We had the pleasure of meeting Stef Mainey back in 2012 when the London Brawling, the All Star Team for the preeminent UK based London Roller Derby League came to play their first international US games in a regional WFTDA Tournament in Burlington, Vermont. Stef stood out as one of the best players at that tournament and soon became one of best players in the world having a very successful roller derby career playing in multiple WFTDA championship tournaments and representing team England twice in the Roller Derby World Cup. Stef now runs Quad Republic, a specialty roller skate retail shop in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here is quick catch up with Stef.
When did you open?
We opened in 2016, we started as a pro shop at the BAD training venue in Oakland, from there we opened our first store front in 2019 in El Cerrito. In 2021 we moved to a bigger space in the same city.
Why did you open?
The local skate shop had closed around 2014 but there was still demand in the area. We opened in 2016, I had worked for a few different skate brands over the years and this was a perfect transition. We started small, mostly serving roller derby skaters but expanded as demand changed and our knowledge grew.
Tell us about your roller skate background.
I started playing Roller Derby in the UK in early 2007 at London Roller Derby. It took a few years for the governing body to figure out how to be an international sport. Once international teams were accepted in the WFTDA we started competing in the US and quickly made it to regionals (later changed to playoffs), then a couple years later started making Champs. We held the 4th ranking spot for 4 years in a row. In 2016, I started playing for Bay Area Derby, a top 20 team until I retired in 2019. After derby I dabbled in park skating which was fun, now I skate mostly on flat surfaces.
Tell us how you have seen the Roller Skate Industry change over the last 15 years.
I can't really speak to all forms of skating and the intentional skating scene at the beginning, my first 8 years of skating were in the UK which has very few rinks, pretty wet weather and few outside skatable surfaces and skateparks. This means I was only really around my personal interest of roller derby, which was gaining momentum across world. By the time I moved to the US derby was starting to contract and I had the opportunity to see more people skating outside, in rinks and skateparks, but as a shop owner the majority of the customers that we dealt with were still derby people.
Once the pandemic hit everything changed for us as a skate shop. Derby pretty much disappeared and recreational skate took off in a big way, As the pandemic went on we had a lot more customers into dance, rhythm, park and artistic coming through our doors. Derby has come back a little but the roller skaters we see on a day to day are now way more diverse than they were a few years ago.
How are things going with the shop?
We are super lucky to have an amazing and strong skate community in the Bay Area. So many of the skaters that picked up skating during the pandemic have stuck with it. Saying that, demand for skates has certainly dropped off since the height of the pandemic, and this seems to be an experience shared by many skate shops. Having your business expand and contract so aggressively over 3 years has certainly been a challenge but I feel we are doing a good job of adapting and keeping our customers happy.
What are your top selling skates, wheels, trucks, bearings etc?
Mid range our most popular skates are the Sure Grip Fame very comfortable for new skaters.
High-end we've found Riedell 336 and 3200 to be super popular.
Wheels - It's not a Phase (made by local wheel maker NFG MGF)
Trucks - Huck Trucks have been very popular
Bearings - Reds
Helmets and Skate Pads - S1
Quad Republic Skate Company - Bay Area California