Chichester’s very own skate shop, ESP, is celebrating21 years of being in business. Tucked away in Cathedral Courtyard, it specialises in rollerblades, skateboards, BMX bikes along with everything else that comes with it. Here, HENRY BAILEY chats to owner Jamie Stenner…
One of the most important parts of any skateboarding community is its skate shop. It’s where everything begins; first board, first pair of skate shoes. Your first memories of becoming involved in the skateboarding culture are formed here and with the people who run it.
The city has been home to a number of people who have gone on to make their mark and be known throughout the skateboarding scene but without shops like ESP, and the tight-knit community around it, this would be impossible.
Jamie Stenner and his family have been at the centre of Chichester’s skateboarding culture for many years. Jamie has always been dedicated to supporting the culture – from setting up competitions, or being involved in the transformation on Chichester Skate Park. I caught up with Jamie and got his insight on Chichester skate community.
Let’s start from the beginning ESP has been around for as long as I can remember holding a skateboard, tell us a little bit about how it started?
We opened ESP in October of 1996 with the aim to provide Chichester with a fully functional skate store; a hub for skaters to hang out and discover new products and meet like-minded people. It’s a family-run business now approaching our 21st birthday, still standing by our values of knowing our product range inside out (being hands on by repairing, fixing, changing parts) and helping keep the scene alive with knowledge and enthusiasm.
The Chichester skate scene has produced a lot of talent over the years, yourself included, what do you think this is down too?
Both Sam Bailey and Jack Penny used to work in store back in the day and I’m stoked to see that their eye for skateboarding has helped Sam with a career within media working for several top skate brands and magazines whilst Jack’s making a name for himself in the art world and I’m sure he’ll tell you he’s had a skate influence.
Athlete wise; Mike Pannell, Dom Powling and Phil Russell have all had industry hook ups for their wizardry on a board. I turned AIL* pro on my roller blades in California in 2010 and Jordan Clarke is the current two-time world champion on his scooter. Possibly Chichester’s laid back approach and acceptance of each rolling discipline has helped create raw talent naturally.
A local skate shop is a massive part of any local skate scene, have you noticed any changes to this over the years?
I couldn’t agree more, having an independent skate store is like having a voice. People who understand what the skaters want and need and do what they can to support it! Yesteryear was very different, we were always asked a lot more about our products. Youngsters nowadays have it so much harder with the daily bombardment of advertising on the internet. The line between honesty and a sales pitches is blurred with the thinking that online reviews are real as opposed to 9/10 of them being writing by company owners. The current upcoming generation aren’t to blame, it’s all they know. But once they start skating with the heads they gradually understand the difference between ‘real’ companies (the ones with heart) as opposed to the jack of all trades companies. I guess it’s all apart of growing up…
Chichester is home to one of my favourite skateparks in the area, what was your roll in the development of that?
I’ve got a lot of love for the park, too – there was a while there when I didn’t think it was going to happen though! It was a four-year campaign with petitions, presentations, several meetings before we even got to the design side of things. However, we got their in the end and it’s was well worth the wait!
Is there anything exciting in the works for ESP?
Everyday has its excitements in store, but nothing specific. We’re looking forward to our 21-year milestone and massively thankful for all the support over the years! We’ll continue to develop our product ranges; stay knowledgeable and help out everywhere possible. I’m beginning to organise our annual skatepark event WIM Wheels In Motion (WIM), which we host at Chi park – stay live on our social media for dates coming soon.
Thanks for your time, Jamie!
*AIL is the organisation that turns rollerbladers from amateur to professional.