The Deferred Dream of an East Coast Industry

Mike Agnew was trying to establish an East Coast industry. He failed somehow.
Sean Mullendore, 2008

The twentieth century is littered with the wreckage of failed industrialists: Studebaker. Lee Iacocca. DeLorean. Mike Agnew.
If you read this site, you probably also read the insanely prolific 48 Blocks. Perhaps, like myself, you were mesmerized by the Hemingwayan prose of the recent Sean Mullendore interview. Specifically, The mention of Mike Agnew reminded me of Nicotine/Capital/Silverstar/First Division and that whole era (1995-2000) of skating in the mid-Atlantic region. What happened to that dude? Unfortunately, that brand of hard-hitting investigative journalism is beyond the meager capabilities of this site. It could possibly, however, make for an effective two-paragraph piece in TWS Business. In any event, the purpose of this post is three-fold.

A. to sketch an abstract of the history of the “East Coast Industry” concept

B. to briefly elucidate some memories from the aforementioned era

C. to peer into a crystal ball to predict the [bleak] future of the “East Coast Industry” concept


First there was Shut. Then Zoo crept up onto the scene in ’94 or so. Oddly enough, the first time I saw a Zoo board was in Intensity Skates in Jessup, Maryland in 1994 (more on that location later). Subsequently about a year later the whole “Stereo East” semi-controversy exploded, fueled partly by the blunt-fueled histrionics of Rick Oyola. Then ADI exploded, then imploded. There was always Zoo, but there was something shitty about the Chapman wood and shapes. For a while, though, ADI was best thing going. The whole reasoning behind Deluxe pulling the plug on ADI and Metropolitan, two brands most renowned for their ad concepts and designs, will forever by shrouded in mystery. Or, allegedly, Metropolitan outsold Spitfire, and, like, that’s a faux pas.

Nicotine had been going for a while, but Capital capitalized on the two superstars of the time—Pep and Andy. I think Pep had hurt his ankle, though, around the time that whole shit started. I think the Newport-inspired Nicotine graphics influenced my choice of Newport cigarettes when I started smoking in 1997. I quit in 2001.The thing about Capital was that the boards were closer to the Prime wood concepts—especially that one with the Nervous Records logo. The main thing that baffled my about Capital was that they never produced a video. I mean, Andy Stone had probably the most prolific year video-part-wise ever from April 1993 to April 1994 (Falling Down, Snuff, Fine Artists). Perhaps after EE3, such a production would have proven superflous? Who knows. Subsequently, and I don't know exactly how this occurred, but Silverstar switched from Zoo to ECU.

I almost forgot about Infamous. I'll never forget--I walked into my friend's birthday party, and---

"Ryan Hickey's starting a new company. It's called The Infamous. "

Truth be told, it would have been a lot cooler if the name had remained The Infamous. Unlike bands, the whole "the" thing never caught on with companies. The main thing I remember about Infamous is the very first night they got boards, most of the dudes were selling them at Astor. That and their extremely consistent ad layout. In addition, they later picked up Ian for a minute. That particular gentleman deserved his own post at some point in time, without a doubt.

Around the turn of the century shit became kind of surreal--the main tipping point being Zoo being taken over by Ecko, leading to a hostile takeover of Aesthetics, and consequently Zoosthetics with Sal as TM. That tripped me out. This led to, of course, Zoo York Footwear and:

Zoo york Surf! To clarify, I would like to state that surfing is fucking rad, and is a lifestyle that, in a way, I aspire to. I know that there are surf spots on LI and in NJ, which kind of makes sense, but establishing a Zoo surf brand reeks of late-00's cynical ASR bottom-line-ism. In any event, I'm sure Snake Plissken, given the choice, would patronize the Zoo York Surf brand.

Zoo York...hmmm....reminds me of that other shithole I escaped from.

Part B:

"Where the bitches at?"
-Maurice Key
Beltsville, MD 1996

Back in 85-86, when my dad drove me to DC to catch a plane to go visit my grandparents in Cleveland, he remarked "D.C. - there's an aura of power in this town." Few things compare to that two-hour drive, the intensity increasing exponentially. The drive from Richmond has a biorhythm all it's own. You start out in woods. Nothing but woods. Could be anywhere. Then you crest the hill of Fredericksburg, one of those towns with KFC signs towering 200 ft. in the air. Beyond Fredericksburg is basicallly the DC area. Once the HOV lanes appear, you're in a different time and space. Then you go over the curve of the highway over Crystal City--an oddly mystical name for an amalgamation of office buildings-- then you have arrived. 14th St.

Northeast of there, though, Intensity Skates hosted some of the most epic World demos of that time. Definitely worth driving 2 hr for. The first one I went to was a blind/world/prime (including Lavar and Caine Gayle, pre-MMA) production in 1996 that my friend and myself scheduled at the start of an epic EAST COAST ROADTRIP. Maurice Key did like four consecutive nollie b/s heels on the bank--definitely an iconic point in b/s nollie heeldom. The Intensity World demo 1996 also, and I have no idea why I remember this, is notable for the first nollie b/s n/g I ever witnessed, in person or on video, by Gary Smith, one of the most underrated East Coast dudes ever. Anyway, Maurice recognized me from Astor or whatever and quite sincerely asked "where the bitches at?" If I knew then what I know now, I would have directed him to the University of Maryland, just a couple miles away. Indeed, there's this one road that goes past U of M and heads straight for the heart of DC--specifically, MLK (RIP). I only skated that spot once--after the World demo the following year. Anyway, the EPIC EAST COAST ROAD TRIP continued north to the city of Baltimore. Because The Wire had not yet been produced, I did not know to head to the West side of town to purchase drugs! J/K. In any event, we had a place to stay so we headed to the most logical place for shit to skate—downtown/inner harbor area. We found that brick fabrication that Jack Sabback nose manualed in Static II , in addition to some Pier 7-type ledges directly adjacent to the harbor itself. In that area, we skated past some yuppie bar and some dude says “Hey! Skaters... ...alright—do you know Mike Agnew?” Trip the fuck out.
The next day we proceded to NJ for the last show. The girl who said we could crash at her house was nowhere to be found, so we said "fuck it" and just drove to PHILA and slept in the vehicle--an 89 Suburban--on some fuckin' sidestreet. I do not recommend this.
We skated a skeletal version of FDR before proceding to LOVE, a pilgrimage of sorts to a place and time the likes of which will probably never materialize again. A short list of individuals in attendance that one day were: Stevie, Oyola, Gall, KT. Barley and Reese Forbes appeared at dusk. One of my rationalizations for my position that Forbes' coverage has been lackluster of late is his status as one of the most hellacious skaters ever--somewhat of a precursor to Van Engelen's current philosophy of skating ledges as if one is brutally making love to a woman. I recall t/s to fakie at mach 10 on the main ledge, and, just like at Pulaski, a neck-high stage, which he ollied up, stood at the other end near the ledge-over-stairs. By the way, what did they use these stages for? Did they produces plays? Stage protests? Our Town?

Part C:

"Owner Mike Agnew says that diminishing sales forced him to reconsider his priorities."
-TWS Business, February 2000

So, the question remains—Is anyone insane enough to attempt to establish an East Coast industry ever again? Presently, Traffic is doing things, Catalyst is doing things—those dudes rip. But here’s the thing—based on my observations, roughly 90% of dudes ride shop boards. The other 10% includes dudes such as myself with irrational nostalgia-based brand loyalties. In addition, the structure of skating has mutated. In the past, there was a kind of secret network that started at the curb at your local elementary school and spread outwards, yet inwards at the same time—perhaps to the local office building with an obtuse brick “hubba”, to the local college with a smattering of ledges, to the DOWNTOWN AREA, to DC, to NY, to SF. Now, most kids just skate whatever box creation in their driveway or local cul-de-sac or low traffic area, maybe get their parents to drive them to the local park, and watch whatever videos appear on the internet. I'm probably wrong, though. The new futureworld has facilitated a lot of shit, but it's also created a situation where one can insulate oneself from everything--if one chooses to do so.


Anonymous said...

Mike Agnew spotting in Annapolis MD 1 month ago looking like a jock sailor douchebag that he is.

zombie squirrels said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zombie squirrels said...

Intensity wasn't in Jessup - we were in Beltsville.

Interesting post.

** said...

That's right. Thanks--I'll make that correction.

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