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If It Ain't Broke...
by Bryan Ropelewski + photos by Chris Jackson
Bustin Boards brings a little West Coast cool to Hagerstown.
Bustin Boards’ humble beginnings of homemade longboards and an eBay account are but a distant memory for this company that is now an industry leader in skateboard technology and design. Combining a dream with hard work has led to opportunity and success for owner and Hagerstown native Ryan Daughtridge.
Growing up, Ryan spent his free time skatboarding, but at some point his hobby gave way to other interests. His passion for wheeling down the street was reignited by chance while vacationing in the Outer Banks in 2001. During his stay he rented a longboard and was hooked once again on the free-flowing feel and ability to speed past those merely on foot.
That autumn, back at Syracuse University where he was majoring in psychology, Ryan began riding a longboard everywhere. Fellow students started to take notice of his unconventional mode of transportation. Seeing a possible business opportunity marketed to students and city commuters who were dependent on expensive public transportation, Ryan began to build boards by hand in his family’s barn and sell them online. Unable to transform his vision to a full-time commitment initially, Ryan moved back to New York and worked on Wall Street as an assistant to an underwriter. He rode his longboard to work, speeding by those he viewed as an untapped market.
After months of researching during his spare time — from website design to finding an affordable location — Ryan contacted longtime friend Jeff Walker, and in 2004 they rented a loft in Hoboken, N.J. They lived in the loft to save money while using the spot primarily as a workspace to design, build, paint, sell and ship their boards. In 2009 their labors led to success. Bustin Boards moved their entire operation across the river to Brooklyn and opened their flagship store in 2009.
Bustin’s next venture had utilized a concept that is familiar in the skateboarding community. Skateboarders are a tight knit group who are very loyal, while constantly supporting and pushing each other to progress. Focusing on that philosophy, Bustin’s second store, the Longboard Loft, offers a full line of Bustin products in conjunction with boards and accessories from various competitors’ brands, demonstrating their devotion to the industry as a whole. Both stores also allow customers to “ride to decide” and test out a variety of setups ensuring the rider buys the perfect board for their riding style.
The overwhelming success of their progressive thinking has catapulted Bustin to an industry leader, an garnered them a coveted spot on Inc. magazine’s list of the top 500 fastest growing privately held companies of 2013.
From the beginning, at least a portion of Bustin’s success hinged on using technology to their advantage to keep pace with today’s worldwide economy. Initially Bustin did not have a true storefront presence and relied mainly on the Internet and word of mouth to push their name. “From day one we really focused on our website, allowing riders to customize their boards and display all products in one location,” Ryan explains.