March 4, 2024/ / ARTICLES/ Comments: 9

A skate company calling it quits in 2024 is an understandable yet sad affair. There is no flaming arrow, viking send-off or 21 gun salute. No bed of roses either, rather there is typically an Instagram post followed by hardcore fans sharing their condolences, and if you’re lucky, a SLAP thread.

Scumco & Sons, an East Coast underground mainstay of the last 14 years, known for atypical knick knacks and a focus on inventive board designs, is the latest to bow under the pressures of the industry. The situation is indicative of many brands coming before, where keeping the lights on in a low margin endeavour can be seen as a fleeting daydream.

Owner Nick Teodori agreed to open up and look back on his time running the brand and what pushed him to begin boarding the windows. Leave a flower or two on your way out, and join us in remembering some of the gems Scumco has released over the years or maybe just pick up a tidbit on why we should appreciate these smaller brands and the work it takes, day in and day out.

We’ve all seen the Instagram posts and everyone is curious.
What’s going on with Scumco & Sons?

Nothing, unfortunately, that’s the problem. I mostly just can’t keep it going. Post-COVID I borrowed money for a downpayment on a house in my neighborhood and finally moved out of my dirt cheap apartment of over 10 years. Some of those expenses were supposed to split with someone but that didn’t work out. All that changed, coinciding with Dave [Abair] passing away. I didn’t feel like doing anything for a year after that, at least. I haven’t had the mental capacity to put in the effort the brand requires.

Meanwhile, for the past two years, I’ve been living off credit cards and shit while thinking at some point the industry would start getting back to how it was pre-COVID and that’s just not happening. I’ve got a mountain of debt and I need to start digging myself out of it asap. I started up the letterpress again and started taking on side jobs.

On top of that I’m hitting my breaking point as far as sitting on a computer, and part of running Scumco is emailing shops and all that shit. That’s always been fine, because it’s been for something I believe in and think is great, but now I need time away from the computer and phone and whatnot. You know, posting to Instagram… even that’s something I hate doing. I’m curmudgeonly and old! [laughs]

If I could just run a skateboard company without social media where I could just make shit, mail out a physical catalog to shops, have them mail an order form back in, ship it out, and start on the next set of graphics, that would be sick. I still pay my bills with paper checks. Zach Dykes had to make me get an Instagram account for Scumco to begin with.

What were you doing for work before you started the brand?
I was doing design work, mostly on a letterpress, and original partner Ben [Smith]’s side hustle was doing screen printing work–posters and stuff like that. We were always complaining about having to do design work for people with bad taste. Screen printing and letterpress are labor intensive and to have to put that much effort into something that looks horrible sucks.

So we decided to make something we wanted to make. We didn’t have a plan. We didn’t think we were starting a company. Pennswood [board manufacturer] was just an hour and a half drive from Pittsburgh, and if it wasn’t that easy to drive up and see how things were made in person, we probably would have never done it.

“Scumco was kinda COVID rich because I could still get things made at Pennswood, since he’s up on a secluded farm in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania.”

How quickly did Scumco accelerate?
It was all natural and happenstance. We made 30 boards and that was $300 from each of us to start. To us that was all the money in the world. I never had a credit card until Scumco started. Ben was 30-something and never even had a bank account his entire life. He did general contractor work under the table only.

I remember driving back from Pennswood with 30 boards thinking, “What the fuck did we just do? We’re gonna sell 5 boards to our friends and have to skate the other fuckin’ 25.”

Seeing you mentioned COVID earlier, how much did the COVID-19 board shortage and board overstock that followed contribute to where we are now?
Scumco was kinda COVID rich because I could still get things made at Pennswood, since he’s up on a secluded farm in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. No one was shutting him down. I got the impression a lot of the bigger brands couldn’t get shit made since the bigger woodshops were shut down. The other great COVID bonus was that shops were dying for any wood so they weren’t worried if you had graphics from a prior drop or season. So I was just running my leftover prints–overruns from 10 years of Pennswood and jamming them out to shops. Prints that were just sitting there, already paid for, so I’m COVID-rich like a motherfucker at that point.

The first batch of boards I made during the early COVID lockdowns was around 200 boards. I posted a picture on Instagram of all these boards in the back of my car and an hour and a half drive home, the boards were sold. 200 boards isn’t the biggest grip on Earth but to sell them that quickly without having to reach out to any shops? Fuck. Then it was 300 boards… same thing: gone before I got home. Kept rolling like that during lock-ins.

But here’s when I was really COVID rich. I got a set of boards made and delivered around the end of February 2021 going into spring when restrictions were ending. These were all PS Stix [board manufacturer] wood. I think Paul [Schmitt] was operating with a little more leeway because his factory is in Mexico. I got 3,200 boards from him and they were gone in a month and a half. For us, that doubles our best Spring drop ever. In the 10 years prior there were two other times where I sold about 1,700 boards in one spring drop. I was like, “holy shit.”

I remember talking to Paul after I sold out wanting more boards. He had said that his factory was booked out—everyone was so eager, thinking that the people who had picked up skating again during COVID or had started to skate for the first time in their 30s were going to be continual business. Paul told me he was gonna be raising his minimums and that 3,200 boards would be about the cusp of that number. A year or so later, he’s posting on Instagram that he’s doing 50-board minimums.

I think shops overbought, some bigger brands overproduced, and shops were sitting on wood forever. Some shops had hundreds of boards in the fuckin’ backroom, not even on the wall yet. This is also only my perception but I felt like every time I opened up Instagram, brands were starting to push out way more content because they had all this shit to sell. Sure, there’s been a lot of content for years but this felt like a lot more than usual. We’ve just never been built like that, to be a content machine. Also, the bigger brands could blow out that stock at a cheaper wholesale price than usual, and then once it was gone prices went back up. I guess that’s what businessmen call a “sale”.

“Turns out I actually couldn’t afford to not drop my prices.”

Right, I don’t think the average person realizes that a bigger business has that loss built into their margins and they’re just concerned about moving product and making room for new shit.
They’ve been in the industry for a longer time on a larger scale, so they understand the importance of just getting rid of the product. For me, I couldn’t get boards from PS Stix again right after lock-ins ended, so I went back to Pennswood and got 700 boards and they were sitting in my garage for seven months. I thought they’d be gone in two weeks or a month. In retrospect, I should have dropped my prices to get any sort of return on the money spent, then used it to make new boards… new graphics. Turns out I actually couldn’t afford to not drop my prices.

When I think about Scumco I think of really out-of-the-box ideas. What was the first non-board object you made for the brand?
Well, when we were cleaning out my garage and putting all the random ephemera on the Scumco site, I came across the Dave Abair “Tinkle Tarp” that came with his first board. That’s nowhere near the first, there have been plenty (skate stop remover kit, collapsible broom, etc), but that’s probably my favorite Scumco product I’ve ever made. It looks so perfectly old and shitty, like something you’d buy in a dollar store. There was a store in Pittsburgh called Costume World and they sold a ton of cheap crap–shit put in a plastic bag, stapled over top with a piece of paper saying what it was. I love that shit.

I guess the first oddball thing I made though was the fake acid sheets that came in the shrink wrap of the Doc Ellis boards.

It seems like Scumco was never interested in the business side of being a brand, because you’re making all these intricate boards and things, rather than thinking about how you could get production costs down like a “regular” company.
Yeah, that’s why I’m bad at business. I’m a fucking horrible businessman. The whole concept was “make what you make and hope people like it.” If I want to make something, I just make it and try to keep my costs under what standard wholesale is at that time, but I’ve come damn close to cost on some boards. Some of those boards had fuckin’ 16-18 color Pantone spot color print jobs, and some of those had 4-6 color print jobs as top graphics. I just wanted to make cool skateboards, I guess… maybe?

I consciously was thinking about old World Industries boards. That shit was off the wall. Every month there was wild new shit, like the Randy Colvin Velvet Safari… tons of boards had 5-color fluorescent print jobs. The Henry Sanchez Terminator board with the scratch-off graphic printed over the slick bottom. It didn’t seem like much of that stuff was happening at the time when we started.

Did you get in any trouble with Powell for making the Chrome Ball Incident collab board with the graphic that referenced the “Slash Skates” graphic from Animal Chin?
That one I did not run into trouble with. I did get a cease-and-desist from Santa Cruz for the second Chrome Ball board we did, like three years after we quit making it. John Vitale from Killing Floor had started a small distro on the West Coast for us and other brands like Killing Floor, Politic, etc. He had a booth at a trade show and I got a C&D email from Santa Cruz about that graphic afterwards. I’d have to look through my Gmail drafts but I really channeled Rocco on my response, but I never ended up hitting send. I heard that they have people trolling the internet looking for rip-offs.

“I just wanted to make cool skateboards, I guess… maybe?”

The run of Scumco & Sons was a lot longer than most brands or even the brands you grew up on. How does that feel?
That’s wild to me too. Yesterday as I got the last of the boards out of the door, I woke up at 5 am with all these new ideas. You’re not going to have those ideas until you’re forced to. They’re solid ideas but if I didn’t say the brand was folding and the shit wasn’t out the door, I would have never had those ideas. Almost 14 years is a nice chunk of my life. Maybe it is time for me to do something different.

A couple of days after posting and making it public that we were “terminating” the brand I realized how much I liked the packing boards part of the job and physically touching almost every board shipped out of the garage. I might need to make a grand finale shirt that’s just a drawing of my fuckin’ tape gun.

A small brand is personal, especially when you’re doing it all yourself. It’s almost like delaying a breakup.
You feel like you’re letting people down. Putting together the team is probably the greatest thing I’ll ever do in my life. That’s the main thing I hate to see go. I’m always going to make shit, otherwise what the hell am I going to do with my time? That’s the constant and I won’t lose that but losing that collection of people, that family, is hard.

If there wasn’t a team involved I would have quit forever ago. [Brian] Downey was like, “Just chill. Don’t make shit for a year.” Josh [Narvaez] suggested that we just get blanks and they’ll throw stickers on them and figure things out in a year. To some degree, it feels like we’ve been doing that for the past two years. Even if we slow down, it’s all going on (the business side) subconsciously in my head. It takes a lot of mental space to do a brand and I need to free it up.

As someone that has run a small indie brand for as long as you have, what do you think the future looks like for other indie board brands and do you have any advice for them?
Haha, you should probably ask advice from someone whose brand isn’t folding, right? Clearly I don’t know what I’m doing.

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  1. frogwelcomedisorderlimosineviolet

    March 4, 2024 3:48 pm

    lets be real, scumco was the last cool deck brand in skating..

  2. skatebeer

    March 4, 2024 5:05 pm

    Dopest thing they did was turning Philly pro. They real ones for that.

  3. Hassan

    March 5, 2024 12:26 am

    Really gonna miss their random products. Such a great company.

  4. Pantone 187

    March 5, 2024 1:00 pm

    16 PMS colors on a deck is insane. Excellent interview, bummed for that dude, but sounds like he has a solid head on his shoulders and his design skills don’t suck. Being bad at business usually doesn’t work out in the end, very relatable unfortunately.

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