Love and skate

Reno's Classic Skateshop might seem like a relic from a different time, but for skaters, that's a good thing

A crowd of local skateboarders wait outside Classic Skateshop on April 5 to meet professional skater Paul Rodriguez.

A crowd of local skateboarders wait outside Classic Skateshop on April 5 to meet professional skater Paul Rodriguez.

Photo/Matt Bieker

Over the past two decades, corporate sponsorship and branding have grown skateboarding into a multi-billion dollar industry, with a cultural aesthetic aimed at skaters and non-skaters alike. As interest in skating exploded, local skateshops everywhere fell to online markets and an influx of cheaper, sub-par products. Now, Reno’s last skate shop seems like a relic of a different time, but for those who just want to skate, that’s a good thing.

Eric Lantto owns and operates Classic Skateshop in Midtown. Lantto has been skateboarding since 1984.

“At 18 years old, I started promoting my own skate contests in Northern Nevada to help strengthen the scene,” Lantto said. “Along the way, I decided I wanted to be a part of the business side of it.”

Lantto’s love of skateboarding took him to California, where he worked for prominent skate brand DC Shoes and eventually opened his own business. In 2013, Classic made the move from a small retail space in the back of Neverender Boutique and Gallery to its current location.

“Once we outgrew the space, we moved to 677 South Virginia Street, and we’ve been here ever since,” Lantto said.

Classic shares a retail space with Aces Tattoo Parlor. Vintage posters and old-school memorabilia line the walls of the small shop; a single rack of T-shirts sits in front of the large display window opposite a wall of skateboard decks. Including a small workshop and sales counter, it seems almost sparse—and that’s by design.

“Classic is a throwback to what a skate shop was, not a ’board shop,’” Lantto said. “You can find everything you need to ride or service a skateboard. What we don’t do is jump on trends to pay the bills. We don’t carry snowboards, wakeboards, scooters, vape products, bikes, drug paraphernalia or body jewelry.”

While other stores in the area may sell skateboarding gear and accessories, Lantto believes that there is a fundamental difference in quality between these more generalized “board shops,” and a traditional skate shop.

“We cater to our customers: skaters,” Lantto said. “We only carry products with proven quality and are skater-owned. We sponsor local skaters, we sponsor local contests; these are things that should be the responsibility of a true skate shop.”

Aside from just supplying gear to skaters, Classic places an emphasis on fostering the skateboarding community in Reno. This sense of responsibility for the scene is emblematic of a time when local skate shops were the crux of skating culture.

Going pro

On Sunday, April 5, Classic hosted members of the professional skateboarding team Primitive Skateboarding for an autograph signing that drew over 300 people. Primitive is captained by renowned skateboarder Paul Rodriguez, recipient of eight career X-games medals and sponsorships by Nike, Target and Mountain Dew, among others. Rodriguez and Lantto met in Reno in 2001 and have remained in contact ever since.

“Eric is like family,” Rodriguez said. “This is actually my first time coming to the shop. We always knew that we had to get out here and support; he supported us for so long we needed to return the favor and show love.”

Rodriguez sat with his teammates for several hours: signing posters, shirts and skateboard decks as local skaters and their families crowded the shop and the street outside.

Jesse Dean, one of many young skaters in attendance, beamed as he left the shop with a freshly autographed board.

“I didn’t really ever expect any pro skater to come to Reno—it’s really crazy,” Dean said. “Paul Rodriguez is one of my favorite skaters, my brother’s too. It’s a real dream to meet this guy.”

Rodriguez believes that younger skateboarders especially benefit from the role shops like Classic play in promoting interest in the sport. He remembers the importance that pro visits and similar events had for him when he first started skating.

“When I was a kid, and I would finally get to meet my favorite skater because they would come to the skate shop I used to hang out at, it made your dream feel like it was that much closer, that much more reachable,” Rodriguez said. “You could see that these people are real. They’re normal, just like you. It just humanizes them.”

Growing up around skate shops, he says, afforded him a chance to learn not only the technical skills of skateboarding, but also skating’s past as a cultural movement—knowledge he believes many younger skaters may be lacking.

“The new generation never learned their history or learned what it was like for all of us generations before them growing up,” Rodriguez said. “Sitting in the shop, having that culture of the older guys teaching them about style, about what guys are the ones you really want to keep your eyes on—I’m hoping that’s what’s helping these kids that we met today. Helps inspire them, opens their mind up.”

When it comes to ensuring the future of the scene, Lantto believes investments need to be made.

Classic sponsors a team of local skaters handpicked by Lantto as ambassadors for his shop, and for Reno. One team member, Dane Haman, moved to Reno from Milwaukee in 2011 and quickly grew to appreciate what Classic stood for.

“Eric’s super cool to anyone who walks in, and I think that’s fucking rad,” Haman said. “That’s how you foster the growth and love of skateboarding. You treat it right.”

For Haman, Classic is already intrinsically tied to Reno skating culture, and is worth the support of locals—not because it’s Reno’s last skate shop, but because it acts in the best interest of Reno’s skaters.

“Just the fact that Classic is here, it’s kind of like Eric is saying, ’Skaters of Reno, I have your back,’” Haman said. “I feel like we should have his back. It’s a mutually beneficial skater/skate shop relationship. That’s something that hopefully everybody comes around to. I know there’s still a lot of younger dudes who aren’t thinking on that level yet, but it’s important.”

While trends and brands have changed the face of skateboarding in recent years, Classic’s mentality toward its customers and work in the community represent something a little more timeless: putting the love of skateboarding before all else.

With more events planned for the summer and a weekly skate session put on by the shop every Sunday, Classic remains committed to supporting local skaters. Even if Classic were to go away one day, though, skaters like Haman have no doubt that Reno’s skating culture will continue to grow—wherever it can.

“At the end of the world, we’re going to be skating with Twinkies and cockroaches,” Haman said. “We’ll find a way to make it happen against all odds.”