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20 years of Olliewood Skateshop

Interview with Dan Gantrel & Nico Uhler

Dan Gantrel und Nico Uhler had some stressful months. Actually the Olliewood Skateshop turned 20 years old in November 2018, but with the book that was supposed to be published for the anniversary and the two (!) videos they produced for it, there was a bit of a delay. Now everything is ready, the videos will be online tomorrow and Dan and Nico can relax and tell what has been going on at Olliewood and in the Luxembourg scene over the last decades.

How did the shop start?

Dan: At the beginning it was Christophe [Bursselmans] who started Olliewood in 1998. The first time I got a bit involved with the shop was in 2001, when he started to flow me some boards. Then in 2003, I got on the shop team. Olliewood was just a small store and I was focusing on my school and on my little skate career. In 2010 things started to get really serious though. Christophe told me: „Hey Dan, I’m gonna sell or close down the shop.“ It became too much for him after all these years. I was at the university for mechanical engineering but I thought to myself: „Why not take it over?“ I reckoned that I could manage it, even though the shop was pretty much done at the time. So when I actually took over, I convinced my friend Eric [Wambach] to join me as a first employee and ever since we’ve been growing bigger and bigger. The shop went from 40m² to 80m² to 120m². At the same time, I worked with my friend Alex [Welter] and our non profit association,, on the Skatepark Péitruss project. We’ve finished that one in 2016 and it has been giving us a big push for the shop as well as for the whole scene. In 2017 we moved the shop to the front of this gallery in the city centre of Luxembourg. We are still there today. Soon enough though, we’ll move once again. Olliewood’s gonna be bigger and better than ever before.

Dan By Lucas Magnacco

Dan Gantrel

Nico By Lucas Magnacco

Nico Uhler

It’s not that often that a skateshop runs for 20 years. How has running a skateshop changed over the years and what are the difficulties to it?

Dan: It surely changed a lot in the last few years. People buy differently these days than how they used to five or ten years ago. I remember when I bought shoes 20 years ago, they would be fucking expensive but I’d make them last for three months at least. I was putting shoegoe and patches on it. These days though, kids don’t really do that anymore. Shoes are becoming cheaper and everyone always wants to rock the newest stuff. Being fashionable has become a huge part of skating. I guess that social media has played quite a huge role in that development. We’ve adapted though and we’re always trying to be on point. You cannot keep shoes in store for a year or so. Once a shoe is out it’ll take three months till it’s kind of old. I feel like it’s going faster and faster. Also, we’ve got all age groups represented in the shop these days. And, I mean, to each their own. The choice as well as the overall shopping experience has to be on point and our staff knows. They can advice you, let’s say, like on Tyshawn’s new shoe or that Nike SB x Parra collaboration. They know what’s Parra for example. Back in the day everything was pretty much exclusively skate related. It was easier for sure. Nowadays, it’s more wide-spread yet more selective. That makes a big difference. In the late 90s and early 2000s the shop was full of stickers. It basically looked like a teenager’s bedroom. At that time you didn’t really need to know a lot about the business side of things. Shops worked out somehow. Everybody was riding that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater wave. These days we need to be much more professional. Skateboarding is really young, the business part of it is even younger though. Olliewood’s look changed a lot over the years. It doesn’t really have too much to do with how it looked back in the day. But I guess that’s the case for most shops.

Nico: I’ve known Olliewood since 2012. That’s when I moved to Luxemburg. Back then, the shop looked so much different than it does nowadays. Yet skaters still come here to hang out all the time. It’s not this boutique kind of thing which doesn’t even feel like a skate shop anymore. It has certainly gotten much cleaner, but it’s still a skate shop. Actually, it’s just as welcoming to skateboarders as it is for everyone else and I guess, that’s one big reason for Olliewood’s success.

Dan: We do want everybody to feel welcome at the shop. It certainly helps as well though, that we’re located in the city centre. There’s just so many spots around that Olliewood truly is a perfect meeting point for skaters before hitting the streets.

"We do want everybody to feel welcome at the shop."

Are there other skateshops in Luxemburg or is Olliewood the only one?

Dan: It has actually become the only one. You still have some shops that sell boards next to snowboards and scooters, but honestly I guess it’s more for the image than for actually making money with it or for giving something back to the scene.

How is the skate scene in Luxemburg? Do you have your own soup cooking or is it a bit more linked to the Netherlands or to Belgium or to Germany?

Dan: I think that kind of every village here has it’s own little scene. Yet everyone comes together in the city. The city isn’t very big, but that’s cool. I love our scene and I feel like with all those parks these days and with new spots popping up all the time there’s more and more people coming here. Everyone from within the scene really sticks together as well. There are no gangs like in other cities. That’s what we’ve experienced just recently during our 20 years party as well. Everyone was partying together. It was pure love. We had so much fun all together and there was such a good vibe. Also age doesn’t seem to matter. There’s a certain synergy between the young and the old. Skate tourism is also growing in Luxemburg. The Philharmonie on its own is such an epic spot already. If was located, let’s say, where there’s MACBA, I’m sure it’d be one of the most well known spots in the world.

Nico: I totally agree. When I first arrived in Luxembourg, the scene welcomed me with open arms. After my fist session in Luxembourg, I basically had like 20 new friends. In skating in general it’s easy to make friends wherever you go, but I feel like it’s even easier in Luxembourg.

Photo: François Schmit

How did the skatepark Péitruss help to grow the scene?

Nico: I think the scene grew pretty much three times its size ever since the skatepark opened.

Dan: For sure. Péitruss has become a new meeting point. I remember when, back in the day, there weren’t any skateparks around. I was always like: „What to skate?” I mean, there were some spots around at the time already, but nowadays we’ve got those beautiful 3400 m² of pure stoke.

Nico: Street skating decreased a little bit with the skatepark though.

Yeah that happens…

Nico: While we were filming for our new video, we hardly ever met any other skaters from the scene at street spots. No hate though. I love everyone here and I do love the park myself. I’d just like to see more people hitting the streets sometimes.

Soloskatermag Nico Uhler Nosebluntslide By Lucas Magnacco

Nico Uhler – Nosebluntslide

Did Olliewood initiate or contribute to the skatepark project?

Dan: Well, yes and no. My friend Alex, who I’ve mentioned earlier, and I took care of it through our association. It took us twelve years though. Olliewood has obviously been pushing that project, but especially after the opening – as a main sponsor for the association’s LXB Cup for example or for events on Go Skateboarding Day.

Let’s talk about the book. How did you come up with the idea and what is in there?

Dan: I think a bit more than a year ago I approached Nico with some ideas for the shop’s 20th anniversary. Maybe it’s because I’m from an older generation but till this day I love print and dvds – just stuff which actually has a materiality, that you can hold in your hands. I really like to flip through a magazine and feel and smell the paper. That’s the feeling I wanted to transmit to the younger generation. Also I wanted to give something back to all those people who have been supporting the shop for years. You know, a good friend of mine for example – he’s 45 by now, still skating though –, he used to be the best skater in the country during the late 90s. The local kids don’t know anything about him anymore. I wanted to bring him back a bit into the limelight. I wanted his story to be told. I wanted something to show that skateboarding in Luxembourg has not only started with that new skatepark, but it’s been there for a long time already.

"The full project got a little bit out of control"

Nico: On a global scale skateboarding has been well documented ever since it started. On the local scale of Luxembourg though, there hasn’t been too much, especially nothing comprehensive regarding the history of the local scene. If you check on YouTube for skateboarding in Luxembourg, the oldest footage you’ll find might be from 2004. So we started to collect old photos and VHSs. At the same time I got myself a new camera. For, throughout the last few years, I had gotten more and more into filming and I had some ideas for a video on my mind. So we pretty much combined our aspirations and the full project got a little bit out of control. We collected and digitalized old VHSs. Most of the footage had been edited to music though. So I learned how to remake the sound for skate clips. Luckily most historical spots are still around, so for clips on those spots the work was fairly convenient. Still, it’s been some crazy work. I mean a kickflip doesn’t sound like a 360 flip. Anyways, that’s how the archive montage came about. For the book, we managed to get like 10.000 photos dating back till 1998. We were very careful with the final selection, yet we tried our best to include everyone. We’ve also made interviews for the book, and tried to have all generations of skateboarders represented through certain people. In the end, the book as well as the archive montage are nothing more than an insight into Luxembourg’s skate scene and its development though. You simply cannot summarize 20 years in their entirety. At this point I want to make one special shoutout to my friend Annick Stoldt – her artist name is Flouh. She did the graphic design and artworks for the book. It was the first time that either of us ever worked on such a project and without her the book would have never turned out the way it did. As for the new video, everyone on the shop team got sparked and pretty much killed themselves in the streets. We’ve done some great trips: Lyon, Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Brussles and Rotterdam. Originally, I came up with the title for the video, “In Contrast”, referring to the juxtaposition of the old and the new that we wanted to integrate into this project. Eventually, I took it a bit further though and started to play with the concept of contrast within the new video itself as well. The oldest teamrider, which is myself, shares a part with the youngest one, Johnny. Grainy black & white clips contrast the otherwise rather colourful HD footage. There’s a shot of an old man on an electric scooter at some point in the video, while sometime later you’ll see a little girl dressed up as a fairy riding a non electric one. You’ll know what I mean once you get to see it. With all of that though, we pushed back the deadline several times. Originally we wanted to be done by Olliewood’s actual 20th anniversary in November 2018. Well, here we are, 9 months later. But we’ve made it and it’s been a blast!

Soloskatemag Dan Gantrel Noseblunt Howald 2019 By Lucas Magnacco

Dan Gantrel – Nosebluntslide4

Dan: It was necessary though to push back the deadline and to keep putting work into this. It’s just been taking so long, for example to collect all the old footage. People needed to search the attic of their mum’s house and stuff. But it’s all been worth it. I’d like to thank you, Nico, for making all this happen. Thanks to Lola and Anne for supporting me in what I am doing. Thanks to everyone who contributed in one way or another to this project.

Nico: Oh yeah. Thanks to Lucas Magnacco as well. He’s a photographer from Argentina and simply the best guy ever. He’s pretty new to Luxembourg, documented the last two months of the filming process and made a beautiful expo for the 20th anniversary party. Thanks to all my friends and favourite skateboarders in the video, thanks to Martijn & Niels at Hardcore Supplies for always hooking me up with Polar gear, Dan, for supporting me and the boys throughout this whole project and throughout all those years, and thanks to Mel for just about everything