Carson retailer’s niche? Darned near everything

Wheelhouse employee Tim Ray rides the halfpipe in the back of the store on Saturday July 19th.

Wheelhouse employee Tim Ray rides the halfpipe in the back of the store on Saturday July 19th.

Carson City’s WheelHouse is hard to pigeonhole — and that’s how the new shop’s owners like it.

“My passion is skateboarding,” says Matt Bartak, its manager. “But we’re trying to encompass everything. If it’s about movement, WheelHouse is about it.”

The store sells everything a skateboarder needs, from the boards to helmets to a range of accessories. The boards consist of separately-sold trucks, wheels and decks – the board itself featuring artwork on the bottom and a grip surface on top, which are routinely broken during skateboarding tricks.

“When I was skating I went through two decks a month,” says Bartak, now 33, who operates the store with his brother Mike, the sales manager, and Teak Dopf, a high school friend who handles public relations and organizes the shop’s special events. (Stacks, a good-natured, brown Doberman Pinscher, greets visitors at the door.)

WheelHouse also sells its own line of colorful road bikes called Peddle because Bartak says they couldn’t find an affordable brand of bicycle to sell. They buy the frames from a supplier in Los Angeles and add the rest.

“The kids get out the door for $350,” says Bartak.

The shop also features clothing, mostly T-shirts and hats and mostly for men, although Bartak says they plan to expand what is now a small offering for women.

And it also sells health supplements, including Liquid Nitro, an energy drink which launched the business two years ago.

That’s when Bartak and Dopf began selling the product to gas stations and convenience stores as the only distributor of Liquid Nitro in the state, says Bartak.

Bartak had been saving for years to start up the business. Working for the city’s water department since graduating from high school, he took classes in real estate at Western Nevada College, saved his money and eventually bought investment property that financed the business’ early days.

With the distribution business going, Bartak and Dopf leased the 4,000-square-foot space on Rhodes Street off Curry Street for it and then started expanding into retail, holding the store’s grand opening a month ago.

But the retail offerings occupy just half the space. The remainder is a training spot for young athletes and a skateboarding team the store is working to build.

WheelHouse is looking to sponsor talented skateboarders, a common practice in the world of skateboarding. When Bartak was skateboarding, he was sponsored by a local shop, Out of Bounds.

“We want kids with a good attitude, who promote themselves, get people to come into the shop,” said Bartak, usually by wearing the store’s branded T-shirt and talking up the business to fellow skateboarders.

In exchange, the sponsored kids get discounts on their decks, training and help with creating material such as videos to promote themselves to bigger sponsors such as Nike.

So far, WheelHouse is sponsoring not a skateboarder but a drag racer, Zach Cail, Nevada’s 2013 open wheel sport mod dirt racing champion. Cail helped the business get Liquid Nitro into stores in Fallon, where he lives.

WheelHouse’s grand opening included a skateboarding competition. The store is planning a second event — a bench, pull-up and push-up competition — for Sept. 13.


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