Port teenager’s business is off and rolling

Connor Cowen’s skateboard shop finds a spot inside downtown store selling toys made for water
Ozaukee Press staff

Connor Cowen may only be 17, but the Port Washington High School senior has already found his passion and turned it into a business.

Cowen recently opened Port Skateboarding inside the Board Shack on Franklin Street in downtown Port.

His equipment and supplies take up much of the south side of the shop, with boards arranged on racks he built. Above the desk is an artful arrangement of broke boards — most of them skateboards he broke while performing tricks.

Cowen said he has participated in many sports, but skateboarding is the one that he will likely pursue throughout his life.

He started skateboarding about seven years ago and has been doing it ever since.

“There’s something about rolling around that got me hooked — the speed and the freedom going down the street,” Cowen said.

There’s also a challenge, he said, particularly when learning tricks.

“It’s like a battle, but it’s so fun when you finally get it,” he said. “I spent months trying to get my first kick flip and when I did — it’s like the best feeling in the world. It stays with you forever.”

Skateboarding, he added, has taught him perseverance.

“You fall down, you get hurt, you get up again,” he said. “It’s taught me to keep going.”

He skateboards to school and does tricks at the skateboard park on Moore Road, where he said he has found a community of fellow skateboarders.

It’s not just young people who skateboard, he said, but older people as well.

“I know guys who are in their 40s and are still down there (at the park) doing it,” Cowen said.

The roots of his business, though, came from riding on water, not pavement. Cowen  loves surfing, and said he would stop frequently at the Board Shack and talk to owner Shawn Knitt.

“I kept nagging him, ‘When are you going to get skateboards in the shop? After all, it’s call the Board Shack,’” Cowen said.  “He said, ‘Why don’t you give it a go? I’ll help you.’”

Knitt said he wanted to give Cowen “the leg up I never had. If I can help a dozen entrepreneurs, that’s great.”

Skateboarding was born from surfing, Kitt said.

“When I started in the ’60s, they used to call it street surfing,” he said. “The mechanics are pretty much the same. The big difference is in surfing, the surface, the water, is moving.  In skateboarding, the board is moving.”

Knitt said he spoke to Cowen’s father Ryan and suggested the teen start a shop.

“Everything just fell into place,” Knitt said.

Cowen said that with the help of his friend Wesley Hoag, he got things started and opened his shop about three weeks ago.

“On day one I sold a board,” Cowen said. “That was exciting.”

The shop carries a variety of skateboards and parts.

“As with cars, there’s a ton of different parts and brands,” Cowen said, adding he’s hoping to get more in stock so people can customize their own boards.

He has both longboards, or cruisers, and shortboards, or trick boards.

Longboards, he said, generally have soft wheels and a long wheel base.

“They’re super fun for going fast,” Cowen said. “They have a really smooth ride.”

Shortboards have angled noses and tails that allow riders to do tricks, he said. They’re usually stiffer to take the impact as riders go off stairs and rails.

They generally also have harder wheels than a cruiser.

“I always had a longboard I took to school,” Cowen said, adding that after school he would switch to his shortboard and have fun.

He also stocks stickers so people can decorate their skateboards.

“There’s definitely a focus on the artwork,” Cowen said, particularly with longboards. “I always look for the function. There’s a lot of people who want to ride something that looks cool. There’s a sense of pride with it.

“I think they’re all art.”

He also has hacky sacks — “A lot of my friends are soccer players. We love them,” Cowen said — as well as shirts printed with the shop’s logo, which was designed by a friend of Cowen’s grandmother.

“I got a lot of help from people I know,” Cowen said.

The shop isn’t self-sustaining yet — Cowen said he’s supporting it by teaching a summer school fishing class for the Port-Saukville School District and skateboarding for the Port Parks and Recreation Department as well as helping his father, who works in construction in summer — but Cowen said that will take time.

“It’ll take off,” he said. “It’s already doing great.”

When he turns 18 in a few weeks, Cowen said, he will file to create a limited liability corporation for the business. And he plans to go to college to study natural science or freshwater science.

“I’ve been fishing every since I can remember,” Cowen said.

But, he added, he believes he will continue running the shop well into the future.

“The goal is just to keep inspiring everyone else,” he said. “Skateboarding has changed my life. I’m hoping to change someone else’s.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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