Written by Kristen Gowdy and Kelsey McKim. This story was originally published in Ithaca Week and was not written by The Ithaca Voice.
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ITHACA, N.Y. — On an uncharacteristically warm November day, Andrew Douglas stands outside washing the windows of his store, Homegrown Skateshop.
The store is, for now, void of customers. In this first hour of the business day, the interior of the shop is silent, except for a soft guitar tune that solidifies the shop’s eased nature. Inside, neat rows of shoes and clothes line the perimeter of the simplistically modern space. The back wall has been covered in an array of decks, save for a small television in the corner that plays skating videos on repeat.
Douglas, the store’s founder and owner, is taking advantage of the current lack of customers by enjoying the mid-70s weather. He chats with local passerby and takes his time cleaning the massive windows that make up his storefront.
“Anything to be outside on a day like today,” he says.
After all, skating season is coming to an end in Ithaca. In a matter of weeks, snow will blanket the ground, making it impossible for Douglas’ clientele to do what they love.
But Homegrown, the area’s only independent skate shop, will remain a place for the local skaters to congregate, as it has for the past decade. The store celebrated its 10th anniversary in the past month.
When Douglas graduated from Ithaca High School in 2003, he never had a doubt that he’d return to his hometown. After over a year of traveling, he did just that, opening Homegrown in 2005 to replace its downtown predecessor while Douglas was growing up.
“I’ve been skating in this town for 20 years and there’s always been a shop here in one form or another,” he said. “I had a pretty close relationship with the guys that owned and operated the shop that was here prior to me and I got word that they were closing down. I decided it would be a good idea to try to keep it going.”
Homegrown’s impact on the skate scene in Ithaca has reached further than just selling equipment. Most notably, Douglas was largely responsible for the Ithaca skate park expansion, which was completed in late September.
According to the Ithaca Times, local skaters raised about $216,000 for the renovation, and the city supplied funds for the rest of the approximately $334,300 project. Over the past two years, Douglas spearheaded the fundraising process and has overseen its completion, which according to local skater and Ithaca College senior Caleb Grant, has greatly improved the park.
“The original one, I’m not sure who designed it, but my sense is that it wasn’t a skateboarder and it was probably just the city,” Grant said. “It’s cool to have a new section that was built by someone who was actually thinking about it from a skating standpoint. They built a lot more features that are fun to use for the skaters who are going there. The old one felt kind of like open space with some stuff thrown in there.”
In addition, Homegrown houses monthly art galleries for local artists — most of whom are Douglas’ close friends. Douglas said the galleries are mutually beneficial. They help the artists advertise their work while simultaneously brightening the shop’s whitewashed walls.
With this type of involvement, Homegrown has, in Douglas’ words, become a “hub for the community.”
Ithaca’s skate culture is an interesting one, he said, because of the fluctuating nature of a college town. Douglas will often connect with skaters, such as Grant and fellow Ithaca College student Robby Tolette, who are only in town for their four years of school.
“It’s nice because you don’t have to order all your stuff online, you can go support your local shop,” Tolette said. “Everything you need, your shoes and your boards or whatever, they’re right there, which makes it a lot easier.”
And while Homegrown just finished its skate park project, Douglas said he has even more plans to expand his shop — and the Ithaca skate scene.
“We have some stuff that I can’t really talk about coming out in January that we’ll be able to announce in December,” he said. “That’ll be the next push. I don’t really have plans to expand the shop physically or anything like that. Hopefully what I have coming up will get the name out there a little more and expand it that way. I just wanted to make the nicest, local shop that I could and I’m happy with it right now.”
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