PA Cheap Skates rides skateboarding’s wave of popularity
Since opening PA Cheap Skates of North Versailles 15 years ago, owner Damon Marraccini has seen skateboarding transform from an ’80s fad into big business.
“Nobody accepted it in the ’80s,” said Marraccini, 28. “Now, everybody wants to do it.”
Once a skater himself, Marraccini’s business venture was fueled after he bought an overpriced board in the early 1980s.
“I bought a skateboard in Florida for $180,” said Marraccini, referring to his first “deck,” a Powell Peralta Tony Hawk model from 1983. “I thought it was a rip-off, so I opened a store that was fair.”
Fortunately, Marraccini’s father owned Triple Play Sports in North Versailles, so 13-year-old Damon used a portion of the store’s back showroom to open PA Cheap Skates in 1987. Marraccini still does business out of the Triple Play Sports complex.
“I was too busy,” said Marraccini, who skated for 12 years until the business became a full-time job. “It totally got out of hand.”
One year after founding PA Cheap Skates, Marraccini put in a $50,000, 6,500-square-foot skatepark. He designed and built the completely wooden park himself.
“I learned a lot about carpentry,” Marraccini said. “It’s much different than building a house.”
The park gave western Pennsylvania’s skaters a safe, legal way to hone their skills.
This is especially true in the North Huntingdon area, where it is illegal to skateboard on any public road or facility.
“(The park is) new every year,” Marraccini said. “We take everything out and rebuild it.”
In a process that costs Marraccini $10,000 per year, a brand new vert wall is built, along with a pyramid box with grind ledges. Other attractions include a 4-foot halfpipe, benches, rails, launch ramps and a funbox. PA Cheap Skates also offers a snack bar to complement the park.
The Triple Play Sports complex also sells baseball and softball equipment and offers batting cages, but Damon knows skateboarding pays the bills.
“Since Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on Playstation, there’s been more people buying skateboards than ever,” Marraccini said.
PA Cheap Skates’ sales are peaking this year, and constant change within the park and in the store keeps the market fresh.
“You can’t get a skateboard at the mall,” Marraccini said. “And we get new inventory every week.”
PA Cheap Skates’ top selling brands include Element, World Industries, Alien Workshop, Emerica and DC Shoe Company. The shop draws customers from Westmoreland, Allegheny and Fayette counties.
“The malls carry about 20 styles of shoes,” Marraccini said. “We carry over 100.”
PA Cheap Skates has seen renowned skaters such as Tony Hawk (birdhouse), Matt Hensley (H-Steet & Plan B), Rodney Mullen (Plan B) and Lance Mountain (Powell Peralta) shred the park at various demos and events during the past 14 years.
The store celebrated its 15th anniversary with nearly 100 skaters Sept. 21, with giveaways, contests and free skating for members.
The park is available for all-day or 3-hour sessions, and the entire park can be rented for private parties or events as well.
Visit pacheapskates.com for prices, park updates and availability.
“A lot of people still don’t know about us yet,” Marraccini said. “But when they are here, the kids aren’t on the street .”