The Garage Board Shop transcends expectations to educate and support its community
Learn how the East L.A. skate shop combined its retail operation with a community-oriented approach that includes the Skate-4-Education after-school program for at-risk youth, local food banks, and immersive summer camps that enrich young, passionate skateboarders with art, culture, and a sense of compassion for their world.
The Garage Board Shop was always more than just a neighborhood skateboard shop, yet it has undergone an extensive evolution since Jerry Carrera founded it in 2007.
Aiming to combine retail with community, Jerry turned his store into a place for local youth to come together through a variety of creative mediums, such as music, dance, and art. Here, teens and tweens could escape the potential negative influences of East LA streets while applying themselves to something positive and constructive.
The results were inspiring: up-and-coming DJs, bands, breakdancers, and artists came to view the shop as an "urban lounge" and a proving ground for their talents. Most notably, the art shows allowed them to receive validation for their efforts from their community and peers. Young people who never had their special abilities nurtured before were finally feeling capable of achieving more than they believed possible.
Witnessing such profound transformational change led Jerry's wife, Patty Ramblaz, to join the team in 2009, with the notion of becoming even more involved with the local youth. It took some experimentation before the couple's concept materialized in the form of The Urban Warehouse Skate-4-Education program, an after-school program for at-risk kids that incentivizes good grades, reading, and homework completion with skateboarding and a points system that earns rewards like swag, scholarships to events, and new skateboards.
As Patty explains, "Skate-4-Education allows kids to come after school to receive tutoring and practice skateboarding in our indoor skate area. The members bring in report cards, good or bad, so we can monitor their improvement. When we see progress in their grades, we reward them with skate events, sponsorships, products, and wonderful memories."
Kids learn discipline, hard work, and dedication through a straightforward system, starting with doing their homework upon arrival and having a mentor look it over (earning three points in the process), followed by 20 minutes of reading, writing up a short summary of what they read, and turning it in (for another two points). After that, they get to skate on ramps and rails in The Garage's designated space, unwind with friends, and redeem the points they've accumulated. (The shop offers an iPad, iPhone, or laptop for 5,000 points to instill the practice of saving up.)
The community-oriented approach doesn't stop there. The Garage went from serving 200 families a week through their Friday Food Bank program before the pandemic began to now feeding nearly 500 families each week.
"We worked hard with the partnership with Heart of Compassion Food Bank, LA Care, Invest in Others, [Los Angeles County] Supervisor, Hilda Solis, and other organizations," says Patty.
They also organize street clean-ups and monthly competitions that encourage young skaters to show their talents and win recognition. What's more, they put on a special summer camp geared toward fostering interests beyond skating, such as art, business, and culture, through hands-on experiences and excursions to museums, skateboard manufacturing companies, and more.
"We want our community to grow, but we also want to be a better business and teach the youth how easy it can be to become an entrepreneur," says Jerry.
With so many facets to The Garage Board Shop's operations, it has become an indispensable pillar of the Los Angeles community, transcending what it means to be a traditional brick-and-mortar business and setting an example of excellence for others to follow as it strives for a more enlightened, empathetic, and compassionate future.