“I’m 19 forever with my skates on,” is how old Matt Mickey responded when I asked him his age. This is the exact same age I feel when I’m cruising through urban landscapes, distance skating down country roads or hitting the skatepark with some friends. For many of us seasoned skaters, blading is the fountain of youth… the DMV however may not agree. At 38-years-old Matt has been on his skates for the past 24 of those years, primarily as an aggressive street and park skater. And for the last 18 years, he has been running Intuition Skate Shop in Bakersfield, California.
Back when I lived in San Diego in the 2000s, my friends and I would stop by Intuition anytime we went on tour or were on our way to skate Woodward West. I was always impressed by Matt’s hard work, love and dedication to blading. Not only to help foster the scene in his hometown, but to help blading shine and grow around the world. Both Matt and Intuition have been a valuable asset and blessing to our sport for almost two decades. So it was due time that I reached out for an interview to discuss Intuition’s longevity, Matt’s involvement in blading and what the future holds for Intuition Skate Shop.
How did Intuition start?
Intuition started because my great friend Ray Tolentino’s Dad was a property owner and had a storefront available. He heard Ray and I talking about wanting to start a skate shop, so he offered to lease us our first location with two months of free rent!
How many locations have you had?
Intuition is in its third and largest space, which opened in 2006. Like all of our past locations, the current store is in downtown Bakersfield.
What keeps your going?
Rollerblading took a hold of my heart back when I was 16, and hasn’t let go. I still have so much fun skating. Hell, I learned a new line at the last Thursday Night Skate and it felt so damn good!
What is your favorite part of running a shop?
My favorite part of running a shop is seeing the fire ignite in someone when they put on skates for the first time. I also love when I see a person return to skating from a long absence. Knowing that they have unlocked the route to the ultimate adventure and form of creativity. I have found that path again, after straying off it.
What ways are you involved in the blading community outside of Intuition?
I announce and commentate for the Blading Cup and other contests and events. Intuition also hosts an annual week at Woodward West skate camp, where some of the team riders and myself will skate with and help teach the campers. This is supported by many brands in the industry, which allows us to ensure all campers go home juiced on skating and equipped to stay active on blades. The 12th Annual Woodward Intuition Week will take place from July 14th-20th, 2019. Save $100 when you sign up by Jan 31st via WoodwardWest.com.
I also write for ONE Magazine from time to time.
How have you managed to adapt with the time and stay in business when so many other retailers have shut down?
For me, it was never a question of “Is Intuition going to survive?” Many people come into the shop and ask if I’m the owner. Often I will say to them, “I’m usually here six days a week, but the shop belongs to whoever comes in here and needs skating gear.”
Intuition will continue to be a mainstay because inline skating is still the biggest thing to me! It is disheartening that other retailers have closed up. However, several new inline storefronts have opened up in America within the last couple of years and I know that they can succeed too!
Have you had to re-invent your business model?
We have not had to re-invent our business model, so to speak. But for the last 5-6 years, we have also carried roller skates, in addition to inline skates.
The emergence of Big Wheel Blading and Tri-Skates has brought a whole new demographic through the doors here at Intuition. This has helped us gain recognition and sales, and also been a catalyst to broadening our product selection. Big Wheel Blading has definitely helped Intuition grow over the last 2-3 years.
Have you noticed any significant change in the numbers of people participating in recreational skating vs. aggressive skating in the US in the past several years?
Yes. There are clearly more people (men, women, and kids) participating in skating, whether it be cruising the bike trail, at roller rinks or at the skate park. Additionally, the last 2-3 years has seen a sustained surge in guys coming “Back to Blading” after years away from the aggressive scene. This is fantastic! Almost every day we receive a call or a walk-in, that begins their conversation by saying “I haven’t bladed in years…”
Sometimes they have been away from the game two decades! And often times they have a kid (or kids) who they get on skates for the first time, while they get back in the saddle. Rollerblading is old enough now to be generational, and it is inspiring to see so many Dads (and Moms) re-embrace what they had fun doing growing up and sharing that with their kids.
How important was picking your location to the success of the business?
Living and running a business in Bakersfield is relatively cheap, compared with anywhere else in California. And luckily for Intuition, Bakersfield is strategically located 1.5 hours north of Los Angeles, and 4 hours south of San Francisco. So we are pretty much smack dab in the middle of California, which is the nucleus for the worldwide skate scene. That happened out of pure fate, as I was born and raised here in the town that Buck Owens built, and God forgot.
Do you offer skate lessons?
We do not offer skate lessons. However, we have printed info from our three local roller rinks (Skateland, Rollerama, and Rollerama West) that includes lesson times, and their open session schedules. We definitely support our local roller rinks!
Do you sell quads?
Yes, we do sell quads. Intuition is a proud dealer for Sure Grip, Riedell, Moxi, and Chaya. We also sell Triple 8, 187 Killer Pads, Smith Scabs, Ennui, Lux Armor, and Sisu protective gear.
What can someone do in their hometown to help inline skating grow?
I still feel the most powerful thing you can do to promote skating in your hometown is to simply continue skating. If you’re out rolling on the bike path, at the skate park or in your neighborhood, people will naturally see that. You cannot help but meet other skaters and peak future and fellow skaters’ interest at the same time.
Scheduled frequent sessions, and online groups (Facebook, group texts, etc.) are a great way to maintain a healthy scene. And that doesn’t cost a dime! We have a weekly Thursday Night Skate (TNS) session from 6-10pm at the Taft, CA skate park, located 30 minutes west of Bakersfield. Many times, we’ll have skaters from out of town roll through and occasionally international skaters will drop in on their holidays. Our TNS sessions are promoted through Intuition’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, and anyone on wheels is welcome.
Are most of your sales online or in-store?
We are still brick and mortar first, with people driving from all over, just to be able to try on and compare skates. However, half of our sales are from walk-in clients and half are from phone and online orders. During the Christmas season (Black Friday through mid – January), that percentage skews towards online sales being the lion share.
What other countries do you sell to?
Intuition ships internationally, and has done so for over 15 years. Essentially, if you come to us for skates, and the payment is secured, we’ve got you covered!
How many people come into you store on average during the week and then on the weekend?
During an average week, Intuition will see 15 – 40 walk-in clients. Some are just browsing, some mistakenly think we sell skateboards, and a good deal of them make purchases. On Saturdays, we usually get 5-15 people throughout the day. Intuition is closed Sundays for skating, church, combing the yard, and inner tubing the KILLER KERN RIVER in the summer.
What do you think would help skating be more successful?
I think that making a collective and consorted effort to keep blading kid and family friendly will only help our numbers grow.
Would you ever consider carrying speed skating products?
Yes. Intuition actually offers special order services to any inquiring clients for speed skating brands like Powerslide, Matter, Hyper, etc.
What sets your store apart from others?
Intuition prides itself on being brick and mortar first. That serves two main purposes. First allowing clients to try on and compare skates to get the right fit. And we all know comfort is Rule #1 when it comes to skates. Secondly creating a scene where you can meet other bladers, check out and purchase skate gear from actual bladers, and maintain a physical hub that gives skaters the world over a place to call home.
What achievement are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the fact that no matter where I go, people are always asking if I have any of my Mom’s World Famous Homemade Intuition Cookies. Thanks, Mom! (Note: You can always pick up a fresh bag at the Blading Cup every year!) Her support is herculean!
Did you ever have any periods where you thought you might not make it?
Yes, after a fire on October 22, 2004 burned down the adjacent Mexican restaurant and nail salon at Intuition’s original location. It was devastating for us. But after cleaning out the old shop, and sifting through what the flames had torched and what we could keep, my senses came to me. I soon found it wasn’t up to me to quit or continue on. Rollerblading needed Intuition. That was a tough year though…
What was the most successful period for you?
The most successful period for Intuition is no doubt the time from Blading Cup through Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday until mid January. Although this past February, when Jon Julio launched pre-orders for his new Them Skates brand, we had our single most successful day in the history of Intuition – by 12 noon!
Are there a significant amount of aggressive skaters switching over to big wheel aggressive frame set-ups?
Yes. The Oysius frames are especially rising in popularity.
Do you think inline retailers need to sell items outside of inline skating to stay afloat?
I think that is absolutely worth considering selling ‘complimentary’ products. And by that I mean, products and brands that don’t detract from your inline base. Intuition started selling roller skates, quad skates and related accessories 5-6 years ago in response to increasing requests for those products. Even the local roller rinks pro shops don’t have what quad skaters are looking for.
So to nurture their scene, and strengthen our business model, Intuition proudly caters to roller skaters and inline skaters alike. A lot of kids start out on quads as they find them more stable. And many veteran skaters prefer quads, as that is what they have skated for decades on end. When it comes down to it, we use the same bearings, and all the protective gear translates over, so it’s really a win-win.
Does Bakersfield have any recreational social skates?
We did just participate in the Holiday Lights Roll Out, in conjunction with Bike Bakersfield, which is an “active transportation” organization here in Bakersfield. Intuition partnered with Chicks in Bowls Bakersfield, Skateland Roller Rink, and the Bakersfield Diamond Divas Roller Derby Team, to participate in the event. It was a success, and Bike Bakersfield contacted us to express interest in continuing to work together in the future! Stay tuned…
How is the aggressive scene in the Bakersfield area?
The aggressive inline scene in Bakersfield and Central California is as healthy as it’s ever been!
What are your most popular selling products?
Our best selling products are Them Skates, Razors, Roces, K2 kids skates (adjustable Boys and Girls skates), all types of wheels and bearings, and Intuition apparel. (Especially the Chris Haffey t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts)
How many recreational skates do you sell compared to aggressive?
We probably sell one pair of recreational, fitness and Tri-Skates for every three to five pairs of aggressive skates that roll out the door.
Where do you see Intuition Skate Shop in the future?
In the future, I see Intuition Skate Shop helping inline skating grow by getting the retail (think try on!) experience into more densely populated areas and major cities. Whether that is through brick and mortar, pop up shops or mobile shops. The biggest hurdle in buying skates is finding the right fit (read: comfort!). If we can overcome the public’s access to trying on skates, the sky is the limit! We all know how amazingly fun skating is, now let’s get more people into comfortable skates and involved in active skating lifestyles!
What are you current personal setups?
My current set up is as classic as a pitcher of sun tea! Razors Cream skates (Cults) with stock liners, Ground Control Featherlite 3 frames, Ground control 64mm outside wheels, Bones Reds bearings (Thanks Green Eyes!), and Dyna B Smith anti rockers. Simple, clean, and dependable.
- Visit intuitionskate.com to browse their selection.
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