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The Palomino

or why the world needs a skateboard bookshop

If you’re not that much into everyday skateboarding content, which conveniently appears on your smartphone when you hit YouTube, Instagram, or Snapchat, and rather get your kicks from rare Japanese DVDs, xeroxed zines you got from a guy in Russia, or limited photobooks from Australia, it’s very likely you know Nick Sharratt. In his online shop Palomino (which, by the way, is named after a bar from an old Burt Reynolds movie), he maybe has to offer the biggest selection of independent skate videos, zines, and magazines you can find anywhere in the world. More than five years ago, he started his adventure to bring all the nerdy skate stuff to the people who really love it. So, it was about time to visit him in his little office, which he shares with the Lovenskate guys in the north of London.

How did you actually start Palomino?

I just bought loads of shit like Dank from Norway or DVDs from Japan. It’s quite expensive and shipping is expensive too. So I’d spent more on shipping and import tax than on the stuff. I used to moan for ages that there should be one place where you could get a hold of this stuff. I also hated my job as a carpenter. My housemate was, like, “You complain about it all the time. Why don’t you do it yourself?” So I spent six month trying to learn how to build a website, which I knew nothing about before. I also didn’t know anything about running a shop. My initial thought was that I just do it at the evenings and do one trip to the post office a week and if I buy six copies of a DVD and sell the other five, mine would be for free. And then, over the course of two and a half years, it just grew organically and it got to the point where I had to get up at five in the morning, work for a couple of hours, then go do my day job, go to the post office every day on my lunch break to send my orders, get home, and then work till midnight. That just got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed to put more time into it, but the money wasn’t there. I was barely breaking even. So, I borrowed enough money to pay myself for six months, quit my day job, and hoped that everything would work. In those six months, I just about got it to make enough money to pay my rent and food. After that, slowly but surely, I managed to not miss out rents and not getting hungry. It started as a hobby and now it’s my job. I don’t ever have much spare money, but I wake up with a smile on my face every morning. My job is just to talk about skateboarding with nerds. Fucking brilliant. 

Did you imagine that it would get this big when you started?

I had always hoped in the back of my mind, but at the time, I had no idea whether or not that was a realistic idea. But I think I just got lucky that I did it when I did it. Anyone could’ve done it, but I just got there first. I feel like the whole scene that the shop started to support has exploded. Back when I started, it happened like once a month that I pointed out DVDs that I wanted to get, now it’s like every week you’ll find something that people are putting out. All that changed in four years. It has never been more apparent to people. Taking the plunge yourself is a lot easier when you see that it is tangible for others. I’m happy to be allowed to grow with all the companies that started off during those years. It’s about the people who are making the videos and print the zines that have enabled Palomino to grow. Without that stuff, the shop is nothing. And I think when the shop started, there weren’t enough things being made that allow a shop to only sell niche shit to survive. But now… it’s insane.

"My job is just to talk about skateboarding with nerds. Fucking brilliant."

How do you get in contact with brands or people?

Nine times out of ten: Instagram. Without Instagram, the shop would not be what it is now. Two and a half hours of my working days I spend on Instagram. You’ll see one filmer in Sweden, whose DVD you sold in the past, and he posts a trailer for a new video that one of his homies made and you might’ve never heard of that other filmer before. So you watch the trailer, think it’s sick, and then just message him through Instagram. People have been complaining about the internet ruining skateboarding in certain ways. But there’s arguments both way, right?

None of the little board companies would exist without the internet and without Instagram. It’s that much easier for them to advertize themselves for free, do a web shop. 

And that might be an argument for people who say that there’s just too much stuff… It is so easy for somebody to do that. The board-pressing plants would do really small numbers of boards… With Instagram, you don’t even need a website. You make the board, put it on Instagram, and you’ve got a board company. It’s amazing that everybody is able to do that. But if everybody’s doing it, there’s not enough room for everyone to survive. When there’s a million companies and only 500,000 people who want to buy a skateboard, then there’s 500,000 skateboard companies who aren’t selling any boards. But without Instagram, Palomino wouldn’t have become the small success it is. And I’m really proud, because I think I’ve got the best selection that there is available in the world at one place. Because I’m so proud of this, the idea of missing one little post that would link me to this incredible new DVD from Perth and some other fucker sees it and gets that DVD and I’ve not even heard of it, that would piss me off man.

Do you still get the same feeling when you find something and flip through it?

I’d say more strongly now than ever before. But because there’s so much of it now, the quality of so much of it is not as good. So, when you find that one… it’s amazing. I mean there is some stuff you watch and think, “I’ve just wasted five minutes.” But you can never say, “That’s shit.” Because some kid has taken the time to film with his mates for a year and sat down at his house and edited it. Just because you think it’s shit, it’s not shit, you just don’t like it.

What I don’t get are mean video comments. Why even take the time to write them? Just don’t watch it.

The only thing that ever really makes me want to actually criticize something is when somebody tries to duplicate or blankly rip off something. The biggest example of recent memory was when Peter Sidlauskas and the Bronze crew with their editing style and aesthetic became popular. Whether or not you like it, it was really refreshing. Once Bronze did two videos in that style, the amount of videos increased and you had to watch so many people trying to copy that style and there were some really bad attempts. That’s fucking wack man. And even more recently: Öctagon. They came out with a completely fresh take on presenting skateboarding in videos. What they’ve done commands respect because it was a risky thing. It takes bravery to go into a different direction than anyone else has ever done.

It’s funny that they are both small hardware companies. It wasn’t Nike or Adidas who were changing the aesthetic.

The interesting thing as well with Bronze is that you can’t really call it a small company anymore. When I order items from companies and see how fast it sells and how many shops their stuff is in now – even though I know no one is making a huge amount of money –, it’s still considered as a small company though. But, for example, Plan B is a massive company, but I never see anyone skating Plan B boards anywhere. With the big major corporate companies’ videos that come out… They are just boring. It doesn’t have to be about VX vs. HD or being filmed here or there. But there’s something about it… It’s being produced in a not organic way. Adidas’s Away Days has gotten some incredible skating in it, but I just thought that the video as a whole is so boring. It’s filmed amazingly, the skating is ridiculous, but there’s no vibe. Man, the Polar video… You can’t get a more organically produced video than that. It’s got the skits, the sort of concept all the way through it. I don’t know if it’s the right term or whether Pontus [Alv] would thank or curse me for saying it, but it got that feel of a piece of art. They’re a crew and they go out skating and they know each other. On other tours, you have a group of people going to Singapore and ten people go to one place and another 15 go elsewhere. That’s not a crew.

"I can’t have anything in the shop that I think is fucking shit. Because people will see through that."

They go to work…

Say the Johnny Wilson edits, the Lurk edits… Not naming names, but you see people trying to rip off that kind of homie filming… When those came out, it was just a group of friends going out to skate every day. It just happened that they were all super good at skating and in an environment that looked really great, and Johnny Wilson knew how to capture it. He’s gone from VX to HD seamlessly. I’m pretty sure that I’ve watched the first Johnny Wilson HD clip and I didn’t even really notice. I just saw it in the comments later and was, like, “Fuck man, I didn’t even realize,” because I’ve been watching the skating. You can’t fake friendship on camera. If the people got no charisma… I’d rather watch a five minute clip of those homies just chilling and hitting up their local spots than some big-budget company flying people around the world to skate. The vibe is never ever there. Every so often with the web edits, you can watch it and it’s, like, “Wow.” Someone like Tiago [Lemos] or whatever… You see this mind-blowing shit for three minutes and you take a breath after. In that situation, there isn’t necessarily a requirement of that vibe. Then, the filming doesn’t matter that much, because the skating is so next level shit, but that’s a rarity. Without atmosphere and emotional hook in it, what’s the point? It will be forgotten two days later.

That’s why it’s important that there are places like Palomino where someone picks out the good stuff.

I’ve taken a really dangerous way, but I only sell shit that I like myself. It is purely a gamble that other people are going to be into the same shit that I’m into. I can’t have anything in the shop that I think is fucking shit, because people will see through that. I’ve never seen a community or a culture that can sniff out bullshit the way that ours can. The minute someone tries fakin’ it, people sniff it a mile off. So why sell something that I don’t like? The hard thing about it is that people send me something and I know it comes from the right place, but I personally don’t like it and have to work out a way to say no.

Same with the magazine. We have to say no to a lot of stuff. If we’d put in everything, the magazine would suck and nobody would be interested in it. 

Your magazine is your passion and because your name is on it, you’re saying, “This is what I think is good.” 

I think people like that and they know that they can get good stuff at Palomino and that your shop is an indicator of quality.

I think that by creating an outlet for this stuff to be available in one place is how I make up for the fact that I don’t have a couch in the shop that someone can come and sit on, because I never could afford a shop in the town. I don’t have the community hub. That’s part of what skateshops are for. And it’s a shame that it’s getting more and more difficult in the UK for these shops to exist. Like Lost Art. You learn a lot about skateboarding at a shop, you get schooled. You’re there from the age of like eleven or twelve. You get life lessons man. Teach you how to speak to people, teach you how to not disrespect people. I can’t do that. I’ve got customers that are almost mates of mine because they’ve been shopping for so long and I don’t even know how they look like. We don’t really talk about much except skating, because we’re not hanging out. We’re just emailing. Whereas when you just start hanging around in the shop for ages, then you get to form that proper human bond with people. I can’t do that, so I try to create the best community that I can without having that. 

A lot of people I meet talk about the shop. People know you and Palomino is a thing in the skate scene all over Europe. Which countries do you sell to? 

The whole world. I guess 60-65% is the UK and then France, Germany, America. To a lesser extend Japan. The skate scene is everywhere. I never thought I’d send DVDs to Iraq. But I have done that. I think I’m lucky because I started only online and because I hang on to a niche within a niche that has people all over the world. It’s easier for them to find out because skateboarding has always been international. It started out because I was getting something from Norway, something from Sweden, something from Japan, something from Australia. And now, I think I send a lot of stuff back to America because it’s cheaper to buy six DVDs off me than six DVDs of six separate American big cartels. It’s nice that I can help people to get loads of shit at one place and ship it all to wherever in the world. 

"I care about skateboarding. I care about the physical thing."

It’s really cool that it works, because you would never think that selling DVDs or zines would pay off, but there are still people who buy this stuff. 

More and more people are buying it. It’s like there’s a resurgence of it. So many people are making them and those people will obviously be interested in all the other stuff that is being made. So, it snowballs itself. But don’t get me wrong, the shop now survives because of the clothes. That’s what makes the bulk of the money that pays the bills. But this is the weird thing: having to monetize something that is someone’s passion project, labor of love. But I have to do it. Every so often someone goes, “Oh, these cost me four pounds to make and by the time I shipped them from Japan, they’re costing six pounds each.” But it’s just an A5 zine made by a photographer that very few people have heard of. So, to sell it for any more than six pounds would be pointless because no one is going to buy it. You just have to accept that. And it’s rad to have that on the shop and to support them by paying for the magazines what the person wanted and just don’t make any money from it. I just want a copy for myself and I want to get it on the shop. And then, hopefully, the person who buys it, buys something else too that does make money. I got no desire to get rich, I’d like a little bit more money than I have now. You have to speak to people and say that you can only buy it if they sell it for this much money. It’s really horrible to have those conversations because I get paranoid that someone’s gonna go, “Fuck man, that Nick dude only cares about the money,” you know? I care about skateboarding. I care about the physical thing.

Do you have a copy of every magazine or DVD you ever had in your shop in your personal archive?

Yeah, there’s one of each on my shelve at home. For that exact reason: If I wouldn’t want one for myself, I wouldn’t want it in my shop. It’s getting out of hand. Like, my girlfriend gets kind of pissed off with it. But so be it.

How does the typical Palomino customer look like?

It’s really hard to know cause I don’t have the software on the site that is tracking super hard. I would assume that, at the start, it was sort of late 20s upwards. Because that age was the only kind of generation that as a whole gave a shit about the physical product anymore. But I think that since the shop started, the importance of the physical product, the age of the person that holds the sort of ethos, has dropped dramatically. I know that I’m selling videos and zines and stuff made by people who are teenagers. So I can only assume that those people are buying the shit as well. I think that as the companies that I sell have grown, they may be crossing slightly outside of skateboarding, but I would be very surprised if there’s anyone shopping on Palomino that doesn’t skate. It’s a skateshop and you can’t come into it. So, I sell only that many skateboards because you can’t stand on the board at my shop, you can’t put it on the mat, and you can’t feel it. But I still 100% believe that I run a skateshop and I couldn’t stop doing it, because then I’d be some fucking bookshop or something. The world doesn’t need a skateboard bookshop.

I think it does, but…