By Brooke Geery
It’s been 18 years since the Sound Barrier — Rutland’s last official skateboard shop — closed its doors on Center Street. That void has now been filled.
On Friday, June 25, members of the Chamber & Economic Development of the Rutland Region (CEDRR), state Senator Cheryl Hooker, and local skateboarders gathered to cut the ribbon and officially christen Rutland’s new skateboard shop, Arson.
Owner Bill Strecker, 44, found skateboarding as a kid growing up in Winhall, and shortly realized that it’s more than just an easy way to get hurt — skateboarding is a welcoming community that offers something for anyone who wants to learn. This is the No. 1 reason he wanted to expand his skate shop empire northwards.
“We decided to open Arson so we could be involved in the community,” Strecker said. “We noticed Rutland had a need and there is a void here. We wanted to support the scene and give the kids somewhere to go. We’re really excited to be in the community and everyone has been awesome.”
Prior to opening up his own shop, Strecker found many ways to stay involved. He was instrumental in building the skatepark in Barre, where he also ran skate camps. He was a major player on the committee that worked for 10 years to get a public concrete park build in Manchester. And he lived in Deerfield Beach, Florida, for a decade working at a shop there and learning the business.
He opened Arson’s flagship location in Manchester — so named because it’s located in the old firehouse (345 Center St. in Manchester) —in 2011 and the shop has thrived.
The past year and a half has been an especially big one for the skate world. In addition to being a great outdoor activity keeping people safely busy during a global pandemic, the sport will make its debut in the Olympics in Tokyo in July. Strecker said the pandemic gave him the opportunity to slow down and figure out the best way to expand.
“Covid was slower to grow than we wanted, but we made it,” he said. “Manchester has a bunch of outlets and we didn’t just want to be another outlet,” he said of the boutique nature of the shop.
To keep things in Rutland running smoothly, Strecker hired Garrett Allen, 32, to be “the guy.”
“I can’t think of a better way to spend my time than helping out kids and talking about skateboarding all day,” Allen said.
Other local skaters, such as Craig Evans and Connor Cavanagh, have also signed on to offer lessons, coaching and camps in the region.
The youthful energy exuding from the shop is contagious.
“I’m really excited to be seeing the young people that are coming in here because they are the future of Rutland,” CEDRR Executive Director Lyle Jepson said.
Senator Hooker agreed, and said she’s excited to see the Rutland skateboard community flourish for that an other reasons, too.
“It’s environmentally friendly transportation so we’re really happy about that!”
Arson is open 12-8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It is located at 150 West St. in Rutland. Stay up to date on social media @arson_shop and online at arsonshop.com.