When AJ DeLong was 11 he traded his figure skates for inline skates and hasn’t looked back since.
“I figure skated for eight years and then once rollerblades came out I got my first pair and was hooked,” he says. “I gave up figure skating and just went all out and started rollerblading all the time so that’s been my biggest passion for like 18 years.”
DeLong says Shop Task, which opened on Queen Street East at Coxwell Avenue in August, started out as an online shop and was run by his friend and fellow inline skater Leon Basin. It originally focused on aggressive skates meant for doing tricks.
Then last year when Basin opened a retail store in Vancouver, they started branching out to all aspects of rollerblading including fitness, recreational, racing and kids skates.
“We’re trying to cover more of the higher-end stuff but also a little bit of the entry-level,” he says. “Really focus on getting the people that are really passionate about rollerblading and catering to them as well as also introducing new people into rollerblading.”
He says Basin, who grew up rollerblading in Israel, created the company for other kids to be able to enjoy the same childhood experiences he had.
“We always thought there was a need for a shop like this in Toronto,” says DeLong. “It was always like a thought in the back of our minds, opening it, but we didn’t really know how realistic it was.”
This summer, after DeLong had already moved back to the city, they decided to take the next step and open a second store in Toronto. They had planned to open in the spring of next year but, when DeLong found their ideal location, the pair decided to open in late summer instead.
“It’s so close to the beaches and so many people rollerblade along the path down there and it’s also really close to the skate park,” he says, adding that there’s no store like it between Vancouver and Montreal. “So we thought it was a really good location and everything seemed to work out so we just decided to go for it.”
Over the winter, he says, the store will also expand to include skis and ski boots, especially those tailored for park skiing.
As for his own background, DeLong says that his figure skating start helped him excel in rollerblading, which he says gave him many opportunities like traveling all over the country and Europe.
“Rollerblading has contributed so much to my life and it’s taken me to places I never would have gone to if I hadn’t been a rollerblader,” he says, adding that it’s a very small community where everyone knows each other. “It’s really like you have a friend anywhere you go.”
DeLong says his goal is for the shop to be the go to place for people’s rollerblading needs and to bring all inline skaters together.
“I guess I just want people to know that there’s still people that care about rollerblading even though it may seem like a small industry now … there’s still a core at the centre of it all that really cares about it and will always care about,” he says.
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