Just Roll With It

  • Sports   Thursday, June 9, 2022   Matt Harris
Elaine Beck, left, and Philip Morris have brought their own unique spin to the world of roller skating with their Retro Rollers skate shop on Albert Street. Anyone wanting to get into the action can find all they need and then some.

Elaine Beck, left, and Philip Morris have brought their own unique spin to the world of roller skating with their Retro Rollers skate shop on Albert Street. Anyone wanting to get into the action can find all they need and then some.

If Elaine Beck and Philip Morris have things their way, the phrase ‘let the good vibes roll’ will have a much bigger meaning when they open the doors to their rollerskating shop in Stratford later this month.

Beck and Morris are the minds behind Retro Rollers, a shop that is ‘everything roller skates’ and then some. Originally opened at the North London Optimist Community Centre on Cheapside Street, the duo made the decision to expand and have their new location at 65 Albert Street. Inside you’ll find everything from boots and wheels, bearings, safety gear and more. But it’s the stuff that’s not on the walls that Beck and Morris are hoping will create a vibe that goes beyond their shop.

“We had been seeing both a generation of young individuals not really socializing, and a generation of mature individuals growing rather frustrated by this,” Beck said. “For us being the do-ers that we are, we decided to simply do something about it. Once we were reintroduced to roller skating, it truthfully was an organic decision.”

Clicking on the ‘About Us’ link on Retro’s website, their mission statement is there for all to see: this is the vibe you’ve been searching for. Beck and Morris believe the world is a far better place when colour and flair are added to the mix, and that’s what they hope Retro Rollers is going to bring to the local community.

“For those individuals that prefer to break away from ‘rules’, and be free in their form of expression – we want those people to know this is a safe environment to do just that: be unique in your own creative style,” Beck said. “Expect the unexpected and keep an open mind so that a new generation of roller skaters can feel welcome!”

Roller skating had its heyday back in the late 1970s and early 1980s before fading into the background with the riding popularity of inline skates/rollerblades. So for Beck, formerly employed at a law firm, and Morris, a former contractor, to go from stable jobs to roller skating gear gurus might seem a little … odd. But there was no choice in their minds once they caught the vibe for themselves.

“We both were always seeking something perhaps more fulfilling than the jobs we had, and when we visited Scooter’s Roller Palace in Mississauga for our son’s birthday, we realized then and there we had to get involved in roller skating in some capacity,” Beck said. “Once we found what that capacity was, we left our jobs and have been pivoting to suit our needs and the needs of the roller skating community.”

As all good backstories go, Retro Rollers began when Beck and Morris rolled out their goods on the road. Starting off as an events-based business that ran remote roller skating events all over the map, things began to come into focus once the pair began working with the City of London and their roller skating program there. Their small skate shop in the North London Optimist Community Centre had a captive audience, but Beck says they were still on the lookout for something more. And their attention kept coming back to Stratford, which in the end made perfect sense for them – close to home and to their London store. With the new spot locked up, the dream began to form.

Part of that, and a big part to the Stratford location, is the inclusion of a roller studio. A place that has all the feel of a roller rink but without the wood floor, Beck and Morris said its part of the whole package for their clients.

“Our studio has mirrors, lights, projector screen and music, of course,” she said. “We don’t just sell the roller skates and send you off – we also want to provide the community with a space to learn. We intend on running more drop-in classes in the summer, and progressive group sessions in the winter months. One program that gains the most attention is ‘Quadfit’, which is fitness on skates. Since any given person can burn anywhere between 400-600 calories an hour in roller skates, we decided to take that up a notch and make something that is already fun level up even more! Quadfit incorporates toning muscles with drill movements, which also amplifies skills for when you take skating to the rink/street/park or anywhere. We’ll also have Learn to Skate classes for different ages, and Rhythm Skate lessons with choreography.”

Go on, catch your breath. It’s a lot to take in for beginners, but Beck and Morris grasp that. Their website has a well-planned FAQ listing, but Beck points out they’re more than willing to go over questions with customers before getting too far down the road.

“Sizing is key and we help with this process, whether its online or in person, and once we are aware of your size we can steer you in a number of directions that will best suit your needs and desires,” she said. “We are often asked what our ‘cheapest’ skate is, and truth be told, cheap is expensive. This means they have purchased a hundred dollar skate, for example, only for it to fall apart in a few months or even less. A less pricey skate may also provide you with an experience in roller skating that is not accurate, and we want to gain skaters, not lose them.”

And it’s not about the upsell – rather, it’s about providing an experience that is both safe and enjoyable.

“Whether you’re starting out or coming back to skating, a skate package will ‘wheelie’ be the best direction,” Beck said. “You’re not required to have the best toe caps, latest fashionable bag and so on. But it’s best to consider using wrist guards and a helmet at minimum, especially if you are taking skating to the streets. It’s always best to use skates and accessories for their functionality, not because it matches with your outfit. Also, scuffed up skates means you use them, and ultimately you become a skilled roller skater when you get out and just roll. Scuffed skates are a trophy in the community and you should wear them proudly!”

While Retro Rollers is not directly tied to the sport of roller derby, Beck said the sport is underrated and under-respected. The sport has existed in Stratford before, and Retro Rollers is willing help those interested in finding somewhere to roll and jam.

“We have witnessed battles for rental opportunities and seen groups lose out over hockey or really any other event,” she said. “Roller derby teams are everywhere and we can put anyone in touch with the right people immediately if they’re interested in learning more. We love helping roller derby teams in any way we possibly can and will continue to build our relationship with them – if you’re ever in a position to go to a bout, we highly recommend supporting them.”

There it is, that vibe. It shines through no matter whether Retro Rollers is talking about gear, fitness opportunities or helping foster parts of a large community. But what makes Beck and Morris really glow is thinking about the feeling someone gets when they get their first pair of skates and the joy washes over them.

In their words, it’s a vibe that doesn’t get old.

“This makes us both smile – it never gets old and I can honestly say it still brings us overwhelming emotion every single time,” Beck said. “When we first got into skating, we took our time and just rolled as much as possible. One of us caught on a litter faster than the other (we won’t name names), but certainly having a dance background can have its advantages! It’s so important for each new skater to know that it’s THEIR journey and they will learn at their pace.”

Retro Rollers’ Stratford location (65 Albert Street, Unit B) officially opens on Tuesday, June 28, with store hours to be announced. Remote events are planned for Kitchener, Cambridge, Plattsville, Brantford and Mount Forest, with details being updated daily on www.retrorollers.ca. You can also stay as current as possible by following Retro Rollers on Instagram