East Lansing’s longboard shop skates to national popularity

Oct 8, 2015

EAST LANSING – A store, nestled in the basement of one of East Lansing’s most-popular shopping districts, conducts business in a less traditional way than its neighbors. This underground world of pressed wood, urethane wheels and cast iron also happens to be the Midwest’s premier longboard shop.

Action Board Shop, located next to Chipotle on Grand River Avenue, does not see lines going out the doors. It does, however, ship longboards, which is literally, a longer skateboard, around the world with an infallible efficiency. The various sizes and shapes of a longboard makes them much more accessible and customizable than a skateboard. Larger decks and wider wheels usually allow for a smoother ride for the inexperienced boarder.

   “I get people in the shop that are anywhere from 62-years-old, to an eight-year old that’s picking up a board today,” said storeowner Jim MacGregor. “It appeals to everyone because it’s easy and fun.”

The growth in longboarding around East Lansing and MSU’s campus coincides with Action Board Shop’s rise in popularity. The store plays an active role in the longboarding, or “downhill skateboarding” scene around the country. Their advertisements can be found in some of the most popular skateboarding magazines, and their team riders travel around the world competing in downhill skateboard races.

“We sponsor everything we can,” said MacGregor. “We hold events of our own, and sponsor others all over the Midwest and East Coast.” 

    MacGregor recognizes where his company’s roots are instilled, but doesn’t run away from competing with the bigger skateshops out on the West Coast.“We ship way quicker – we’ll get it to you in a day or two,” said MacGregor. “The big guys in California it might take a week.”

The stock of products in the shop also lacks for nothing, but that wasn’t always the case. MacGregor remembers when he shelved only 20 boards in the shop.

It’s hard to imagine such a sight when you walk in the store today. A plethora of brightly colored wheels, trucks and decks line the wall. The store space is being utilized to its absolute maximum, but MacGregor says he has no plans on moving.

“We just take it day by day – the market is weird,” said MacGregor. “In a four year time frame, we’ve grown way more than I thought we would. We’re growing here.” 

   It’s not uncommon for the curious MSU student to wander into the shop, MacGregor has no reservations about where he makes the majority of his sales.“About 85-90% of our sales are online,” said MacGregor. “It kind of started out where I didn’t have a retail space – I opened the store in 2011 with a focus always on selling the majority online.”

MacGregor, a Royal Oak native, is a Michigan State graduate who credits the degree in tourism he received with helping his knowledge of shipping and logistics. The storeowner has never had a business partner for Action, going all in by himself in 2011.

“I worked for a company related to [my degree] for five years,” said MacGregor. “Then I decided it was time to pull the trigger and do something I love.”

The little shop in the basement of the largest burrito joint in town isn’t doing too bad these days. Just ask the UPS deliverer, David Freville, who pulls up to the store in his truck twice a day – at 11 a.m. and then around 4:30 p.m.

“I’m here at least once every day, usually twice,” said Freville. “Most other places only a couple times a week.”

The morning shipment brings in the decks that will then stock the store. Those boxes usually hold 6-10 decks each, stacked for shipping efficiency like only skateboard shops know.

So how does the poor guy who is tasked with carrying “Sometimes 30-40 boards a day” up and down two flights of stairs feel?

“I don’t get sick of carrying them,” said Freville. “I like the companies that ship a lot and have a lot coming in. He gets to work – and I get to work.”

Freville, who has never personally longboarded before, does have one suggestion for speeding deliveries.

“I want one of those electric longboards that are in the store here,” said Freeville. “I was trying to talk my boss into letting us take them for deliveries. He said it was a liability, but I might still try it.”