Being an Angeleno can mean different things to different people within this city. Whether you’re a street vendor, a musician trying to book gigs at a local venue, or even a boutique owner, this city has people hustling in a variety of fields. Angelenos come in different shades of color, size, and age. Michael Cardenas, an Echo Park native, embodies just that. He is a 19 year old entrepreneur opening a skate shop ambitiously called Angeleno Skate Shop. We sat down with Michael in his modestly sized shop located in a small plaza on Sunset and Douglas and spoke to this young entrepreneur about the city, skateboarding, and the only skater owned and operated skate shop in Echo Park. Angeleno Skate Shop opens tomorrow (Friday June 3), go check it out!
Who is Michael and what are your roots in this city?
My family and I were born in Echo Park and it is the only place we have resided for two generations. I know the majority of the skaters that roam this neighborhood and I see them as friends and not just fellow skaters. Before skating took up the majority of my interests, I used to do a lot of cinematography, video editing, a bit of graphic design.
I had a passion for film-making and skating all my life.I was hyped at the opening of Die Krusin right next to the lake, you know, right on Glendale across the street from Burger King. I saw the shop and felt really inspired. I wanted to create videos that could ultimately have some degree of influence and also become a better skater. Sadly, they closed their doors almost immediately after opening.
How did their closure affect you?
I felt extremely disappointed. I remember thinking “oh wow, finally a skate shop in Echo Park!”
How did that let down influence you into doing what you’re doing today?
I do feel some sense of guilt because perhaps Die Krusin wouldn’t have closed if I had just simply bought more stuff there. Now that I am envisioning a gift from myself to the people of Echo Park, I don’t want to let anyone down the way I felt that they let many skaters in this community down.
The origins of this skate shop go back to freshman year in high school. I have been working since then, at one point juggling two different jobs. Instead of spending mindlessly and carelessly like I saw a lot of the people around me doing, I had saved the majority of the money in a see through jar. Even when my parents would give me a dollar a two, I would stuff it in the see through jar even if it meant that I wouldn’t eat for the day and had to wait until I came home after work or after skating.
What is the importance behind a business such as this one entering this neighborhood?
Echo Park is subject to criticism such as the topic of gentrification and big businesses running small businesses out of this part of the city. Angeleno Skate Shop mission embodies a small business trying to thrive in a time where it may seem like the odds are stacked against shops such as these.
There definitely is a sense of weight on my shoulders by trying to be there for the community and give back to it by creating a business that would mean a lot to people, but I feel as if it is the least that I could do for this small part of Los Angeles that two generations of my family have been able to call home.
It is a good sign that you acknowledge the weight on your shoulder and are willing to tackle it head on. Where you see the shop in the near future?
I want it to be known as a place where people can come and get what they need and not have to commute so far out of Echo Park to get. It is going to be a place to not just shop but also be seen as a place where you can come and hang out at. I feel that if the customers feel like this is a place where they belong and be a part of something bigger then themselves, they too will fall in love with the shop and what skateboarding in general embodies.
Another goal would be to always keep it skater owned and skater ran. No investors and no big suit-and-tie man pushing any of us around. Fundamentally, skateboarding is rebellious, against the system, and anti establishment. Although this is an establishment on its own, I wont ever let it become anything that the skater community would feel reluctant to call home.
I feel that I am setting my own bar because I have. I am the one making these choices. Ultimately make it to the end of the year, it’ll mean a lot to me.
How will you as a skater in L.A. grow simultaneously with Angeleno Skate Shop?
In a sense, being a business man is synonymous with skateboarding because it takes experience and hard work to be both. The ambition of opening up something such as a business takes a lot out of person just like learning a new trick or adapting to a new skate environment does.
This will be learning process. Only time will tell. I will continue striving to be a better skateboarder and an over all better Angeleno. I will put in the work for this shop to remain open and be something the people who look up to it can feel proud of just as I hope my family feels about me and this endeavor I decided to tackle on so early on in my life.
Tell me, why Los Angeles? What makes you want to put in so much of your time to build something here and not anywhere else.
Because this is my home. I have always been here and it is all I know. “Angeleno” can mean a variety of things but to me it is someone who was born and raised in Los Angeles. That describes me and i want that to extend into what Angeleno Skate Shop stands for. I really love L.A. People talk a lot about how New York and other major metropolitan cities are so great and a cool place to live for a couple years in your life. I feel otherwise. I feel that this is where Michael Cardenas was meant spend his life.
Early on in my life, someone who I looked up to once told me “If you love skateboarding, it will love you back.” Ever since hearing that from this person, I have based a lot of my life decisions on that exactly. One example of this would be how I have made up my mind that no matter where I go in life, I want it to end with skateboarding just as it begun.