“When it comes to downtown and skateboarding, I’ve been doing it since I was twelve,” states Paul Francis, owner of Alta Vista Skateshop. He remembers skating spots like Peacock Alley when he first started.
He grew up near SAC, and says Downtown holds a lot of nostalgia for him. From when he first picked up skating from friends in his Scout Troop to when he perfected his art in high school, Paul has been doing it Downtown. “It’s my home,” he explains.
Brand stickers illuminated at the counter. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
With the help of a fellow skater turned business partner, Paul realized his vision of a skate shop and t-shirt screen printing business in his space at Alta Vista. He runs the two operations from that location, and has fully committed to transforming his passion into a career. “When your business partner is also a skater it kind of helps out,” he laughs.
The shop offers an opportunity to showcase local skateboard companies and highlight local artists. “I think local business needs to be in a city- It defines a city,” states Paul. And it’s not just skateboards from locals, many of his creations are a result of collaborations with local artists.
Local skater Nathan Pacheco working on his board in Alta Vista Skateshop. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“We give that local flavor, that
He describes a moment of “Taco Talk” with artist Aaron Casas of Casas Ink, which resulted in a now popular shirt depicting a skating taco with an invitation of “Let’s Shred.” His friends in other artistic communities are a huge influence on him, creating an ecosystem of local talent.
“We give that local flavor, that local vibe,” Paul explains. It’s that local flavor that attracts not only locals, but visitors as well. When Paul visits a city, the first thing he does is check out the local skate shop to get a feel for what makes the community unique.
Shop floor at 114 Broadway. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Apparently the NIKE skateboarding team has a similar ritual. Alta Vista was the place they decided to check out on their visit to San Antonio. And Rob Trujillo of Metallica talked about local art with Paul at the shop before one of his shows.
Locally produced skateboards on display. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Local flavor gives so much character to Downtown, as is the case with Alta Vista along the Broadway Cultural Corridor. “I think it is important to have a local skate shop downtown,” Paul observes. Otherwise, he explains, local skaters don’t feel like they have a home. And to that point, nowhere to learn from those who are more experienced.
Paul has learned a lot about skating over the years, often advice tailored to his specific audiences. Military personnel, most times because they skate on weekends or they have some time after graduation, will visit Alta Vista often. Paul makes sure to inform them of all the rules and regulations when they’re on base.
Local skater Nathan Pacheco putting finishing touches on skateboard. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
It’s those connections to the community that Paul finds most important. Three years ago, he had the chance to partner with an artist friend to raise over $3,000 dollars for Roy Maas Youth Alternatives, a charity that creates brighter futures for children in crisis, to go towards building a skate park at their facility.
“I’m here dedicated to all my customers.”
This year, Paul hopes to put on another art event, featuring local artists and re-purposed boards, to raise money to provide skateboards to the children at the Roy Maas facility. “That’s the other part of my job that I love doing,” he says. Paul enjoys that he can give back to the community in a way that encourages and supports local talent. Ideally for him, they will turn around and support the next generation of talent, and so on.
Paul Francis, Owner of Alta Vista Skateshop. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
This March will make 1,000 days without a break for Paul. But for him, it’s the people and the passion that make it all worth it. As he says, “I’m here dedicated to all my customers.”