Devil’s Gear Skateboards Back to the Future
Skaters in New Haven and beyond no longer need to travel out of town to get new skateboards or gear for a tune-up.
Alongside shelves full of bike locks, helmets and bike lube now sit racks of locally sourced skateboards and their gear at the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop at 845 Chapel St.
The Devil Gear skate shop recently opened within the bike shop with a mission to “turn people into runners and runners into skaters.
Devil’s Gear owner John Brehon described himself as a “old-school skater” from the 1970s. He was friends with Lou Cox, who previously ran New Haven’s only black-owned skate shop and inspired the new venture.
The store came together with the help of local natives J. Joseph, 25, and Hillhouse senior Sasha Cohen Cox, 16. The two currently work at the store, providing the New Haven skateboarding community with a home base.
“Our main goal is to help support the growing scene,” Joseph said.
Cohen Cox is the daughter of Lou Cox, former owner of Channel 1 Skate Shop. Although she grew up in the store with her father, Cohen Cox only started skating seriously a year ago.
Brehon and Joseph first connected through Joseph’s co-owned skate brand, Acid Wood Skateboards.
Brehon recalled “bugging J for boards to sell” and asked him for a lot about a year ago.
Brehon asked for all the boards Joesph was stocked with, thinking it would be around 100. Instead, all Joseph had at the time was 13 boards, which quickly sold out at Devil’s Gear, Brehon said. .
Channel 1 was the first black-owned store Brehon walked into when he arrived in New Haven more than a decade ago.
“It happened to be a skate shop,” he said. “And it was progressive with music, clothes, graffiti.
With a re-emerging skate scene all over the city, areas new and old like Scantlebury skate park are hubs for new and old-time skaters coming together to learn how to skate through life’s obstacles. (Click here and here for more on the Scantlebury skate park, which Joseph helped create.)
Once Brehon saw the high demand from skaters for the equipment, he decided to partner with Joseph and Cohen Cox.
“We’ve always had black and brown skaters, but most communities don’t know that,” Brehon said.
Next, Brehon hopes to bring the surfing community to his surf gear shop. Brehon has been surfing since moving to New Haven.
While working at the skate shop, Cohen Cox said, she was also able to learn about bikes. Coming out of the peak of the Covid pandemic, Cohen Cox started skating while looking for something to do.
Before Devil’s Gear opened, Cohen Cox most often shopped at Eastern Post Board Shop in Hamden or Cutting Edge in Berlin.
Joseph shopped in Hamden or Fairfield and occasionally went to the stores in New York.
Those trips are no longer necessary with the Devil’s Gear skate shop. However, if Devil’s Gear does not have an item, it provides customers with a list of other store options that “have maintained it for years,” Joseph said.
The team works to carry the torch of Channel 1, which was rooted in the community, added Joseph.
The store is connecting with local vendors to stock its shelves with growing brands like Beeasy Boards and Rotten skateboards.
Local skater and artist Harvey Locus helped finalize the vision for the skate shop with a spray-painted mural of a Japanese Oni on the store’s wall.
A glass display case features uniquely designed trucks and wheels.
“This is not your traditional space,” Brehon warned. “If diversity was a place, this would be it.
On a normal day, the store’s speakers go from house music to jazz to hip hop.
Joseph started skating at age 12 after transferring to a college that was popular with skaters. “Skating was very popular and the main way to make friends,” he said.
At first, her mother refused to offer her a board because she was “afraid of breaking my head.
After placing first in his eighth grade science fair, Joseph begged his mother to give him a skateboard as a prize she had promised him.
“It was the only thing in the world I wanted at the time,” he said.
So his mother gave him his first board at Walmart.
“From the minute I stood on it, it was a wrap. I haven’t been able to stop since,” he said. “I really found a community with that.
By the age of 14, Joseph had established a “skate crew” who toured Connecticut. It included skaters between the ages of 14 and 24.
Jospeh and Cohen Cox talked about learning life skills through skating, such as resilience, endurance, dedication and confidence. Cohen Cox said being in skateparks made her “sure of myself” and gave her the confidence to take her place in the male-dominated sport of skateboarding.
Skaters are welcome at the store to get wobbly trucks fixed, axle threads re-threaded, deck bolts adjusted or their first deck assembled, or just to hang out with the team watching skate videos and laying down Questions.
“A good store is more than just a place to buy things,” Joseph said.
Joseph and Cohen Cox agreed that the shop is one of many future ventures as they continue to champion the skate community.
“Skateboarding has given me so much in my life, and I want to be able to give back and do that 24/7,” Joseph said.