Written by: Michael Barcomb
Nine years after Taz closed its doors in downtown Montreal, it finally opened up again on the other side of the city. The old Taz was regularly attended by Nicky Adams and Jonathan Bergeron while they were at the height of rollerblading. Taz, for those you who are unaware, was an indoor skatepark equipped with an innovative street course, a vert ramp, and a foam pit. However, the city did not allow it to renew its lease in 2001 because the building was to be renovated in order for the Grand Bibliotheque (library) to be built. It was always promised that the park would be reopened with city funding, but the date and the whereabouts were always in limbo.
While everyone waited for the new Taz to be completed, Montreal gained two skateparks and lost one of those. A few years after Taz closed, South Parc (Site of Montreal Classic), opened and gave people a place to skate during the nasty weather that plagues Montreal from November through April. In 2005, Orkus skatepark opened, but was forced to close its doors due to financial difficulties in December 2007. This was quite controversial because the city could have used the funding for the Taz project to support Orkus, which was already open and operating. However, the city refused to use the funding on Orkus and insisted, without specifics, that the Taz project was still very much alive. Through all of this, the rollerbladers in Montreal were shifting around from one place to the next looking for a place to skate.
Finally, the city finished the structure and it opened up for public use in March of 2009. It boasts a massive street course in addition to a second level equipped with a mini-ramp and a pool. Taz took a long time to be completed, but the final result has given rollerbladers yet another place in Montreal to unite.
Despite the difficulties of having a permanent location, the Montreal Classic was a staple every year. Summer always meant that that the classic was just around the corner, despite having it at a different location until finally locking it in at South Parc. In addition, South Parc completely renovated its park in 2006 which allowed for a faster style of skating. South Parc has been the one consistent park in Montreal since Taz, and it has done a lot for rollerbladers despite being operated solely by skateboarders. South Parc gave rollerbladers a place to skate when there was absolutely no place else to go, and now it is the home of Boutique Lylac.
Throughout the skatepark controversy, D-Structure had given rollerbladers a place to purchase skates, equipment, and clothing. It promoted the sport of rollerblading, and Dan Laroche created the Montreal Classic out of D-Structure. Rollerblading has been passed around quite a bit in Montreal from skatepark to skatpark, but D-Structure was consistently there for rollerblading until 2008 when it closed. For the first time in several years, there was no Montreal Classic and no shop to purchase skates from. Oddly enough, Montreal now had places to skate, but lacked a shop like D-Structure to bring everyone together. This is where Guillaume Roy took the initiative to create a shop that would generate the cohesiveness amongst rollerbladers in Montreal that had been missing since D-Structure closed its Montreal shop.
Boutique Lylac was an idea that became a reality shortly thereafter. Starting in the summer of 2008 as a little stand as part of the counter in the entrance to South Parc, Guillaume had a clear focus for the scene in Montreal. As everyone who rollerbladed in Montreal had relied so heavily on D-Structure, nobody had really looked inward at the roots of the scene for inspiration, originality, or answers. The first big event that Guillaume pulled was hosting one of the world premiers of We Are Valo 3, the team video for Valo, last December at South Parc. Though it was in the middle of a Montreal blizzard, there was a decent turnout that produced a fun edit. Yes, that is correct, a fun edit that went along with it. There were people in the edit who may have not been the greatest rollerbladers, but getting people involved is what rollerblading should be about. This is something that Guillaume understands very well, and that is why inclusion it is such a big part of Boutique Lylac.
When D-Structure exited the scene, there was no longer a source of funding for the Montreal Classic. This is why in 2009, along with Dan LaRoche, Guillaume put up the money for the competition out of pocket. Dan was the mastermind behind D-Structure, and is still very much involved in rollerblading. He is also the founder of the Montreal Classic. How many competitions do you know of that are capable of pulling the rollerbladers that the Montreal Classic did in 2009 by being paid out of the pocket of two individuals? Lylac had rollerbladers from every major team: Razors, Valo, The Conference, Remz, Rollerblade, and NIMH (Caught at the border and didn’t make it). Getting a group of rollerbladers including Julien Cudot, Chris Haffey, Erik Bailey, Alex Broskow, Robert Guerrero, David Sizemore, Murda, Shima, and so on takes something more than just money. That something is the sincerity that Guilluame brings to rollerblading whether he is talking with a young kid buying his first pair of skates or a top pro preparing to show up for a competition. The Montreal classic turned into a celebration of rollerblading for a little over a week. In addition to the competition at South Parc, there was a barbeque/session at Taz the next day where some pros showed up and had a session with anyone who chose to show up to skate. Then, for about a week after, the Valo team stayed and skated street for a week to get some clips for their up and coming 4th team video. Rollerblading was in the streets, parks, and minds of anyone in Montreal.
Anybody who has met Guillaume knows that he is a sincere person who wants the best for rollerblading. He does not want to expand the scene in order to expand business; he sincerely wants to expand the scene because rollerblading is something that he believes in. Just a few days after this interview, I was at competition in Buffalo, NY, and Create Originals was set up there. I was talking to Brian about how many kids in Montreal were riding their frames, and he asked me if I knew Guillaume. I told him about the interview, and he went out his way to tell me how down to earth he was and what he was doing for rollerblading. I concur.
The greatest part about Boutique Lylac is that it is focused on spreading rollerblading throughout the city of Montreal and Canada without being superfluous. Rather, all of the focus is on rollerblading, getting new people involved, providing skates and clothes for those already involved, and putting together a team that will promote rollerblading and encourage more people to get involved. The more money that is spent on a fancy shop cuts out the ability to spend time and energy focusing on the one fundamental aspect of the business, rollerblading. In addition to the shop, www.boutiquelylac.com is turning into a quality site for English and French customers. With less money spent on a fancy store, more time is being spent on the website and rollerblading in general. With the team video, Mosaic, recently dropping, keep an eye out on Boutique Lylac to continue to do big things for rollerblading.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF BOUTIQUE LYLAC?
Currently, I am focusing on promoting the sport as much as I can. I am trying to get new rollerbladers involved in the sport, and I am trying to provide quality clothing and equipment for those already involved.
ARE YOU FOCUSED ON SALES IN THE UNITED STATES, ALL OF CANADA, OR JUST MONTREAL?
I am focused on Montreal and Canada. That is why I have spent so much time on building www.boutiquelylac.com into a quality site. I have English and French pages so that all of the rollerbladers in Canada can have a shop to purchase skates from. It is tough to sell skates in the United States because of the taxes involved when a pair of skates crosses the border. I am looking at something like 18-20% taxes when anything crosses the border. So, I am getting taxed when the skates come in, and then I am getting taxed if they go back out. It is difficult for me to do business across the border when I have the taxes to contend with.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU ARE FACING RIGHT NOW?
Having enough stock on hand is the most difficult part of the business. If someone wants a pair of skates, wheels, or a t-shirt, they are going to do whatever they need to do to get it. If I do not have it on hand for them to purchase, then they are going to go ahead and order somewhere else. I do not want to have so much on hand that I end up not getting rid of it, but on the other hand, I want to have enough products readily available for those prepared to make a purchase. In short, calculating supply and demand can be tricky.
DO YOU PLAN ON HAVING A FULL SIZE STORE AT SOME POINT?
I am satisfied with where I am at right now. Not having to pay for the space to have a store allows me to spend more time focusing on the rollerblading side of things. It becomes tricky when you have to worry about renting a large space, hiring (and paying) employees, and everything else that comes with owning an actual store-space. Even if I had an extra $20,000. to put into the business, I would not do a thing differently. I have slowly developed the business, and I am content and excited about the growth of the business as I move forward.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR TEAM VIDEO, MOSAIC.
I am excited about the video! I think it really shows a lot about the rollerblading scene in Montreal. We have spent so much time trying to live up to the image of the late 90’s/early 2000’s with Nicky Adams and Jon Bergeron that it is tough to create an image in the shadow of legends like that. I think that finally the rollerblading scene in Montreal is beginning to reinvent itself after such a long time. It is exciting to see such quality rollerblading come out that so many people have been overlooking. We filmed a lot early in the year, took some time off due to technical difficulties, and then finished up filming in the fall. I am very excited that the video is out because we have a lot of quality skating and filming.
(*As a side note, Nicky Adams was at the skatepark the day that I was doing this interview. Guillaume had hooked him up with a fresh, new pair of Remz complements of Kato from Remz. Kato, in turn, credited Guillaume later, so that speaks a great deal for both of them and what they believe in. Guillaume is well aware that Nicky is still an icon in Montreal in terms of rollerblading. After hooking up Nicky with the pair of skates, Guillaume mentioned that several kids came into the shop asking if they could get the skates that Nicky had. It just goes to show that Guillaume is doing what he believes in for the Montreal scene. He is not forgetting the past to create something new; he is welcoming the past into the present to create something big.)
WHERE HAS MATHIEU LEDOUX BEEN?
Last summer he was in Vancouver working on a little movie called Twilight 3. He’s been back in Montreal since November, and lately he has been skating heavily with me and also working on the last Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman movie called Red. He says he is currently trying to enjoy life as much as possible and to live for the present moment. Mathieu is also planning future projects for this summer involving skating. Besides that, he has been training at the gym to stay strong and spending some quality time with his wife Alison.
HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT SELECTING A TEAM FOR LYLAC?
I select a team based on people who promote the sport and make it look fun. I want good representatives for Lylac and the sport of rollerblading altogether. It is not good to have people on the team who are not friendly to the younger kids or beginners at the skatepark. I want the guys who are accessible to anyone from beginners to pros. I will never have someone on my team who is rude to a younger kid at the skatepark showing interest in rollerblading.
When you think about it, the gap between rollerblading and skateboarding is closing in. If a young kid skateboarding is interested in rollerblading, then I want that kid to be able to ask someone on the Lylac team about rollerblading without being intimidated. I just want anyone on my team to be able to represent the sport of rollerblading to the best of their ability.
HOW ABOUT THE MONTREAL CLASSIC LAST YEAR? WHO PUT UP THE MONEY FOR IT, AND HOW DID YOU GET SO MANY ROLLERBLADERS TO COME OUT?
Dan LaRoche and I put up the money for it out of pocket, and that made it unique in itself. I think that people respected the fact that we were putting up the money for the competition. Other than that, it was just networking with the companies. It has been a long process, but it is nice now because I know somebody from all of the main companies. I find myself on the phone talking with Razors, Valo, Remz, Rollerblade, The Conference, Nimh… whatever company it may be, and it feels great to know and have a mutual, respectful relationship with all of these people at the top of the industry.
Out of these relationships, I was able to contact people and get them to come out for the competition. It is not a bad deal for them because they can fly to Burlington, VT for a fairly low price, and then they can make the two hour drive up to Montreal for the competition. The only trouble with the competition is that everyone has to cross the border to make it. This causes some problems because anybody with a criminal record or even looking suspicious is going to at least get hassled at the border, if not denied entry altogether. I contacted Kato about Franky, but he knew that there was no point in him even trying to make it across the border. The only other big hit that the competition took was that the Nimh team was not able to make it across the border. Erik Stokley, Brian Shima, Montre Livingston, Jon Ortiz, and Adam Killgore all got turned around at the border. So, it was disappointing to miss out on that many quality rollerbladers making it out to the competition.
I was happy to get the competition going. I get frustrated with people who complain about there being no competitions, but then not doing anything to help one get started. It is good to see people like you coming up here to do this interview because of your love for the sport. So many people just wait for something to happen, but not many people take the initiative to go out and get something done on their own. I was excited, and it was a lot of fun getting the competition together in addition to watching all of the rollerblading that went down.
(*Another side note, I was able to get a hold of Adam Killgore for his side of the border story. This is what he had to say about what went wrong at the border. “Basically, Guillaume was more than generous, and was willing to put us up and show us around the area while we were up there. This was awesome, and we were very thankful that he was looking out for us like that. BUT, the Canadian customs did not like three out of the five passengers. We drove up to the border and waited in line for 45 minutes to get to the booth, showed the lady our passports, and then told her we were going to rollerblade at two skateparks in Montreal and hang out for the weekend. She looked at us and told us to pull over for further inspection. They searched the whole car and separated us to ask us questions as if we were going to lie about what were going to do or something. We had all of our passports processed, and we had been in the building for four hours at this point. They then called myself, Erik, and Montre over to tell us were not allowed to cross due to “criminal records” we had. We all had bogus charges that shouldn’t have been that big of a deal. Now, we have to write a letter to the embassy to be granted access to Canada if we want to try to go again. So, we drove up seven hours, waited in line for four in the customs building, and then drove seven hours back. That was our MTL Classic trip.”)
HOW DID YOU ORGANIZE THE COMPETITION?
I split up the duties with Dan. We both contacted the teams and put our efforts together to make sure everything went smoothly. I took care of most of the administrative stuff like keeping people up with the progress of the event, getting their hotels booked, and all of the other things that go along with keeping people informed. Dan worked on the website for the competition, divided up how the prizes would go, figured out the judging aspect, and also helped build a new obstacle for the competition.
FINALLY, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CURRENT STATE OF THE ROLLERBLADING INDUSTRY?
I think we have a very established base right now. Companies like Valo are really reaching out to anyone interested in rollerblading. Despite what people think, I do believe that it is growing. I have kids coming up to my stand all the time to ask questions about rollerblading and showing interest in it. Some kids already rollerblade, and some of the kids are skateboarders. I am just trying to promote the sport to anyone who is interested in it.