A secret haven for art, skateboarding, custom clothing and general creativity is hidden in Calgary’s Skate Café, the only indoor skating facility in the city.
“We are giving people a place – a work centre – where they are able to come in, and be creative. Somewhere there aren’t many limitations – like being told not to paint on walls or ask for permission,” says Robbie Riddell, owner and head of sales for the Skate Café.
The Café hides in plain sight in an industrial corner of southeast Calgary, as a low-key gem.
It is currently only known to a small and close-knit group of like-minded skaters and artists, and is open by invitation and appointment only.
What makes this band unique is that they blend elements of their lives – music, skating, art, design and work – into a creative whole that has been unheard of in Calgary until now.
The Skate Café is only part what the Riddell brothers and their associates have created.
Promotional Products Plus is a screen printing, sublimation and web design business owned by twin brothers Robbie and Riley Riddell, 32, and a few close friends such as Jamie Simpson, 34.
“We have a lot of machines – the lasers and embroidery and all that – to be creative, and to give Calgary something that they haven’t seen before,” says Robbie Riddell.
The company also creates custom wooden accessories, such as rings, sunglasses, original clothing designs and embroidery.
While “spinning t-shirts” in Silverdale, B.C, Robbie Riddell received several orders for clothing from Calgary bars, such as Cowboy’s Nightclub and Roadhouse.
Robbie Riddell’s brother, Riley, eventually joined him from Italy, where he had been playing hockey.
The Skate Café has grown steadily ever since.
The printing company provides the funding for the indoor skate park, which is located behind the shop.
The ramp in the park was donated by Cowboy’s after Promotional Products Plus completed a clothing order for bar staff.
Construction is already well under way on a second facility just 15 minutes outside of town: a mostly self-sustained indoor park that will one day be also used as a “skate-and-stay” hostel.
“We saw a YoTube video on an Earthship and we thought, ‘how cool would it be to get a bunch of people together, a bunch of people, like-minded and skateboarding, and build something like an earthship skate park?’” Robbie Riddell explains.
So far, almost all building materials have been recycled through ads on online forum Kijiji.
“The more that people are talking about it, it seems the more they want to get on board and help out. That’s what we love about Calgary.
“Once people see that we’re trying to do good for our community, they hop on board and give us the support and funding that we need to make things a success,” says Robbie Riddell.
“Really, it can’t happen and we can’t do it without help.”
Jamie Simpson, 34, is the sales rep, and shop and park manager for Skate Café.
He says that it is truly a place “where dreams can become actual reality, because there’s no real limitation.”
“Here in Calgary, one of the richest cities in Canada, people can’t come together, because the communities aren’t strong enough to start something,” he says, drawing a comparison between Winnipeg’s dedication to indoor skateboarding and Calgary.
“We are building a community.
“It’s getting more solid every day. It’s growing like a weed.
“If we get to the point that we can build a huge family, the city can’t ignore us anymore,” Simpson says.
“That’s what we love about Calgary. Once people see that we’re trying to do good for our community, they hop on board and give us the support and funding that we need to make things a success.” – Robbie Riddell
The Skate Café hosts events such as “skate and dines,” where skaters ages 18 and up can come skate, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy some custom merchandise while they discover people with similar interests.
The guys work seven days a week as they fill orders, manage the skate park and press their designs, late into the night.
The doors are open by appointment only for now, but the facility is available for either quick skate sessions, or serious after-work downtime.
Right now it stands semi-exclusive, so the address is not advertised.
“It’s the old saying – if you build it, they will come,” laughs Robbie Riddell.
“And they just haven’t stopped coming.”