenges.
When people hear a skate shop is coming to the region, they often assume it’s coming to Lewisburg. But for the Holts, Ronceverte makes perfect sense.
Joanne says with a smile, “If Lewisburg is the older sister who makes straight A’s, then Ronceverte is the rough and tumble little brother. We think a skate shop fits the energy in Ronceverte.”
James echoes that, saying, “Ronceverte is a blue collar town. There’s a lot of new energy here right now. It just fits.”
When you talk to the Holts, they obviously love the community and the skate shop. But what really lights their fire is their non-profit work. They have two kids and spend a lot of time volunteering with local sports and schools.
As a result, they know kids need extra attention these days. So they started a non-profit called Rural Appalachian Action Sports Development (RAAD). For more info, visit them online at www.TheRAAD.org.
RAAD will host contests and events for kids in the community through the skate shop. “Not all families have money for their kids to try action sports,” says James.
That’s why the shop will have what they’re calling a “RAAD Rack,” containing gear and boards that people donate for others to use. Kids pay what they can for those items, and all the proceeds will go back to RAAD to spread action sports to more kids.
The Greenbrier County Chamber of Commerce is hosting “Business After Hours” at the skate shop this Thursday, March 16, at 5:30pm. The public is welcome to attend.
The following day, March 17, the skate shop will officially open from 10am-6pm. Regular hours will be announced soon. Customers can always shop via appointment by contacting the Holts online.
For more information, visit www.TheRonceverteSkateShop.com, call them at 304-207-0234, or stop by 543 Edgar Avenue in Ronceverte. They are located beside the post office, underneath the bridge. They will leave the leg lamp light on for you.