John Buffler had a dream. Darnell Satiacum is helping him to get it alive.
John Buffler owns Tacoma Skate. The 5,000-square-foot facility in the industrial Nalley Valley houses a skateboard shop and showroom, where skateboarders can test out their boards on a bowl, ramps and rails. Since opening last December, Tacoma Skate has become a place where veteran skateboarders show off their flashiest tricks and younger ones go to hone their skills.
John Buffler’s interest in skateboarding began when his son was 5 and started riding. He went on to participate in competitions around the United States and Canada. The elder Buffler was working as a three-dimensional digital video artist, designing video games. After being laid off a year ago, he decided to open a shop and showroom. The closest indoor skateboarding facility was in Renton, so he figured Tacoma needed one.
After looking for the right spot, he found it at 1912 Center St. in what had been a cabinet shop that was home to Wiggins Custom Woodworks. The
company had relocated and John Buffler signed a lease for the building.
“It was a central location at the right price. The layout lent itself to what I wanted to do,” he remarked.
He sketched out his design for the space and showed it to John “Gumby” Gumeson, who built the ramps and bowl. “I had the general layout. He refined the plan and designed it,” John Buffler remarked.
It opened on Dec. 19. In March the bowl was completed.
Many people contributed time to the construction and ongoing operation of the facility. The current manager does not get paid. “A lot of volunteer effort went into this, for which I am very thankful.”
Skateboarders can use the showroom for three hours for $8, or $14 for all day. On Wednesday and Saturday it is $5.
Revenue generated by the shop and showroom is modest. The main costs are utilities, insurance and rent. Use of the facility has been closely tied to weather. On warm, sunny days, skaters are likely to be at outdoor skateboard parks, which are free to use.
Darnell Satiacum recently got involved as a volunteer. His nephew is a friend of John Buffler’s daughter and he heard about Tacoma Skate from them.
Darnell Satiacum would like to convert the operation into a non-profit organization, which would make it eligible for funding from foundations, corporations and local governments. This could eventually spin off a for-profit business that constructs ramps.
Darnell Satiacum has some business experience. He co-owns Kiya’s Trading Post with a brother and uncle. He would like to bring in a full-time executive director and a board of directors.
A Puyallup Tribal member, Darnell Satiacum sees many young Puyallups at the showroom. He would like to get Puyallup Tribe involved with Tacoma Skate. “I will do what I can to bring the resources together.”
Darnell Satiacum never got into skateboarding. Growing up, his passion was playing baseball. But he understands the popularity of skateboarding and sees its positive attributes. “If this is a venue that keeps kids off the street, why not push to keep it going?” he asked. “To see something like this give structure to kids who do not have much in their lives is awesome,” he said. “This place means the world to them.”
He smiles when recalling a young girl he saw recently at Tacoma Skate. She took a spill, got up, smiled and got back on her board. “It is amazing what a lot of heart that little girl has.”
Tacoma Skate has held shows with local punk and heavy-metal bands. “This is a place for them to show off their skills,” Darnell Satiacum said.
John Buffler pictures Tacoma Skate hosting bands in a variety of genres, as well as performance art and other mediums.
Some of the Tacoma Skate crowd will display their skills at three upcoming events. On July 3 Darnell Satiacum is hosting a skateboarding demonstration from 3-9 p.m. at Kiya’s, located at 2811 Portland Ave. There will be bands playing and food for sale. At 9:30 p.m. there will be a fireworks display.
During the afternoon of July 10 a demonstration will be held at Portland Avenue Park.
On July 11 another will take place outside O’Malley’s on 6th Avenue during the Art on the Ave festival.