Thisissoul is an inline skate shop based in Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Shop owner Ivo Vegter sat down with us to discuss the store, inline skating and the Dutch skate scene.
How long has Thisissoul been in operation?
I have been teaching skating for 15 years now, I started the company and the online shop 10 years ago and opened the store in Amsterdam 5 years ago.
What made you want to start the shop? How did you start out?
Because I was already teaching, I decided I would open a store to provide my students with skates and parts. Prior to opening the store I was sending them to the nearest skate shop, but they would always come back with old models, a few sizes too big. I started out by selling them vintage skates from my friends. These skates needed a lot of work to get them in proper rolling condition, so I began doing customizations and got pretty good at that. To this day, I think I have done more skate mods then anyone else in the world.
The custom skates started selling really well all over the world and this boosted overall sales on the online store. My house could no longer fit all the products for the shop in it, so I made a deal with a skate park to store everything there. When the skate park closed I got a warehouse. At this point the company got so big and well known, that the warehouse was also operating a shop. I tried to display the products and we even had opening hours where people could come by to try on skates.
Opening an actual retail shop was something that I always wanted to do. The step from going from a warehouse to a shop was a very smooth transition. The only difference is that now finally we could spread our love to random people walking by.
What is your skating history? How long have you been skating, what disciplines did you do and are you still actively skating?
I used to skateboard when I was really small until I was 13-years-old. That year I got my first pair of skates from my brother in law who was also skating. They were the Bauer Classics and I put some Hyper Fatboys and grind wheels on them to be able to grind. We didn’t have any street spots around where I lived, so we went to the local half pipe every day. Skating ramps is still my core discipline of aggressive inline skating.
Lately I have been doing a lot of freeskating as well. I hardly ever use my bike anymore. I love it! I’m especially fond of the Razors Shifts, which allows me to change setups on the spot.
Were there other stores in Amsterdam when you began, if so how was the competition with them?
I never had real competition. I started doing this because it needed to be done for the sport. If somebody else was already doing a good job I wouldn’t have gotten into it. When I just started with the customizations there was Shop Kaput, but they went out of business after just one year. That is when I had the feeling I needed to step up and start my own shop.
Also there was Skatezone, but they gave bad advice about sizing and had a bad selection of aggressive skates.
Are there any other stores currently in Amsterdam now? How is your relationship with them?
Skatezone is still here and I am on good terms with them. For the past couple of years there has been another shop called SkateDokter and I am also on good terms with them. Neither one of them sell many aggressive inline skates though, they are more marketing towards recreational skaters.
Holland is known for being such a bike friendly country, which means there are lots of trails. After doing some skating there, I feel like it is one of the best countries in the world for skating. How big is rollerblading in Holland? What are the most popular forms of skating?
Well, first of I wouldn’t call it rollerblading since this is a brand name. I just call the sport inline skating like all the manufactures do.
The trails are great for skating indeed. In Copenhagen they are even better though. Sometimes they can be narrow and really crowded, but it does connect the city and lets you get around pretty quickly.
Recreational inline skating is the biggest, however we do have a strong aggressive inline skating scene as well. There are some slalom inline skaters at the Vondelpark, but I don’t see them that often. We also have a hockey inline skate club.
How big is the night skate in Amsterdam, do you go on it? Are there other night skates in Holland?
The Amsterdam night skate is not so big, maybe 50-100 people every week, but Utrecht, Amersfoort, Haarlem, Rotterdam and some other cities have also night skating and they are a lot bigger. I’ll attend maybe once or twice a year.
How much has skating changed, (the amount of skaters and the disciples people are doing) from when you started the shop until now?
I have only been doing the physical shop for 5 years and we are solely focused on aggressive inline skating so I haven’t noticed any differences in these numbers. If anything I would say it was stable in the last period.
Have you noticed a growth in the number of recreational skaters at all recently?
No. People have always been skating around in Amsterdam and they will always keep on skating here too.
Are there any changes in the sport you don’t like?
Since the Blading Cup and Winterclash started to use the term blading, many people caught on with this movement.
I think we would benefit if we can all agree on one single name for our sport. A couple of years ago I went full throttle on using blading for doing tricks on skates. Then I noticed some Americans using blading as a synonym for the whole sport of inline skating and using grinder blading or aggressive blading as a term for aggressive inline skating.
I realized that for them blading still is short for Rollerblading in this usage. If the goal is to end the naming discussion at one point, going for (roller)blading won’t work. Powerslide, Roces, K2, Fila and any other brand will never change to calling their products rollerblades. Rollerblade is a brand name. What we do is called inline skating. The main argument I hear for called it rollerblading, instead of inline skating, is that this is just what people call it. But sorry, that just doesn’t go as an argument. Because in every country I have been to so far there is another term that people use. Skeeleren, patines, rollerblading, inlines, roller, rolski, rollschuhe, rulleskøjter, etc, any one of these have the “that is just how people call it” argument. Inline skating and aggressive inline skating are the only terms that makes sense if you look at it from a bigger picture and as a community of skaters its time to own the name.
Are there changes you want to see?
I want to see more clothing brands emerging and more people buying and falling in love with these brands. This will strengthen our culture. I would also like shops focusing more on these softgoods. Imagine that there are stores like Skatezone in every semi big city. Skatezone is basically a wall of skates, they don’t even have caps, backpacks, beanies, no culture, no identity at all. If I wouldn’t be skating already, then I definitely wouldn’t start doing it after seeing a hardware based store like this.
How important was picking your location to the success of the business?
That depends on how you define success. The aggressive inline skaters in The Netherlands will know how to find Thisissoul anywhere. Plus we also have the online store that is not affected by the location. Business was going fine when I only had the warehouse.
My goal is however to show our culture to the outside world, so if you define success by that, then being in a shopping street like we are is super important.
It also works. We have people walking in, buying aggressive skate clothing, being informed about our lessons and in general about us.
How many people come to your skate lessons?
We teach about 200 students every week and it looks like we will grow even bigger in 2018!
Do you do most of your sales online or in store?
It is about 50/50
What other countries do you sell to?
I would say all countries where people skate. The closer the country is to the Netherlands, the bigger our sales are there.
Do you travel to other countries in your region for skating or business?
I visit some of the competitions in Europe when I can and I also go to Copenhagen a lot since we work together with a skate park there. They have a display cabinet with our stuff in it and we sponsor Danish riders as well.
Are you handling any distribution as well?
We just started with the distribution for ONE Magazine actually and I have the ambition to grow this further.
What are the most popular products that you sell?
The general bestselling category is of course skates. Then we also sell a lot of caps, bags and t-shirts, since the store is set up like a boutique. The most popular skate right now is the USD Aeon.
How many rec/freestyle skates do you sell compared to aggressive?
I think we sell about 4 times as many aggressive inline skates as rec/freestyle inline skates.
How big is speed skating in Holland? Are you selling speed skates?
The speed inline skating scene is huge in the Netherlands. This is due to our strong speed ice skating culture. However, we only sell skates that are ready to do some shredding with. We sell the Fila NRK and Rollerblade Twister models because you can do some proper stuff with those. We will not sell skates that don’t allow you to be in maximum control. The support on a speed skates is zero. This does not match our philosophy. The same goes for hockey skates.
Where do you see Thisissoul in the future?
I am focused on growing our skate school right now, so I see that becoming much bigger. We do have some other projects in the pipeline but I have to keep those a secret for now!
What are the best things about being an inline skater and living in Holland?
Endless bicycle paths, good skate parks, great street spots and having a strong scene.
vd Pekstraat 117
1031 CW, Amsterdam,