Local, independently run skate shops are an amazing hub for the local skate communities. Just ask anyone lucky enough to live in the same city as one of these gems. They provide guidance, advice and are a place of seduction for skaters seeking answers to equipment questions. And if you are lucky enough, they even host special events and options to get together with fellow skaters.
We love working with skater owned shops because of their enthusiasm and passion for their customers and business and because we want to celebrate these partnerships we have started an interview series called #supportyourlocalskateshop.
This time we are introducing Jam In The Box, a skater owned shop basically on our home turf in Helsinki, Finland. We spoke with owner Pauliina “Pale” Lius who recently took over the shop from Only #1 a former skater of Helsinki Roller Derby. Pale has since moved to Helsinki and has transferred from their old league Dirty River Roller Derby in Turku to Kallio Rolling Rainbow in Helsinki. While they have kept the spirit of the old shop alive, they are actively shaping the new Jam In The Box into their own business. Find out how!
How and when was Jam in the Box founded and how did you end up becoming its owner?
The shop was founded in 2010 by two roller derby skaters from Helsinki. When it first opened it was also selling streetwear and a wide range of accessories. But roller derby was becoming more and more popular in Finland so the owners started to stock up on more roller derby related gear. In 2016 the shop was bought by another roller derby player from Helsinki, who merged the shop with an additional roller derby shop called “Gearcheck”. The shop was mainly focusing on roller derby gear then and streetwear had become more of a side business. The location of the shop has changed several times but it has always been around the Kallio district in Helsinki.
In October 2018 I decided to take over the shop on Vaasankatu 6 and started running it on my own.
The former owner had recently quit roller derby so I was afraid the only roller derby shop in Finland would close. I was also tired of my work as a nurse and had made a joke about the idea of running my own derby shop. After four months and thousands of hours of worrying and wondering if I was actually ready to do this, I went to the bank and asked for a loan. I ended up getting that loan and here I am: running the one and only roller derby shop in Finland.
Wow, so we guess you should be careful what you joke about. As you were thrown into the cold water: do you have any tips for other first time entrepreneurs? Things you wish you would have known when starting out?
Well for me, the most important thing was that I had people around me that were supporting me and believed in my idea. Even though in the end I was still alone with my decisions, but people’s support gave me courage. So I would say that you should try to find people to share your worries with and people who have started their own business. Ask a lot of questions. Do not try to do everything alone and let people help you if they offer their help. It is priceless. And get an accountant. It’s so much easier to have someone beside you who actually knows about financial subjects and helps you with your accounting.
Well, I don’t know if I should have known this before I started, but I do know it now. Running your own company is a lot of work (🙌 we hear you!). And you have to be able to do and learn so many new things. Sometimes I am a renovator, painter, customer service provider, car driver, sometimes a social media worker, writer and well every now and then I also have to know about skates too. But that’s also the best part of it. You never get bored.
What does a normal “day at the office” look like for you?
I do not believe in “normal”, so it’s a tricky question and my office days are usually pretty different from one another. The shop is open four days a week and I usually also work from home during my ✌️“days off”✌️and deal with computer work. But I do have some routines at the shop: answering emails, packing online purchases, cleaning the shop, ordering products from the suppliers, putting things in order, serving customers and checking news and relevant information about the roller derby world. I also have a lot of friends passing by the shop and bringing me lunch (what a lucky person I am)! I do love the feeling when I open the shop door in the morning. It still amazes me that I am actually running this shop.
What sort of ideals, values and ethics is your shop based on?
The previous owners’ slogan for the shop was “from the skaters for the skaters” and I have definitely wanted to keep it that way. I have been playing roller derby for four years now and I think it is really important that a skate shop owner is also part of the community. Also if I need some work done for merch, or the webshop etc. I always prefer asking people who are part of the community.
We also want to invest in high-quality gear. We do not want to sell cheap gear with low quality. We are trying to keep our prices as low as we can (which doesn’t work so well with the Finnish tax laws though) but still sell good quality and the kind of gear we would use ourselves.
As the latest owner, I have also wanted to strengthen the voice of queer people and their visibility in this community. I am not only part of the roller derby community but also part of the LBGTQIA+ community. And I am not afraid to show it. We are here and we have always been here. And I think it is super important to talk about it. We are just about to make new merch with the slogan “Support your local queer skater gang”!
Also, one thing we want people to be aware of is the fact that we are not perfect. We do not always succeed in everything we do and we want people to be able to say that to us. But what we can guarantee is that we are trying our best.
This past summer Jam in the Box organized a Streetball Event during Pride Week. Can you tell us more about the idea behind it and how it went?
I have a lot of friends who hang out at the shop during opening hours. When one of the regular visitors was hanging out at the shop we came up with the idea of organizing something other than a roller derby event for the summer. We thought a street basketball event would be fun!! A basketball tournament with roller derby people on their summer breaks and people who like to play basketball, with no previous experience needed. We decided to organize it for Pride Week as we also wanted it to be a safe space for LBGTQIA+ people.
The event was super nice and we had 4 teams playing against each other. The day was full of teamwork and high spirits. We will definitely organize it again next year and hope to see many people there. And we are warmly welcoming people to the organizer group.
Have you hosted other types of events in the past? Are there future events planned?
Jam in the Box hasn’t really hosted any other events before. But we would definitely love to! Actually, there is a super awesome 10th-anniversary party for roller derby in Finland coming up in a few months (November 2019), and Jam in the Box is part of the organizer group together with Helsinki Roller Derby. It will be such a great night with a lot of roller derby people! ❤️ I can’t wait!
10 years of roller derby in Finland? That is a reason to celebrate! Where can people find out more about what will be going on?
There is a Facebook event you can check out. You can check it out here:
What is the weirdest/most awesome skate setup someone has asked for?
Hmm, that is a tricky question. I haven’t sold many customized skate setups yet so I don’t know if there has been anything particularly weird or awesome. But I just sold Moxi skates in Peach colour and safety gear in pink leopard pattern for a kid. I think that was one set that was a dream come!
What can the local skate community do to support their local shops and scene?
Help us to spread the word. Social media is a very easy tool to get the word out about your local dealer. But often posts don’t get high visibility because of the social media algorithms. So I hope that people will share, like and comment on our posts a bit more. Especially if the post is about a new blog post or something similar.
You can also support by using your local shop services! Support your local shop by asking them to widen their stock, challenge them, buy your gear from them and be understanding if they do not have everything in stock as they are small businesses. It’s important not to compare small shops to big businesses. There is always more money involved in big businesses, which means they can keep also larger stock.
Speaking about your blog – you have just started out with that. It contains posts in Finnish and English (from your sponsored skater Jaana Nuku) and the topics so far have been for various interests (from officiating in roller derby to park skating). Where do you plan to take the blog and who do you want to give a voice to?
I wanted to start the blog because I wanted to give a voice to various people and roles in the community. I also heard people say that it would be nice to have more blogs about the skating community. I do not have big dreams for the blog going anywhere specific, but I do hope it will reach more people. And that it will also awaken a conversation on different subjects.
Also, I want the blog to represent the diversity within the community. People of colour, queer people, gender varieties, skaters from all levels, non-skating officials, injured skaters, fans etc. You name it.
What can brands do to support independent skate shops?
I think it’s important to try to work together. And see how much more we are when we’re actually standing together. Also, brands should be open about their values and what they want to work for. And support each other, share other businesses posts more often and give a voice for the small skate shops as a bigger brand. Well actually what STEAKS is just doing, I really think this is a great way to support independent skate shops!
Visit the Jam in theBox Shop:
Vaasankatu 6 LH 1