Employees: 2, 3 during the busy season
Mike Mahoney’s vintage-style skateboards carve urban terrain and mountain roads. His Grand Junction business looks for a smooth ride ahead.
With vintage stringer-surfboard styling and modern, laminated technologies beneath the deck, Grand Junction’s Honey Skateboards are making waves on the longboard scene.
Stringers – thin strips of wood – are used in surfboards to strengthen surfboard cores and give them torsional strength. They influenced Mike Mahoney, the former woodworking teacher who founded the semi-eponymous Honey Skateboards.
“The main difference is our lack of graphics compared to other skateboards”, Mahoney says. “We don’t have crazy graphics. It gives you that kind of old-school stringer-style look.” To create the look they use maple, purple heart and sapele, an African tropical tree with visual characteristics akin to mahogany, “but more consistent”, he explains. The woods used by Honey are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Mahoney says other brands have a similar look, but are usually made of solid wood or wood strips. “What we do is create our own top and bottom.” The company’s unique manufacturing process pair the decorative and functional stringer laminate layers on the top and bottom of the board so it looks like a solid wood board. “That’s the challenging part,” he says.
“We can adjust for whatever the board’s intended use is,” Mahoney says. “So we have what appears to be a solid wood board, but it actually has the ride quality and characteristics of the other boards that are out there. We’re kind of a mix of both worlds.”
The company offers nearly 20 varieties of boards. By using different layering techniques, including vertical laminated cores like those found in skis or snowboards, Honey’s boards can be designed for cruising down a windy mountain road or through city streets.
Just don’t ask Mahoney for a ‘street deck’ - the common 32” long ‘popsicle’ deck most people see on the streets and in skate parks. “A lot of people just don’t connect a longboard with a skate park but we quite frequently go to the skate park with a longboard,” he says. “Longboards can carve snakelike runs over park features, add tails and they can take on half pipes. They’re not as limited as what the general mindset has and one challenge is opening the minds up.”
Mahoney and family moved to Colorado from California about four years ago, bringing the then fledgling skateboard company with him. “Manufacturing in Colorado makes it a little less expensive for retailers and customers on the East Coast”, he says, though they originally moved to Colorado for his wife’s business. Mahoney says the reception here has been great. “Colorado really supports Colorado businesses.”
Honey Skateboards makes about 2,000 boards a year. At full capacity the shop could produce up to 6,000 a year. But, “The industry’s kind of plateaued,” Mahoney says.
Challenges: “Skilled labor is a challenge, particularly in relation to woodworking”, Mahoney says, “since many schools no longer offer such training.”
Mahoney also sites the need to build recognition for longboards in the action sports community. “Many skateboard shops haven’t offered longboards, and the industry has struggled to get into in to those stores in the past.”
Opportunities: International markets like Australia, Brazil, Europe are potential growth markets for Honey. And, “social media continues to be a driver for the industry.”
Needs: More media coverage: “There was a recent downhill race at Pike’s Peak. But there’s no television coverage, no avenue to the general public,” Mahoney says. Longboarding was originally a part of the X Games but the events were dropped after the first few years. “Reinstating such coverage could help move the sport forward”, he says.