The State of Skate: Speaking With Brian Jules, Owner of Westside Skates

Owner Brian Jules stands in front of a wall of skateboard decks at Westside Skates.

Photo by Jackson Ross

During the last twenty-two years, Westside Skates has become a staple of Northeast Ohio’s skateboard scene. Since opening the doors in 1995, owner Brian Jules has seen and supplied an evolution in skating trends. I had the opportunity to talk with Brian about skateboard styles, developments in the community, and what motivated him to raise a skate shop in lovely Lakewood, Ohio.

It was a cool day in mid-March when my son and I walked into Westside Skates. Brian was busy helping a young man, accompanied by his mom, pick out the right board for his birthday. While the boy carefully chose his complete set, my son and I found a complete array of boards on the walls. We started in the very back room, where the eighties style decks decorated the wall behind a half pipe. The middle room was decked with longboards, cruisers, and shapeshifters. And the front room had everything a skater could want: a wall full of decks, clothes, shoes, trucks, wheels and, to the mother-of-the-birthday-boy’s relief, helmets.

I started skating in the nineties. I remember having a lot of fun. When I was getting the hang of it, I bought a board from Westside Skates at its original location. Brian had decided to open Westside where The Flying Lemur bookstore used to be, on the southwest side of Madison and Bunts. “I remember we had to paint the floors because they were all vines… the landlord was reluctant to give us some paint,” he joked. After some effort and a few fresh coats of paint, Westside was open for business.

Brian knew that he was taking a chance opening a skate shop. While there was plenty of popularity in the eighties, the early nineties were a low point for the skateboard industry. So why did Brian choose to open a skate shop during an ebb in demand? “Originally I wanted a place for people to meet…exchange information,” he explained. “I just graduated from Kent, went out to Hollywood, didn’t like it out there.” When he came back, he realized something was missing. “(I was) like, wait a second there’s no 100% skate shop in Cleveland. I used to skate with the guy who had a skate shop on the East side of Cleveland, Ohio Surf and Skate (who) gave me some ambition to start our own business.”

As the nineties progressed, so did the style of skating. Westside sold the thinner, faster, “popsicle” shaped decks instead of the older eighties models. Skaters were incorporating more flips into their tricks and when they were looking for a cool place to skate, they went wherever DIY skateparks were found. These parks were built by skaters with sometimes makeshift materials. They were constructed in spots where they could hone their craft without distraction, but there was a problem: sometimes these DIY parks weren’t exactly within the legal realm. “You take your chances for sure,” Brian recalled. He told me about a specific DIY park that used to be on the west side. It was shut down just after concrete was poured for a half pipe.

Luckily, In 2004, the City of Lakewood opened a community skate park at Lakewood Park. It became a place where skaters could continue to hone their craft without wondering if it would still be there the next day. I asked Brian what effect the park had on his store and the neighborhood. “It was a boost,” he said. “It did help out a lot. It draws people from all over the surrounding suburbs, counties.” He was happy that it was designed by a skater. He went on to say that it was a great place to shoot demos with the pros and also a great place to spectate.

In 2009, when Westside Skates moved to their current location across from Lakewood High School on Madison, business was picking up.“When we first moved here was our busiest year ever.” Brian recalled how they still had most of their items in boxes from the move but didn’t have time to unpack as they were so busy. The store space increased and the business grew.

Currently, Westside has a promotional skate team of “the finest talent in the area.” The team includes names like Canton’s own Jonny Carl, who was recently featured in an Instrument Skateboard ad in Thrasher Magazine. “He’s super good.” When not on road trips promoting Westside with his team, Brian is hosting Art shows and local video premieres, “In today’s day and age, a lot of kids, they film everything and a lot of them are talented, they edit it, they make skate videos like the pro videos, so we host the new premieres in the back. We host pro video premieres sometimes.”

Lakewood has a unique store in Westside Skates. While rolling with the new trends and developments in the skateboard world, owner Brian Jules has provided boards and gear for not only Lakewoodites, but the surrounding communities as well. He’s seen the shape of the boards change. He’s seen the city embrace skateboarding by building a great skate park. And, to the delight of all local skaters, his store will be here to supply and promote the next big thing in skateboarding.

Jeffery Ross is a long-time Lakewoodite who has recently decided to get his writing career underway. His interests include birdwatching, uprooting baobabs, and painting roses.