â€œHappiness is doing something you love to do and making a living out of it. Bliss is the doing something you love to do and getting paid a fashionable amount for it.â€ - DC Chapman (Casual Decks)
â€œLife is constant progression and skateboarding is constant progression. If you are progressing at skateboarding, you are progressing at life.â€ – Ummberger (Casual Decks)
Itâ€™s incorrect protocol to start an interview with two quotes, but when a group of people embodies their business as much as Warren, DC Chapmen and Umberger of Casual Decks, exceptions can be made. Founder, President and Co-owner, Warren, graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with a Bachelorâ€™s in finance, is currently a Senior Analyst as an investment banker in Baltimore, and has been skating for about 12 years. DC Chapman the CEO brings the flare and dramatics to the team. Ummberger who was part of the US Military is the team manager of Casual and when he is not keeping everyone on task, he is running a skatepark in Maryland.
There is more to these three than the Skate Company, to them, skating is what saved their lives.
Format: How did you guys come up with name Casual Decks?
Warren: I wanted something that had no pre-connotations to it, something that was very original. When you think of Casual, I want you to think of this board company. Aesthetically the name looks really good and when I came up with it, I came up with it in that script. It was more aesthetics than anything else, I wanted it to look very clean and have a kind of grown style to it and thatâ€™s kind of where it came from.
Format: How long have you guys been in business?
Warren: Weâ€™ve been in business for about three or four years and the first couple of years were a little strange. We were feeling it out and we would move a couple out the trunk and we were in a couple of shops here and there, but things didnâ€™t start jumping off until two years ago when we started doing much higher quantities and we were in a bunch of other shops, and kids have been latching on to it. Kids are really feeling it. One kid got a Casual tattoo.
Thatâ€™s pretty extreme. I donâ€™t know if I would have done that myself but the fact that people are feeling it like that, it feels good. The best thing for me is if Iâ€™m just riding around when Iâ€™m in Baltimore, DC or anywhere and I see [someone] riding a Casual skateboard. Thatâ€™s it right there.
“…whenever we go to a shop, we never have to get a hotel or anything because weâ€™ll go out there and start skating and people will be like, â€˜oh you guys skate,â€™ well you can come crash at my house.”
Format: What does skating do for you, how do it help you through your daily life?
Warren: Skating for me is consistency. I could be here or I could be in another state and I see a kid on a skateboard we automatically have a connection and itâ€™s like family. DC knows too, because we have a couple of shops in some rural areas and whenever we go to a shop, we never have to get a hotel or anything because weâ€™ll go out there and start skating and people will be like, â€˜oh you guys skate,â€™ well you can come crash at my house. Itâ€™s very unique and kind of weird especially from the outside looking in. Itâ€™s like a different type of camaraderie almost, a type of subculture with very strong ties.
Format: With Pharrell and Lupe putting the culture of skateboarding in the mainstream along with the pros do you see any cons to that?
Warren: Definitely, that stuff is in style which means that stuff will go out of style. Thatâ€™s another reason why it helps that weâ€™re in it right now, because we didnâ€™t come up on that. Thatâ€™s something that happened outside of what weâ€™re doing, so whether that goes in or out of style itâ€™s still something that we are going to be doing.
Format: From a business standpoint, how do you prepare for something which you know is going to happen?
Warren: There is not a lot that you can do when it comes down to it. We focus on the core skaters, hip-hop, grunge, and thatâ€™s the big thing about Casual, we want the style to transcend. When it comes down to the popular community, it may not be in style to those guys, but to our core audience weâ€™re always going to be here doing it. The big thing is the pop community isnâ€™t that big of a market that weâ€™re targeting. Weâ€™re targeting the core community so regardless of what happens out there, weâ€™re still going to be in the same spot.
Format: When you say â€œCoreâ€ you mean people who have been involved since the beginning, straight raw and authentic.
Warren: Exactly the core community is the kids that donâ€™t necessarily skate for the hype but kids that love it and are always in it and itâ€™s special to them.
“…kids will grab their book bag, throw it down and jump on their board, keep it street and get busy with it, and thatâ€™s how we kind of do it on the East coast.”
Format: Where do you see Causal Decks reaching its zenith?
Warren: There are a whole bunch of skateboard companies, large and medium sized and the way we view it is, itâ€™s not one company versus the other, but more east coast verus west coast almost. The West coast dominates the skateboard industry, therefore their styles what they like, their whole feeling kind of bleeds over into everything. So with us, weâ€™re trying to push the East coast, because our style is a little bit different. Itâ€™s very similar to hip-hop: if you look at West coast hip-hop compared to East coast hip-hop, the style is very different. The same thing with skateboarding, West coast skateboarding compared to East coast skateboarding in terms of the styles.
Format: What are the styles that differentiate West from East coast skating?
Warren: Well a lot of it is stereotypical type of stuff. West coast skaters have been conventionally more surfer kind of skater; skating a lot of ramps, where as the East coast is more street skating where the kids will grab their book bag throw it down and jump on their board, keep it street and get busy with it, and thatâ€™s how we kind of do it on the east coast. So we want to represent for the east coast and get large enough where we donâ€™t have to accept what the West coast has, but represent the East coast and give that option so there are more options available.
Format: Whatâ€™s one of the biggest myths about skateboarders?
Warren: The biggest myth about skateboarding is that itâ€™s the surfer dude, the White kid, thatâ€™s a big myth about skateboarding.
Format: Did you have that problem growing up? Lupe and them talked about that being an issue as well.
Warren: Definitely there was that growing up but in the skateboard community, Black kids, White kids itâ€™s not there. In the outside groups people are looking at you like, â€œwhy are you riding a skateboard?â€ I think itâ€™s the type of thing where if you love it, it doesnâ€™t matter what anybody says youâ€™re going to keep doing it and pushing forward and itâ€™s kind of fortunate or unfortunate depending on how you look at it because now itâ€™s kind of accepted. Itâ€™s good for kids coming up because they donâ€™t have to deal with it as much.
Format: What kinds of music do you listen to while youâ€™re riding?
Warren: A lot of hip-hop, sometimes hardcore punk rock, just a good mix. When it comes down to the music as well, there is a lot of west coast style stuff pumped on you.
Format: Off hand do you know how many African-American Skateboard companies exist?
Warren: Thereâ€™s DGK (Dirty Ghetto Kids) which is Stevie Williams company, Pharrell has his skate shoe company, Kareem Campbell had a skate shoe company called Action and he also owns City Stars. The big thing about those companies is that a lot of people have preconceptions about those companies and what we want to do at Casual is keep it urban but keep it open to anyone to define what it is for them. I want it to be where a hip-hop kid can rock a shirt, and then a hardcore kid like Benji [of the Casual Deck Skate Team] for example, the first thing he did when we gave him our product to rock, he ripped off a sleeve and put some of his sweat on the shirt and just rocked it and thatâ€™s his style and that exactly what we want it to be.
More Info: http://www.casualdecks.com