Local skate scene continues to grow around Passion Board Shop

Skaters find a community with the Eau Claire skate community


Photo by Trent Tetzlaff

After a year in business Passion Board Shop located at 218 N. Dewey St., has become an ideal location for skaters to meet up in downtown Eau Claire.

Story by Trent Tetzlaff, Copy Editor

Nearly three years ago, while away studying business at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Chris Johnson decided it was time to come home and work for himself after hearing the news that his father would be having a heart transplant.

Now at the age of 24 Johnson is back close to his father in Eau Claire, and it’s nearly a year after his opening of Passion Board Shop. Johnson said he is living his dream as a local skate shop owner, selling skateboards, snowboards, longboards and skating merchandise while working to build up the local skate scene.

“I realized that you need to plan for tomorrow but live for today,” he said.

Johnson said that while in college he knew he wanted to be in direct sales with people for the rest of his life because of his love for meeting new people and hearing their stories, but also wanted to be his own boss working for his own dream and not someone else’s.

The 850 square foot Passion Board Shop, 218 N. Dewey St., has become an essential part of Eau Claire’s skating community in one year and it has exceeded Johnson’s expectations, he said.

“The shop is steadily growing, and a goal of mine is to eventually be able to grow the shop and get a larger space,” Johnson said. “But I’m happy with where I am right now, exceeding financial expectations and being able to support the community and my family.”

Johnson and area skater Gabe Brummett have been the catalysts for skating in Eau Claire. They were founders of the Eau Claire Skaters Association, a group dedicated to fundraising for a new skate park and increasing the popularity of the activity in the area.

Brummett said Passion Board Shop is important for what they’ve been trying to accomplish with the ECSA, because the main intent in starting the group was to create a way for local skaters to talk and advocate for skateboarding.

He said in most communities that’s what skate shops do. But at the time the ECSA was founded, there was no skate shop or public skatepark until Johnson opened his shop and the city built a skatepark at Lakeshore Park.

“The best thing about Passion is what it can do to get people into the sport by organizing and sponsoring events,” Brummett said. “In my opinion, Eau Claire is many years behind accepting skateboarding as a positive activity for people of all ages, genders and economic backgrounds.”

UW-Eau Claire student and local skater Ben Cole grew up in St. Paul, Minn., a city with many local parks and areas to skate, and said he believes having more skate parks in a community can really make it a better place for all ages.

Cole said a new skatepark could be beneficial to Eau Claire’s youth in that some families aren’t able to pay for their kids to participate in organized sports. He said sports aren’t for everyone, so skateboarding could be their outlet.

“Skateboarding, like all sports, is something we take life lessons from,” he said. “From my own personal experience, it has taught me more about hard work and dedication than school or any sport I have played in my life, changing the way I look at failure and success.”

Phil Fieber, Director of the Eau Claire Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, said that the original plan when the Lakeshore Park was first built was to be able to have multiple skate plazas along the Chippewa River trail, beginning with Boyd Park.

However, the cost to build a large plaza in Boyd Park would be somewhere around the $80,000 range, Johnson said, making fundraising by the ECSA and the city essential.

Fieber said that at first many were concerned about how people would take to Lakeshore Park when it first went in, especially with the graffiti and damage skaters had done to Carson and Phoenix Park.

But Fieber said skaters have treated the park and its surrounding neighborhood with respect and created a safe skating space.

“Based on what the community has seen, skating is doing good things,” he said. “And in order to get Boyd Park built, the ECSA will have to continue to build up a strong relationship with the Eastside Hill neighborhood that Boyd Park is in.”

Along with helping the community gain its skateboard bearing back with his shop, Johnson has also popularized longboarding in the area and was part of forming the Chippewa Valley Longboarders, a local group of riders out to popularize the activity.

Johnson said five years ago you would rarely see longboards on campus or on local trails, but his decision to carry the unique boards with large wheels and long bases have made them a common tool to get to class or around town.

Eau Claire student and local longboarder John Frederick said that not only has Passion Board Shop kick started skateboarding once again, but it also has popularized longboarding around campus and off campus.

“There really wasn’t much of a longboarding scene before the shop,” Frederick said. “Yeah, there were a few people that had longboards and would ride around, but they weren’t organized at all.”

Although Johnson said opening the shop has been well worth it for him, the process he went through to make everything work was tough.

Initially, Royal Credit Union was skeptical in giving Johnson a loan to open the shop, despite his good credit score and strong financial planning for the shop. But after countless meetings, he was finally able to work with a supervisor of one of the banks to get a credit card to open the shop on.

But along with the long process of getting help from RCU, Johnson also had to convince his family, who was skeptical about his financial plan and him leaving his two retail jobs behind to pursue a dream.

Despite everything that Johnson went through to open the shop and to push skating in the community, he said he wouldn’t change anything because of how satisfying it is being a role model for skaters of all ages in the area.

“Skating is my passion, and it has turned my job into a hobby,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t change it for a thing.”