08 November 2016

A Discussion With. Mai Mailan about Calle Skate Shop

Tucked away in a small corner in Pasig is one of the critical hubs of today's local skate scene. A rail sits in front of the store. The shop's left wall is filled with shoes while the right side is adorned with apparel goods and skateboard decks. Then they have the customary skate magazines and photos around the space as well. In addition, the people manning the shop are skaters themselves, they have the skaters attitude with welcoming guests, like how they would treat fellow skateboarders who traveled from farther places just to skate at their spot. Welcome to Calle Skate Shop.

Last October 15, Calle celebrated their 7th year anniversary. They started with their yearly tradition of selling brand new decks for only P1,000 each. And then skate contests and an alleycat race followed suit. As always, the ensuing celebration is where they stayed true to their name. The street was adorned with the people that call Calle home: skaters, fixed gear riders, musicians, and the like. A true street party took place, with beer as refreshment while burgers and fishballs were consumed. A DJ spins some music before the live performances from local bands – Typecast and Pinkcow brought the show to its apex, which made people dance and mosh to embody the punk vibe that skateboarding is almost synonymous with.

As cliché as it sounds, the party was definitely better than the last one. But what led to this constant growth from an underdog, a do-it-yourself outfit? Skateboarding is a youth movement, which makes trends fast-paced and volatile. Kids switch brands and styles in a blink of an eye. Only time can tell if skateboarding is indeed a passion for an individual. And from the looks of it, Calle has a formidable number of people housed under the same vibe. They paid their dues, with an online shop that first laid the foundation before a physical store took place. Skate videos were also a viable ingredient, with a full-length one back in 2011 as a hallmark achievement. They also always introduce a new rider with his own introduction video. To know more about their story, we now hand the mic to shop owner and founder Mai Mailan.

Interview by David Villania III. Photos by Earvin Perias.

When and how did you start skating?
I started skateboarding around 1996 with a couple of friends who got hooked after watching Gleaming the Cube. (laughs)

What is Flipskates? 
Flipskates is an online shop I started in 2007. We started selling from the trunk of my car after office hours.

How did your clientele with Flipskates start to grow as the months went on?
Well during that time only a few online shops sell the products that cater to skateboarders here in Manila. So as soon as they found out that we have this certain item and the price is way cheaper, it started to blow up. We got orders everyday and sent shipments nationwide, it was crazy.

What swayed you from having the online shop to forming the physical store, Calle?
Too many meet-ups and too many shipments in a day that cost us some orders not being met, it made me realize that we needed to do something about it. So after a couple of years Calle was born.

What can you say is Calle known for among skaters?
We really sell affordable but good quality skateboards back then until now, and we have a kick ass team, so I guess this is what we are known for.

Why did you come up of the anniversary tradition of selling the decks P1,000 each? What made you continue it every year? Has it been growing year after year?
Just so you know, back then we used to buy secondhand boards and some hand me down boards from relatives from the States. One of the reasons why I started this shop is to help young skateboarders get quality boards for a very good price, and so eventually a local talent gets recognized worldwide. So this yearly tradition is a way of helping us achieve that goal. It is getting crazier every year and as long as we are here we'll keep on doing this until we get our first gold from the Olympics. (laughs)

What can you cite as manifestations of this yearly tradition's impact in the skate scene?
Only few will sell overpriced secondhand boards.

Who is on the current roster of the Calle skate team? What do you look for when sponsoring a skater?
We still have the OG team line up: Don Ramon, Nog-Nog, Neil John Natividad, Iking, Nonong Sanoy, Chocks Mangaspar, Kris Nicolas and we got some new recruits: Dwight Trinidad, Lornel Bihasa, Sheperd and JD. When sponsoring, style matters but we take attitude more seriously.

What are your future plans for your skate team? Do you guys have another full-length video in the works?
Travel and skate with the team and, as they say, stack 'em clips. We have something for you guys soon.

What would be your dream project for Calle? Dream collaboration?
A collaboration with a foreign brand is on the top of our list, perhaps a Filipino-owned brand based in the United States.

Got a message for the people who supported you since day one?
Thank You.

Building a business venture out of your passion is a tricky business. Especially for those who have to balance their time, prioritizing between being an entrepreneur, having a day job, and taking care of one's family. Sometimes your vision might not manifest. Sacrifices are meant to be made, with moves meant more for the people and for the scene than for monetary gains. The stories of people like Mailan prove that this can be achieved. With a team of friends to help him out, and a genuine friendly attitude towards his customers, Calle has definitely grown, with branches in Tanauan and Baguio to boot. But still, there are more goals to be achieved. More skate contests to support and more skate prodigies to discover and nurture. As they constantly achieve their purpose of helping the scene, it's safe to say that Calle is on its way to reaching the decade mark. Bet on them nailing a couple of decades more, or maybe well beyond.


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