One of my favorite aspects of the TOA website is its ability to share stories of often overlooked skate scenes and to highlight committed groups of skateboarders that aim to give a voice to their community and culture. We are stoked to catch up this time with Justin Grzechowiak to learn more about the Buffalo, New York skate scene and share an all new part filmed over the summer by Brendan Lovelock. Enjoy and many thanks to Justin and Brendan for giving us a glimpse of Buffalo.
Justin Grzechowiak / Photo: Wes Adamski
Hey Justin, how's it going?
What’s up Jovi, we’re just in the car heading back to Buffalo. Some of the guys and I took a day trip to Canandaigua.
Oh sick. How was that? Are there some good spot there?
It was fun before the rain caught us. We were only there for a few hours, but honestly not too much that we found but there’s a good rail and hubba at CMAC.
Oh that’s right! So, you grew up in Buffalo and have been skating for over 14 years now. How did you first get interested in skating?
Yeah, I was born in Tampa, but I grew up in Buffalo. I first got interested in skating when I was about ten or eleven. My dad and I watched a few of the older neighborhood kids skate down the hill on our old street and he could tell I was super into it. Around the same time, he told me about this indoor skatepark he saw on the news, I think he was just as excited and nervous as I was to go check it out haha. He ended up buying me an X Games board or something like that, and I learned how to drop in on this little quarter pipe and I was so stoked. Shortly after that my brother Nate started skating, we spent that whole winter skating the park together and it was clear to our parents that we were hooked.
Winters are no joke Upstate. I lived in Syracuse, NY for nearly 3 years and was fortunate that there was indoor park in the city. How do you guys escape the snow? Do you see a lot of people having a harder time sticking with skating given the 5-month long winter?
Yeah, the winters here are brutal. The indoor park that I grew up skating has unfortunately been closed for about five years now, that was a huge blow to the local skate community. Nowadays there are a few private indoor spaces where people can skate throughout the winter, but we normally try to get at least one trip planned to escape the cold.
FS Blunt / Photo: Mike Chinner
On a national level the skate community was pretty gutted when Sunday skate shop closed last year. How did the news impact the local scene?
For sure, I was bummed. Sunday was an awesome shop; I spent a lot of time there and learned a lot from those guys. Big ups to JP and Andy (Maholsic) for holding it down for our city for so long. When they announced they were closing their doors it was a wakeup call to all the skaters here. It proved that we have to rally together to make big things happen and keep things together.
Speaking of Andy, I'm a big fan of his ‘A Stones Throw’ video and enjoyed your "throwaway" part for the upcoming ‘A Stones Throw 2’ video. Any updates on when the full-length should be coming out? And who's part are you looking most forward to?
Yeah, Andy is super passionate when it comes to filming skating, I love that. I don’t have a date on when the video will be out, but we’ve been working on that too. Man I can’t wait to see the video in its entirety, I know Andy has something up his sleeve. Alex Furtado, I know he’s got some good stuff and I can’t wait for Pedro’s part either, dude shreds.
Tell me a little bit about the Ralph Wilson Foundation. Do you think this surge of funding towards public spaces will benefit the skate scene in Buffalo at all?
So, Ralph Wilson Jr. is the founder and former owner of the Buffalo Bills who recently passed away. His foundation is set up to support and improve the hard-working rust belt communities that he lived his life in, Buffalo and Detroit. The foundation gave over $100 million in grants to each city to improve waterfront parks and related public spaces, I can’t wait to see how that trickles down to improving our skate scene.
There’s more info here.
BS Smith / Photo: Mike Chinner
The ‘Jeb’ video you guys put out last year was really sick and seemed to get a lot of positive reviews. Who was all involved with that?
Thanks man, that was a fun one to work on. We were surprised with some of the positive feedback to be honest. Tyler Stier orchestrated the whole thing from like 2016-2018, and Nick DiCara, Dashawn Amos, and my brother Nate also had parts. We were just taking turns filming and passing the camera around whenever we would take a trip. Good times.
After ‘Jeb’ came out Quartersnacks said that "upstate New York should probably be on par with Boston, D.C., et al. as a get-out-of-the-city destination for us all." Having lived Upstate for a few years I'd have to agree. There are a ton of amazing spots up there. Do you think upstaters would prefer it staying the way it is? Or would everyone be stoked to have more visitors from NYC?
There really are a ton of hidden gems all over upstate New York, you just have to have the patience to find and skate them. There’s definitely not as much low hanging fruit as in New York City. And we definitely don’t want it to be blown out or anything, but we’re always stoked when someone new or a team comes to town. After all, Buffalo is known as the city of good neighbors.
BS Tail / Photo: Mike Chinner
What's good with Moms Skateshop? Seems like a pretty interesting formula from what I have gathered. Are they really only open by appointment?
Yeah, it’s different for sure but it works. The shops Instagram is the main line of communication. You can see what product is in and watch what times the shop is going to be open. Also, you can just message the shop and figure out a time that works for both parties. On top of that Dave will post daily hours too, for example Friday night shop hours 5-8. He’s got a great thing going for our scene in an old warehouse space. So far, we’ve held art shows, shop board release parties and premieres there too, it’s really sick to see people pile in there for events. I’m just happy to have a skater owned shop here bringing the skaters together. And definitely, Dave has hooked a lot of people up, including myself just to keep us all skating.
That's really rad what Dave is doing with Moms Skateshop! Is there a video in the works?
Yeah, I’m stoked to say we’ve been working on that too. Not sure when that will be done but I can’t wait to see our buddy Jon Desantis’ part. He’s 33 and has two kids and always makes time to skate. Definitely a huge inspiration to our crew, he’s my favorite skater around here.
Buffalo has one of the highest crime rates in America. You guys get into any sketchy situations while out filming and looking for new spots?
Honestly nothing too sketchy, people even in the worst parts of Buffalo are pretty amazed by skating and I think that has allowed us to be in some areas that we wouldn’t normally be in. Having a skateboard in those neighborhoods seems to be the get out of jail free card.
FS Smith / Photo: Wes Adamski
It looks like it's been a productive summer for you and Brendan Lovelock. Putting out this new part "Remedy" after filming for only 5 months is pretty impressive. What's next?
Thanks man, I’m stoked on this project because it came together so suddenly, and it proves that Buffalo and the other less skated cities deserve some recognition. Bren and I filmed the first couple things for this part in May once school let out and that was the spark. From there we ran with it, just trying to make the most of our free time and create a project that showed the potential of Upstate NY and the surrounding areas. We really wanted to hit spots that weren’t in a ton of videos and I think we did a good job of that. I hope this inspires more people to come out this way.
Now that this is pretty much wrapped up, I’m going to focus on the Mom’s shop video and try to film a few more things with Andy for his upcoming video before the snow hits. Other than that, I’ll be working on school stuff and looking forward to getting some trips planned for the winter to dodge the snow!
Thanks so much for your time Justin! Any last words?
Thank you, Jovi! Just want to say a quick thank you to my family for always being down with whatever idea I have and supporting me. (Mom, Dad, Nate, Austin, Zoey and Gavin) Shout out to everyone that was involved in making this project (Brendan Lovelock, Dave Eoannou, Jack Fisher, Wes Adamski, and Mike Chinner) Shout out to the Buffalo crew and all the memories we’ve made and thank you for all the inspiration you guys provide. Thanks to all the homies in other cities who let us crash on their floors, I wouldn’t want it any other way. And a huge thank you to BK at Vans, dude has been keeping me on track for years. Shout out to anyone I forgot, Cheers!
Lights on baby!