For a city that has had a historic skateboard scene as explosive and thriving as San Jose’s, it’s hard to believe that there are so few establishments outside of the cut and dry shopping mall stores that carry the unique inventory of products that skateboarders tend to purchase in support of their habits.

Enter Circle-A skateboards, one of the few legitimate locally owned skate shops left in the city of San Jose. From skateboard hard goods to various name brand cut and sew, Circle-A is the lone purveyor of authentic skateboard products from some of the industries most respected brands.

Owner and proprietor of Circle-A skateboards, Bob Schmelzer has been running the shop since its first iteration in downtown San Jose before relocating to its current aquarium-like storefront on Paseo De San Antonio.

Name: Bob Schmelzer
Occupation: Skateboard shop owner

How long have you lived and worked in San Jose?
Off and but mostly on since 1977. The family moved up for the semi-conductor boom. All I knew coming from Orange County was culture shock, until I found Winchester Skate Park and San Jose punk bands like Los Olvidados and Executioner.

What do you like most about San Jose?
Friends. Skateboarding. The weather. Sorry, I’d add my family but they all moved.

What is your favorite thing about San Jose?
The people. I’ve met some of my best friends skating the streets of San Jose. In the early 80’s we skated the curbs and garages right next to where my shop is located today.

Where is your favorite place to go for a night on the town?
That’s funny! It used to be FX, The Usual, Spy, The Cactus, The Punk House, Ajax Lounge, Strata, Blue Monkey and even The Agenda with Special K spinning. Pretty much anywhere that played good music and cared about the sound quality. Now, I only go to Trials Pub, it’s by far the best bar and if there’s a great band playing at The Blank, I’ll go!

Who is the most interesting person you know/have met in San Jose?
Thane Ferguson (bartender) Get to Trials, buy him a shot of Powers and tip him well!

What are your hobbies or interests outside of running your business?
Riding the skateboard, listening to vinyl and restoring my Plymouths!

What drives you as a business owner (motivations)?
It used to be just skateboarding but with the current economics and lack of retail growth in downtown San Jose, I’m still trying to figure that out. Right now, it’s just the challenge more than anything. I see what I have to do, the question is, is it possible in this town? It’s been almost 15 years thus far, so we’ll just have to wait and see were it goes.

Do you feel any specific responsibilities as the only skateboarding retailer located in downtown San Jose?
To skateboarders, I feel I’m doing the best I can afford considering the support they give. As far as the downtown goes, it’s very small and the retail environment is even smaller. It makes things difficult to move out and do more things. When it’s good, we spend. Everything costs. We care about the core of skateboarding, that’s were we came from, that’s were we are. If you are talking about responsibilities to the city then the answer is no. Skateboarding was all over downtown way before my shop and will be long after I’m gone, deal with it!

Do you have any fond memories running your business?
Black Label’s first video premiere at The Camera 3 and The Usual was a great day! And all of the amazing art shows we threw in The Link Gallery in the old Victorian (3rd & San Carlos). Mike Giant, Jeremy Fish, Joe Demaree, Neil Blender, Mark Gonzales, Johnny “Mojo” Munnerlyn, John Cummins, Richard Bustamante, Russ Pope, Jason Jesse, Jai Tanju, Aaron Klawetter, Ron Earhart, etc. All great artists, all really great people!

What was the most difficult part about getting your business off the ground in San Jose?
Starting with no cash and the lack of retail synergy in the BID (Business in Development) district of downtown.

What is the biggest payoff for you as a shop owner (not money-related)?
Watching kids get into skateboarding for the first time and seeing their progression. Look out for Oso Guerrero and Zach Schlaefli!

If you weren’t currently running Circle A, what do you think you would be doing?
What I’d like to be doing, team management or producing product and/or music to make money to spend on drag racing!