In 2006, freelance industrial designer Scott Seelye sent his wife, Jennifer, to California to sell to skateboard shops a product he’d invented: lights for the underside of a skateboard.
He also told her to come back with some new longboards and related parts, but not to spend more than $500.
Seelye found himself assembling the longboards she brought back with hardware, trucks, bearings, wheels and other products in the garage at their house in southwest Bend.
Within a few months, he figured he should go ahead with a business. On a new website, thelongboardstore.com, he began taking orders for complete longboards, which are typically longer than skateboards and tend to be used more for transportation than tricks.
“I just thought it’d be kind of nice if there’s one place you could buy all these products,” he said.
The kitchen was the packaging department. The living room was the shipping area.
“We didn’t have a place to sit, really, or watch TV,” Seelye said.
Profits went right back into the business.
“You sold one, you buy two, and that’s just what we did,” Seelye said.
In 2009, following the growth of The Longboard Store, Seelye established The Skateboard Store on a separate website. Seelye said he had a hunch that if he could secure the domain name theskateboard store.com, success could follow.
Seelye kept the two stores apart online because he wanted the sites to specialize.
Both stores have grown in terms of sales and stock. The company has moved to gain square footage three times.
Now a southeast Bend warehouse stores skateboard and longboard decks and other products. Employees assemble complete sets and prepare them for shipment. Seelye said the warehouse will expand again soon, into the warehouse next door.
Nowadays, suppliers tell him The Longboard Store buys six times more products than other companies. Sales for the two stores last year came in at $2.5 million, he said.
Seelye, 39, splits his time between the two stores and his separate inventing operation, Seelye Group LLC.
Q: Are the two stores lifestyle businesses?
A: Oh, definitely, yeah. ... I’ve worked so many jobs where I’ve worked long hours on salary, and I don’t have time to spend with my family on the weekend. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool where you owned a company that had three-day weekends?” And so we decided to do it. We maintained that.
Q: How are your websites different from other longboard and skateboard retailing websites?
A: We’ve always said, because we’ve (photographed) all our products, it could literally take years for a competitor to start photographing (all of its) products. ... Jon (Carrick) over there spends all day long photographing products, editing them and putting them on the website.
We don’t have off-the-shelf software. We don’t license it from anybody. Timmy Crawford I’ve been working with, I guess, since 2008, possibly, developing software for us. ... Now it’s a more automated system, but we have the freedom to make the website look the way we want it, function the way we want it, create reports the way we want to create reports.
I would say 99 percent of retailers run on credit or 30-day terms, 60-day terms with companies.
People ask, “Why is it that people can’t compete with you?” How do you stop a company that has a half a million dollars of skateboards on the wall, paid for? We don’t owe any money to any of our suppliers. To me, that’s a train that’s running down the tracks at full speed. You can’t stop that train. A creditor can’t say, “Stop! You owe us money!”
Q: Besides adding supply and expanding the warehouse, how else is the company growing?
A: We’re now breaking into soft goods — T-shirts, hats, maybe shoes someday. Which is really odd, because we’re a hard-goods company — completely different than every retailer who really relies on their soft goods to keep their doors open. We rely on our hard goods to keep the doors open, which is great, because now that we’re adding soft goods and selling them, that’s just adding more and more, because those are higher-margin products. ... That’s why we’re running out of space, is the soft goods, primarily.
Someday, maybe, I would love to build a really nice building and make it a neat place for people to come and visit. ... We get people from all over the U.S. that actually make a pilgrimage to here to see because they want to see The Longboard Store in person.
Q: What do you do on a day-to-day basis for The Skateboard Store and The Longboard Store?
A: I probably spend half of my time in my workshop here, developing new products, and then half of my time is probably spent going over there and discussing with our buyer ... which brands or what boards we might want to carry next, and just going over all numbers, how many boards we should be purchasing for different seasons and things like that.
I spend time with the developer, working on new tools for the website or new looks and feels, working with the photographer to maybe help shoot or help figure out new ways to shoot products.
Q: How many hours a week do you spend on The Longboard Store and The Skateboard Store?
A: I probably work 40, 50. I have this habit. Every night, while we’re watching television or whatever, I go through almost the entire website. I look at every product that was shot by our photographer. I look at the sales. I look at everything, all the dynamics, the people who visited. ... At night, I’m on the computer constantly, and I stay up really late, so that’s kind of what I’m doing.