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New Shop Bringing Some ‘Riff Raff’ Into Uptown Saint John

Trent Wheaton outside the future home of Riff Raff Skate Shop. Image: Cherise Letson/Huddle Today

SAINT JOHN — A new store opening in uptown Saint John next month plans to fill a gap for the city’s skateboarding and record-collecting community.

Riff Raff Skate Shop, opening on Charlotte Street, will sell skateboards and skateboard hardware, clothing and accessories, along with a selection of new vinyl for those with a heavier taste in tunes.

“Calling it a ‘skate shop’ was a hard decision to make because it’s not just a skate shop. It’s also going to end up being a music shop, a record store,” says owner Trent Wheaton.

The record selection at the shop will focus on heavier acts that are harder to find at other record stores in the city.

“It’s only going to be heavy music,” says Wheaton. “It’s only going to be metal, punk and hard rock.”

Wheaton has been skateboarding since the 1980s and always dreamed of owning his own skate shop. He’s also been a long-time record collector and lover of heavy music. The city’s last skate shop, East Side, closed in McAllister Place three years ago, leaving many looking for those kinds of products travelling to other cities or ordering online. With no signs of anyone stepping up to open another shop in Saint John, Wheaton says it was time to make his dream a reality.

“[A new shop] hasn’t happened, so I was trying to figure out a way that I could put it all together into one so I don’t need to shop online anymore,” he says. “That’s my selfish reason for doing it, really. I don’t have to go to Moncton or shop when I’m away, I can have it all in my city. Why not?”

Riff Raff will open with a core set of offerings, which will include everything a skateboarder needs. Wheaton has a vision for his shop, but as it grows over time it will adapt to what the community wants to see.

“Hopefully, it will organically grow. I’ll see what people want, what people will need,” he says.

“My vision is very me. I loosely based it on my bedroom from 1987. That’s what I want the store to be, that’s the theory behind it.”

Once the shop is up and running, Riff Raff wants to help host skateboarding competitions in the city. Wheaton also plans to use the shop as a live music venue for bands passing through.

“I’m hoping to do a late afternoon-ish, matinee show,” he says. “I want to do something regularly if I can.”

Wheaton’s wife, Pamela Wheaton, owns Heartbreak Boutique in uptown Saint John. He’d previously worked in the industrial sector for years, but after seeing first-hand the joys of running your own business, he decided he wanted that too.

“It wasn’t enough for me anymore,” he says. “Being married to who I’m married to and being around people like tattoo artists and musicians all the time, people who are doing what they want to do, I’m not getting any younger and this opportunity came up and we said ‘let’s just do it.'”

Retail can be a challenging business with highs and lows, but Riff Raff will have an edge in the sense that it’s filling a gap in the market. Right now, there isn’t a lot of competition.

“Obviously with skateboarding, I’m not competing with anybody in Saint John other than people who are eventually going to be the customers. It’s for them,” says Wheaton. “But like Backstreet Records or Second Spin, I’m not trying to take anything from them. I’m trying to add something that I don’t see.”