No Comply and the Austin Skate Community
Owner, Elias Bingham, talks of the importance of the local skate shop
No Comply is a skate shop located in Austin, Texas. As with all great skate shops, community is everything for No Comply. Whether that’s the friendly and dedicated staff on hand to offer advice or simply shoot the shit about the latest goings on in skateboarding. There’s a steady stream of locals rolling through to lurk and grab a coffee before heading to the incredible outdoor skatepark located right behind the store. The owner, Elias Bingham, has created something special here.
Can you tell us about being a sponsored skater, who you rode for, when and what made you stop pursuing that and eventually open a skate shop?
First sponsor was Jukebox Skate Shop in NYC around 93/94. Then Balance Skateboards and a couple of others in the late 90’s till I ended up on Element flow for about 10 years. I rode for Vita shoes, then Ipath, Circuit Wheels was my first ad in 98ish. I also skated for Venture Trucks, Spitfire, FTC and Upper Playground.
First pic in a mag was the contents page of Slap’s first year anniversary issue. My first interview was in Big Brother’s East Coast issue ‘95. I got a Thrasher cover in May 2001, and appeared in 411vm and TWS.
Sponsors supported my life of skating and helped me to travel the world and connect with our international skateboarding familia. As far as pursuing skateboarding, I never thought of doing it as a career, it has been what I’ve done most of my life and is my familia and an endless pursuit. The sponsors were a lucky bonus, but it didn’t start or end with them.
What made Austin home? You’re not from there right?
I grew up all over the East Coast, then San Francisco after high school. After 10 years in SF I wanted to try somewhere else (I also owned a Valet Parking Co for five years and didn’t want to get stuck in that business forever). My twin brother Simon had been living in Austin for a few years and it seemed like a cool place. He had just found out he was about to have twin daughters so I wanted to be around for them. There weren’t really any core shops so my brother wanted to get one going, I dove into the move and we started the shop.
It seems one of the strongest aspects of No Comply is the local scene. Can you give us some background both on the scene and the work you do at No Comply which brings the community together?
Yeah, we have a very strong local skate scene, and it’s growing. With Austin being a fun welcoming city, good weather most of the year, good spots, ditches, and skateparks, the city has a lot to offer.
Everyone at the shop is passionate about skateboarding, so we are naturally a part of the skate scene and try to promote and provide for it as best we can. Being the local shop gives us the opportunity to coordinate events with larger companies, pros, and with the locals.
We support contests, demos, Go Skate Day events, premieres, charity donations, girl group meet ups, shop videos promoting local rippers, skate park volunteers, youth drop off center and counseling, adult drop off center and counseling, dog drop off and counseling, monthly art shows that feature and showcase local skate artists and we also bring in well known artists from all over.
Was the skate scene in Austin always so strong? Was it tough creating the store and getting it going?
There had been a skate scene in Austin for a long time. Creating and getting the store going was difficult on the business end, so having support and backing from the local skate scene really helped.
It seems Austin as a city is changing fast, but is still open to independent culture. Has this helped a lot with the development of No Comply? And do you see this attitude lasting for a good while longer?
Yeah the independent culture of Austin seems to have helped the development and growth of No Comply. The city is definitely growing a lot. I think the appeal for a lot of folks moving here is the independent culture, so hopefully they support it and help it thrive.
Running a skate store is often said to be a labour of love, with a lot of owners facing more and more challenges to stay open. Can you let us know your thoughts on this? Are you facing the same challenges? Or are you seeing more positive aspects, maybe around the importance and strong community role a skate store can play?
As far as a skate shop being a labor of love, yeah for one by caring about skating our whole lives we have paid attention to all aspects of it which gives us knowledge of all the who/what/when/where/why – from who to support and what companies, to significance and history, to being a part of the local scene. It also takes many years, if ever, to grow to a point to make any profit off it, so if you don’t care about skating it really wouldn’t make any sense to own a skate shop. I am lucky to have employees that are dedicated and help work out creative angles for growth as well as a community that helps us grow with it.
What are the top three most important things to creating a successful skate store?
Creativity: you have to come up with every aspect of a business that has so many moving parts and which are mostly unique to your skate shop; from the financial and technical business side, to employee and community support and understanding, to art direction, branding, and event production – you have to get creative with it and figure it out your own way.
Respect: you have to respect your employees, your customers, the community and peers. Also, any failures that happen to be made and likewise any achievements.
Support: having a good team of employees that have your back and care about what they are doing, are creative and respectful, and motivated to take their own initiative.