Ezra Thompson coaches artistic roller skating. He wants to help the Everett Skate Deck, a place he thinks of as home, stay in business.
Ryan Acklus’ family owns the Skate Deck, a roller rink founded 60 years ago by his grandparents. Generations of local kids have found fun and friends there, and Acklus hopes to keep it that way.
That’s not a given, though, as coronavirus restrictions have kept the venue closed to the public for much of the past year. “TEMPORARILY CLOSED” says a hot-pink notice on the Skate Deck website, which also touts “family fun since 1961.”
“Of course you don’t want to see it go, but how long can we stay closed?” said Acklus, who operates the Skate Deck with his brother, Cory Acklus, and their mother Teri Acklus. “I’d be lying if I said we haven’t discussed all that,” he said when asked about the possibility of permanently closing.
Teri Acklus’ parents, Bobbie and Eric Englund, started the rink on California Street, just off Broadway, before moving it in 1976 to the current location near Silver Lake. Today’s Skate Deck not only draws recreational roller skaters, including crowds of school groups and birthday parties, it’s the home of several competitive clubs.
Thompson coaches the Everett Eagles Artistic Skating Team, with about 30 children and teens involved. The Jet City Roller Derby and the Mob City Junior Roller Derby are based at the Skate Deck too, as is the Puget Sound Inline Hockey League. Competitions have been halted by COVID-19 precautions, Thompson said.
With the aim of supporting the place he loves — and assuring the survival of his workplace — Thompson, 44, launched a crowdfunding effort on the GoFundMe website. As of Friday afternoon, $11,403 had been pledged by 108 donors to the fundraiser, titled “Roll it Forward!!! Support the Everett Skate Deck.” The goal is $50,000.
“It’s been hit really hard through this whole thing. It’s super sad,” said Thompson. The Skate Deck has “given to this community for years and years. I’d like to see the community come together to help,” he said.
Ryan Acklus, though, would rather the Skate Deck not take the money. He hopes the business will soon be allowed to reopen, and wants contributions to be returned to all those generous donors — so they’ll use that money to come back as Skate Deck customers.
“We do not want to use that money,” said Acklus, who nevertheless acknowledged “it’s an awesome show of support.”
Acklus, 43, said the business received some COVID relief funds, “a drop in the bucket,” at the start of the pandemic, but that nearly all employees, including some family members, have lost their jobs. “At the peak, we had 20 to 25 employees. Most are kids,” he said. Only a manager and a maintenance person stayed on, he said.
The Skate Deck was allowed to open for a short time, during which Acklus said limits on customer numbers were strictly followed. Currently, as small private groups, some club members are skating, Thompson said.
Acklus sees disparity as big box stores are allowed to be open, while his family’s business — with a large space needed for social distancing — remains shuttered.
Niki Desautels, 38, helps run the Mob City Junior Roller Derby, and coaches one of its teams, the Mob City Misfits. A rink veteran, she skated 10 years with the Jet City Roller Derby before becoming a coach. Like Thompson, she loves the Skate Deck, an Everett institution.
“I grew up in Snohomish County. I used to go to the Skate Deck all the time,” she said. “I loved roller skating as a kid. In my 20s, I was looking for a new hobby and decided to give it a go.” As many as five nights a week, roller derby has kept her at the rink. “It’s like coming into your home,” Desautels said.
Kids ages 5 to 18 are part of Mob City Junior Roller Derby, with three groups — the Goons, the Punks and the Misfits — determined by age and skill level, she said.
Although she fears the future of her home rink may be in jeopardy, Desautels hasn’t “gone down that road” of looking for another place to skate and coach. The Skate Deck, she said, is “kind of a second home.”
On occasion during the shutdown, Ryan Acklus said he’s arrived to find kids waiting outside the Skate Deck, wondering if their favorite place is open.
“Kids make those friendships. It’s a really familiar, comfortable place to be, when maybe they don’t feel they can be themselves anyplace else,” said Desautels. “We call ourselves a family — the Skate Deck family.”
Julie Muhlstein: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to help
An online fundraiser has been launched on GoFundMe to help the Everett Skate Deck, a roller rink affected by coronavirus closures. To learn more or donate, go to www.gofundme.com and search for: Roll it Forward!!! Support the Everett Skate Deck