What it’s like to own Canberra’s longest running skateboard shop – Meet your locals
A sit down with the owner of Canberra’s local skateboard shop: Dave Donoghoe
It is a pipe dream that is often thrown around skateparks all across the globe; “How good would it be to own our own skate shop?” Well, for Queanbeyan local Dave Donoghoe, opening his own shop is precisely what he did.
This December will mark the 15th anniversary of Canberra’s oldest independent skateboard shop.
Trilogy Skateboards will celebrate their first year in a shopfront and out of the Civic Centre to sweeten the anniversary. An important milestone in skateboarding culture, authentic ‘local’ shops will almost always be found in shopfronts and not in large malls.
I sat down with Dave to chat about skateboarding, beer taps, and the journey of Trilogy Skateboards.
So Dave, what made you decide to put beer taps in your new shop location?
Mate, it’s pretty obvious. I was born in Queanbeyan, I love beer, it makes sense. It also looks pretty rad, but we can’t actually give it away or anything, so we only use it after hours.
So what was your introduction to skateboarding?
When I started high school, I didn’t have an interest in skating at all. But they built a skatepark in Queanbeyan, it was the first skatepark ever in Queanbeyan. One of my friends had a skateboard, so we went down and I had my first roll. I think it was the first day I went there I rolled down the little hip and made it, then moved up to the bigger hip. I rolled down that, and it was alright, so then I went to the biggest one. I rolled down that, but then I had to roll up the pyramid, and I didn’t know how to pump or anything. So when I hit it, I just launched off the top, pretty much did a front flip, fell on my face, knocked my tooth out and broke my wrist. That was my first day riding.
But then I still wanted to go back and do it. I had to get back there and just concur that one thing that knocked me back. When I got out of the hospital, I waited about a week, then went straight back down the park, and I nailed it.
What made you move into skateboard retail from just skating? Was the original shop in Queanbeyan?
Yeah, in Queanbeyan. I wasn’t doing much with my life. I think I was doing furniture removals and a couple of other things. Then I met Irene (Dave’s business partner and wife), and she asked me what I would want to do? I said I’ve always wanted to own my own skate-shop, and she asked, why don’t you do it? So we just dove in.
The bank initially knocked me back on my first loan, I said it was for starting a new business, and they said we can’t give you a business loan. So the next day, I rang up and said I need a 20-thousand-dollar loan for home furnishing, and they gave me a loan for home furnishing.
So we got that, then we hit up a supplier. Only one supplier would supply us because there was already technically a skate shop in Queanbeyan. They made us pay upfront, and we got a heap of boards in and a few other things, and we sold it out of the back of my car for the first month.
Then a couple months later, we found a location. We opened the shop, and it didn’t do too well. There were skaters around, but that was at the start of the internet. So what was happening was kids were buying from America and bringing their own stuff into the shop. Which makes it really hard because I thought those guys would support us.
We were probably there for about 9 months, then a scout from the Hyperdome (now South Point) came past. They thought we might be a good fit for the Hyperdome. We went and had a look; he said they had heaps of good places here, and when we went there, he said he only had one spot. It was right out the back of the shopping centre, in the courtyard across from a small bar. No one had ever been in there. It was pretty much a storage facility, but it was pretty big, and I think it was only $500 a month or something like that. It was really cheap.
So we moved in, and I think we made more money on the first day than what we did in a week of sales in Queanbeyan. So we were like shit, we could actually survive here! We wanted to keep the Queanbeyan shop, but it just wasn’t making any money; we were pretty close to going bankrupt. We decided that the best thing to do was to close that one and focus on this one in Tuggers because it seems to be working. People are coming in and actually buying the stuff we sell, getting a good customer base.
So we closed down the Queanbeyan one about a month later, focused on the Tuggeranong one, and that’s where we started. That’s where Trilogy became what it is now.
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Was there much competition when you started?
There was. There was liquid blue in Queanbeyan, so we couldn’t get any products they had which was pretty much all of them. But when we moved out of Queanbeyan, we could get more of the products as we were so far away from the competition. The other competition was Shifty’s in Civic, Adrenaline Plus in Braddon, Fat Snowboards in Belconnen, and all the surf shops like Overboard. So there was probably like 5 or 6 competitors.
Has there been much growth in the Canberra/Queanbeyan skateboard community in the 15 years of Trilogy?
When we first opened, it definitely wasn’t as popular as it was in the late 90s early 2000s. There was a pretty big lull for a very long time, and it only really started to pick up big time in the last 3 years.
What brought that on?
It’s hard to say. The biggest boom that is happening in skateboarding right now is because of COVID. When the lockdowns lifted, everyone’s minds changed, and they wanted new activities to do.
Anyone who ever skated back when they were younger now wanted to get back into it. Kids suddenly were going onto TikToc or Instagram to watch skateboarding. Skateboarding has been around for ages, but for some reason, social media has been quite a significant influence on it, especially TikTok. I think that has been a big play in it, a combination of Covid; and people getting out there and living in the moment.
So almost 15 years ago, you started in Queanbeyan, then Tuggeranong, then Civic and now Braddon. Does it feel better to be in a storefront rather than being in a mall?
100%! It has always been our dream to be a storefront, and that’s what we were when we started in Queanbeyan. We were out on the street, but we just didn’t have enough customers back in those days, didn’t have much of a backing.
The only way for us to survive was to adapt and get in the malls, get the walk-by traffic, get the exposure and sell all the fashion, all the clothing, the shoes, and accessories, whether that be air fresheners, NBA hats, hair products. Just anything you can get people to make an impulse buy. And that is what fed the skateboarding of the shop and kept it going because we didn’t sell many boards and skate equipment. We were selling a lot more clothing and shoes.
Finally, what would be the lessons to pass onto someone who wanted to try and open a business?
You take risks in life, but you always take calculated risks; you don’t ever jump into anything without knowing what you’re doing. Be confident, give things a go. You’re only here for a short time on this planet, so you may as well get your toes wet, get a bit uncomfortable, get in there and see if you can swim. You never know because I thought it was going to last 3 months when I started, and it’s almost 15 years now, and it’s gone by (clicks fingers) like that.
Just get yourself uncomfortable and learn as you go; that’s what you’ve got to do. You don’t have to do a business degree or anything; you just have to get in and do it.