Skate gear retailer Blades to close its last store

Soho outpost was all that remained of 30-year-old chain

Dec.December 26, 2019 10:32 AM
Blades founder Jeff Kabat and the store at 659 Broadway (Credit: LinkedIn and Google Maps)

Blades founder Jeff Kabat and the store at 659 Broadway (Credit: LinkedIn and Google Maps)

Nearly 30 years after opening its first store on the Upper West Side, skate gear retail chain Blades is shutting down its last location.

Blades’ Soho store had become a fixture in New York City’s skating scene, but the enthusiastic customer base wasn’t enough to overcome the headwinds facing retail. The store has been losing money for the last three years, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“Financially, it was a good thing for a while,” founder Jeff Kabat told the Journal. “It has not been a good thing of late.”

In addition to the challenges posed by online shopping, the retailer’s finances were further dented by the fact that some its biggest wholesale clients, like skatewear company Vans, have opened their own retail locations.

Blades opened its first store in 1990, and at its peak operated 21 stores with 400 employees across five states. The chain also sponsored its own snowboard and skate teams and played a major role in bringing West Coast extreme sports culture to the city.

“I think that it’s a perfect inflection point where costs are going up, and as the internet economy is becoming increasingly stronger, the retailers are getting squeezed out,” Kabat said.

Kabat transferred his interest in the retail co-op unit at 659 Broadway, where the Blades store is located, to the Klein Group for $8.75 million in 2017, property records show. Jacob Klein’s Klein Group has been one of the city’s biggest retail investors in recent years.

“We are very intensely looking at Soho, but we are hearing it’s very soft at the moment,” Klein told The Real Deal in 2016. [WSJ] — Kevin Sun

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