Kansai Scene: Why open a skateboard shop and why in Horie?
Bug Barnes: Because skateboards should be sold in skateshops by people who skate, not in sporting good stores stocked next to rollerblades and swimsuits. There weren’t enough skaterowned and operated shops in Central Osaka… actually there weren’t any. So I opened The Mint to fill the void. The shop has only been open for about 6 months, but it’s a dream come true and I’m excited to have the chance to give back to the local skate community.
KS: How much did the interiors and branding set you back?
BB: The interior design and construction was all done by myself and a few friends. I made the logo and website as well, so that cost nothing but a few sleepless nights and beer I guess. Basically there was very little hired help, so that was key in keeping the start-up cost down. DIY is the way to go!
KS: Who are your customers?
BB: The Mint’s doors are open to everybody! Don’t know anything about skateboarding? Come in and we’ll teach you. Want to crack a beer and talk about skating while watching skate videos? Do it. Just make sure you bring a cold one for me and Leiv.
KS: What kind of marketing are you doing to build your customer base?
BB: Marketing? What’s that? Really, we just focus on skateboarding and the good that comes along with it through the use of social media platforms and the internet. You can see products anywhere, so I try not to put the focus 100% on products, but rather show something a bit different from the norm. I also shoot skate photos and make videos with my friends.
KS: Where do you source the decks and other gear?
BB: I play the distribution game because I kind of have to. I have my own original deck company, Best Friend Skateboards, so I get those direct from America. But I also try to source independent or up-and-coming brands that haven’t made it to Japan. Cutting out the middleman allows us to have better margins and offer better prices. This is also fun because it allows me to stock products that can’t be found anywhere else and connect with cool brands and the skaters that are affiliated with them.
KS: What percentage of your sales is from the online store?
BB: Not very much, but that’s okay. The webstore is just now getting to a point to where it’s operating smoothly and getting traffic. But like I said earlier, it’s all about the experience. I hope that our customers come visit us at the shop and experience The Mint in true form. Of course, I can’t expect everyone in the country who skates to be able to visit the shop so I’m happy to have a web store available. It’d be kind of stupid not to.
KS: Where next for The Mint? Plans for expansion?
BB: Yeah. Actually we have some pretty cool stuff in the works right now, so stay tuned!
The Mint Skateboarding
• Website: mintskate.com
• Address: Osaka, Nishi-ku, Kitahorie 1-15-10 2F
• Tel: 06-6616-9835
• Open: 1pm–8pm daily (closed Tues)