Ken Chong and Greg Rodriguez are used to teenagers hanging around. That’s because Ken and Greg decided to open The Bait Shop, their own skateboard shop and design studio. Since then, increasing numbers of teens have realized that not only are the boards and shoes worth checking out, it’s also a cool place to pass the time.
Located in an old bait shop (yeah, the kind of place where fishermen go to buy worms), the two entrepreneurs turned the 1,500 square foot warehouse into an art space complete with an indoor half-pipe. Just off the corner of Queen West and Dufferin, the graffiti and murals alone make the trip worthwhile. Inside, you’ll find a hub of art and design activity, and lots of great skateboard gear.
Teenagers hanging around skate shops may seem like a cliche, landing ollies and living easy, but The Bait Shop is the sort of place where guys go to do stuff. The entire interior was rebuilt by the Bait Shop team, and handiwork is the norm, where even the light fixtures are made of reused beer kegs.
The Oasis Skateboard Factory, an alternative high school program run out of the Scadding Court Community Centre, has brought students to the Bait Shop for each of the last four years. Oasis students work with Bait Shop designers to create personal brands, and not only is it a terrific chance for the students to develop a project all their own, Ken and Greg are amazing mentors, as they themselves are still a couple of young guys trying to make their business work.
The past couple of years, I myself taught classes at Parkdale Collegiate, and each year, I made a point of bringing my students to visit. While most enjoyed the time away from the classroom, it was the kids who sometimes struggle with the pencil and paper routine at school that seemed most excited by the possibility that a life of drawing and skating could be the foundation from which to make a living.