Brian Aguilar (Photo by Luna Monay)
Brian Aguilar (Photo by Luna Monay)

A rainy Saturday during this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend saw a new chapter begin for the D.C. skateboarding community: Crushed Skate Shop officially opened for business.

The space will be familiar to those who frequented the art and skate shop Art Under Pressure (AUP) and the skate shop Bureau. occupying the same space on the 1300 block of U Street NW. “I guess within a year of them being open here, they hired me there and that’s where I kind of started off,” Crushed owner Brian Aguilar says of AUP. Aguilar who also worked at AUP’s successor. Bureau, recalled his time there fondly, but always eyed his own venture. To make a long story short, I was in the process of purchasing Bureau.” Aguilar. who was born in Silver Spring. Md., and moved “all around the area,” explains. “Those guys wanted to carry on the brand and I just kind of had a different vision. Being the only skate shop here, the city needs it. So I just wanted to make sure there was something here for everyone.”

It’s imperative that a skate shop exist in D.C. proper — especially since Palace 5ive. which was located around the corner on 14th Street NW. closed in 2018. Crushed carries clothing and equipment from Nike SB. Vans. New Balance. Maxallure, and Ace Trucks with more accounts being opened by the day, but skate shops function as much more than retail for the local skate community. They’re where many young skaters receive their very first skateboard. They’re where skaters know they can come through for repairs with no hassle. They’re a homebase. and, sometimes, simply a hangout for people who have formed a micro-community through shared interests. And, that’s important to have as the greater community around Crushed changes. The shop itself is bookended by towering apartment complexes that did not exist along the U Street Corridor 10 years ago.

“The big corporation stores are always going to be around, but places that actually represent the culture and can kind of bring something to interact with the community is what’s most important,” Aguilar says.

That should be a little easier, in theory, after the early-to-mid 2000s mainstreaming of skate culture pushed it into the realm of popular culture. Aguilar believes skateboarding’s debut at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be a huge step forward for the sport on a global level, but for now, his immediate focus is local. As a self-described “skate nerd” who’s been skating for over 20 years. he’s well-versed in D.C.’s skateboarding history. He cites the late 1980s and early 1990s as a particularly golden era for skating in the city and lists Brian Tucci. Carlos Kenner. Randy Corey. Andy Stone. and the late Pepe Martinez among the legends who inspired him. Scenes ebb and flow, but in surveying the current climate, Aguilar sees plenty of potential for another peak.

“The kids who are out there now are insane. and what’s sick to see is that the OGs are still out there skating with the kids now.” he says.

There’s ample opportunity for the D.C. skate scene to take another step forward during this decade and beyond. According to Aguilar. construction always creates new skate spots in addition to the other spaces local skaters discover on their own. But, if nothing else. D.C. skaters will always have a historic location: Freedom Plaza. “Obviously it still has its issues, but I think we’re in a good place to move forward. It’s a landmark for skateboarding and that’s never going to change. so we’ll just keep building on that moving forward.” he says. “We have a lot of places around here that are almost made for skating. so I feel like if we can work with the city and show them we can work together to take care of the spaces we use, we can really grow from there.”

Aguilar saw the potential in 2015 when a skate park was built in front of the Kennedy Center as part of Finding a Line. a 10-day festival celebrating the sport. Assisting with the event allowed him to meet Kennedy Center employees. as well as other influential figures in D.C. “When you get to meet people around the city and who work for the city. and get to interact with the community. that’s where the real change happens.” he says.

Looking ahead. Aguilar’s hope is to use his knowledge and passion for skateboarding to help D.C.’s skate scene keep its momentum. He’s doing something he loves and is able to give that joy to others — especially kids. His hope for the future of skateboarding in D.C. is that everyone grows by learning from each other, and he wants Crushed to be a pillar of that process.

“The way Crushed will play its part is that a skate shop, or at least all the skate shops that I always went to, were always there for the community.” he says. “Serving the community: That’s what I’m all about. It’s been so sick to have the support that we’ve had, and to be in the community and be able to talk to people and teach them. That’s what Crushed is for.”

Another way in which Crushed is aiding and educating the community is through Crushed Recycles, a sister company Aguilar. a big sustainability proponent, founded to recycle broken and unusable skateboards. They find new life as furniture and various accessories. “The recycling aspect is another way of looking at things and teaching people how to take trash and turn it into something they can use every day. And it’s carpentry too, so it’s teaching you a craft but you’re also having fun at the same time.”

After beginning the year by following his dream, Aguilar. ever earnest. is enthusiastic about what’s in store: “A lot of stuff is about to pop off, but I’m excited.”

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