Skating rolls back into the Tri-Cities
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Dec 23, 2013, 10:55
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Sha’Reen Fuller poses inside the Skate Factory on Thursday, the day before the roller rink reopened.
PETERSBURG — After being closed for 10 years, a popular roller skating rink on South Crater Road has reopened. Despite a new name and a new owner, Skate Factory has brought back many memories for people who had been skating at this location for years.
The new owner, Sha’Reen Fuller, said she has had countless people tell her about how they remember skating here.
“A lot of memories. Every day, all day, people are riding by, people are coming in. I have a lot of people who are volunteering to help out in any way they can,” she said.
The Soul Rollers, a skating group started in the 1970s who used to skate in here, are coming back, she said. Fuller said she also had a few people reach out to her interested in starting a roller derby team.
On opening night Friday, dozens of people lined up outside the simple gray door at the rear of what appears to be a warehouse on the outside. Inside is a different picture, with lively music, a DJ and light show, and lots of smiles on kids’ faces.
“It’s come a long way since we started,” Fuller said, who had the idea about two years ago.
Fuller, a military veteran who has been a civilian nurse at Kenner Army Health Clinic on Fort Lee for seven years, said she decided to start the business because she has three kids ages 17, 15 and 7.
“There was nothing in this area for them to do,” she said.
Fuller said her kids will be spending a lot of time here -- and not all just for fun.
“This will be my 17-year-old’s first job ever, so I’m glad to be able to offer him that. And my 15-year-old will be volunteering in the skate area,” Fuller said.
She said her youngest will just be enjoying the time skating.
Skaters enjoy the new skating rink at the grand opening Friday night.
“He actually learned to skate in here while we were working. ... He was so scared. Too shy to even try, but now that Mommy’s got a rink, he’s got to skate,” Fuller said. “He has no idea how sick of skating he is gonna be.”
A lot of work and money has gone into getting the building ready.
Fuller said she looked into getting space at Southpark Mall, but it didn’t work out. Then someone from Petersburg told her about a building that already had been used as a skating rink. “So it kind of fell into my lap,” she said, and she started working with the owners of the building.
But it had been more than 10 years since the building has been used for skating.
“It was being used as a warehouse, so they didn’t care too much for it. They didn’t spend much effort into restoring it or even keeping it in a good working condition. ... There wasn’t even any running water in it,” Fuller said.
The biggest thing that needed to be done -- and necessary of course for a skating rink -- was the floors. They had to be completely redone, Fuller said.
“It was terrible. There was water coming from under the floor,” she said.
The skates had all dry rotted and she had to buy all new ones. Tiles in the ceiling had to be replaced. And there was lots of repainting to be done.
She said the heat finally became fully operational two days before the grand opening.
“So we were freezing in here trying to work. And then waiting on paint to dry in cold, it’s not good,” Fuller said.
She said there was a tree stump on the outside that was causing water to leak into the foundation and it was also cracked on the other side.
“They didn’t maintain the building at all,” she said.
They also had to replace the carpet throughout.
“There was mold and mildew everywhere,” Fuller said.
More than a dozen people were frantically working to make final repairs and paint the day before opening.
She said they are working to make improvements as they go along, but she wanted to time the opening for when kids got out of school for winter break.
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A boy watches as skaters go by Friday night at the Skate Factory in Petersburg.
The location is difficult to see from South Crater Road across from the Mad Italian Restaurant, but Fuller said she is working to get a better sign to increase visibility.
“It’s definitely going to be an upgrade-as-you-go type of thing,” Fuller said. “So we have a lot of ideas we are going to put in place.”
Fuller said she has had a lot of support from the city, including the PTA and the police department.
She said she is trying to make sure the place is safe and family-friendly.
“I’m trying to get away from the whole party/club scene. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I want it to be for the kids,” Fuller said.
Fuller said she has several security personnel on staff including off-duty police officers.
On opening night, security was apparent with police standing guard in the parking lot and at the entrance and several employees with whistles were keeping an eye on the skaters, making sure they were going in the right direction and were not doing things that were dangerous.
Fuller said she has seven employees so far, not counting security.
She said she wants to make sure kids are not lingering after hours as well. The Skate Factory also has a rule that everyone under the age of 18 has to wear skates so they are not hanging out causing trouble.
The Skate Factory also has a snack bar where people can buy hot dogs, nachos, pizza and other snack foods.
Fuller said she has gotten a lot of help from family and friends. In fact, she hired one of her friends, Tiffany Pierce, as the new general manager.
“I would not be standing here right now if it wasn’t for her,” Fuller said the night before the opening. “I just wanted her to interview possible employees and she took it and ran with it.”
Pierce met Fuller through a motorcycle club and she grew up in Petersburg.
Pierce remembers coming here back when she was in middle school in the early 1990s.
“Every Friday night. Every Saturday night. As long as you weren’t in trouble, you got to go. That was the first thing parents took away from you when you got in trouble,” she said.
Pierce said she remembers the skate rink being the place to go up until the time it closed.
It used to be called the Roller Coaster Skateland.
Eugene Washington, who was helping paint the night before the grand opening, also remembers good times at the skate rink.
“I used to come here a lot during middle school. ... It used to be the big thing back then because there wasn’t too many places to go. ... We’d go to the mall and wait for this place to open,” he said.
The Skate Factory, located at 2530 S. Crater Road, is open Tuesday through Sunday. There will be live DJs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Sundays are Old School Sundays. The cost is $7 to enter and $3 for skate rental. There are also hours set aside where just adults can skate.