Spaceworks Spotlight – Grit City Grindhouse

Grit City Grindhouse owner Bobby Boyle shows customer skateboard trucks

What drives the visionaries behind Grit City Grindhouse is their love of skateboarding and the joy of engaging with anyone who walks through the doors with even a  passing interest. “We’re about creating an invitation to come play. It’s about being welcoming and inclusive, we’re not judgmental,” said Taylor Woodruff, one of the co-owners, about making connections with their customers. “We’ll talk to someone for an hour and a half just to teach them about skateboards,” added the other founder, Robert Boyle.

Both owners are committed to paying close attention to their community and taking good care of it. They take great pride in their expertise to customize a skateboard or longboard according to customer needs and placing value in the quality of their stock. Using surveys from the annual Go Skate Tacoma event, Woodruff and Boyle found that a large part of skateboarder community is youth who have dropped out of school. Another large population is homeless. To re-engage them and keep skateboarding fun they came up with the idea of a shop to provide a community meeting space for all skaters. It also nurtured the budding non-profit Alchemy Skateboarding, another Spaceworks Creative Enterprise participant that focuses on providing opportunities and resources for youth to learn and grow through skateboarding. Using the community space at the Grit City Grindhouse, Alchemy Skateboarding developed a resource board including information for the homeless, as well as training and job opportunities. Woodruff also developed a skateboarding class curriculum to keep students engaged with academics through activities they enjoy.

The connections with property owners and credibility that Spaceworks provides fostered rapid development. Woodruff saw the potential of the space they occupy when he worked there as an artist. His skateboard customization shop was coming to the end of the lease that he couldn’t afford to extend, so he partnered with Boyle to apply to Spaceworks’ Creative Enterprise program in 2013 and secured their downtown location.  Filling a growing need for local supply of skate gear and fueled by the passion of its owners, it became Tacoma’s destination for unmatched selection and customer service. With time their competition faded while Grindhouse grew in recognition, social media presence, and retail selection.

Grit City Grindhouse Co-Owner Bobby Boyle stands at register in their shop.
Grit City Grindhouse interior at 311 S. 7th St.

When Grindhouse founders applied for Spaceworks’ Creative Enterprise program they already had small business experience with Boyle’s background in retail. Still, their success caught them by surprise as they didn’t expect to make it. “We thought we may not be here for long,” said Boyle. After growing for a few years, their business reached a new scale and new needs. That’s why Woodruff and Boyle received further support from Spaceworks through the Creative Enterprise Tier III program. Business coaches for Creative Enterprise Tier III are carefully selected to provide tailored advice for each individual business in the issues they are currently facing. Boyle and Woodruff are learning about managing their growing inventory, capitalizing on popular products and prioritizing investments of both time and money. Creative Enterprise Tier III participants can also share their growing pains and successes with peer entrepreneurs at regular gatherings. Boyle and Woodruff report that they’ve learned a lot from the program and are excited to serve their customers better.

If it wasn’t for Spaceworks promotion and support through affordable locations, Grindhouse’s story would have looked very different. In fact, Woodruff says he might not have stayed in Tacoma or developed skateboarding into a professional endeavor. At the same time, Boyle says that if he owned a similar business, without Spaceworks it wouldn’t grow as quickly. Three years into their lease, the Grindhouse is collaborating with their building’s new owner to develop a financially fulfilling relationship and investing in infrastructure upgrades. They hired a full time employee recently and provide internship opportunities with local schools. Grit City Grindhouse uses their space to make sure everyone has fun, grows and gets excited about learning. “It’s a domino effect of happiness,” says Woodruff.

Photos by Patrick Hagerty

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Grit City Grindhouse is one of Spaceworks’ alumni that has joined Creative Enterprise Tier III program that provides one-on-one coaching, peer-to-peer support, and a small business grant for growing businesses. This program has received generous support from and is powered by:

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Grit City Grindhouse owner Bobby Boyle shows customer skateboard trucks