Local skateboard lifestyle brand Drive Thru launches with a trick-filled short film
Drive Thru is a new skateboard clothing, video, and lifestyle company run by friends Austin Roberts, Ramon Rogelio Fuentes, Kaito Osborn, and Luke Turowski. They are part of the passionate skate community in Washtenaw County, which officially counts Ypsilanti’s DIY skatepark in Prospect Park, the Ann Arbor Skatepark in Veterans Park, and the Olympia Skate Shop, with in both Ann Arbor and Ypsi, as gathering spots.
But skaters love to skate ... anywhere.
That’s the focus of this new skateboard lifestyle collective’s debut short film, also called Drive Thru, which captures skaters grinding and tricking throughout Washtenaw County, with a heavy focus on Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
The 25-minute-long Drive Thru premieres at The Blind Pig on Thursday, August 18, with a screening and performances by Michigan punk bands Dad Caps and My Place or Yours.
We spoke with Drive Thru’s Austin Roberts and Ramon Rogelio Fuentes about their company, the film, and the skating scene in Washtenaw County.
Q: What is Drive Thru? Where did the idea come from and when was its inception?
ROBERTS: Drive Thru is a clothing brand, technically. But really it’s just my friends and I giving ourselves an excuse to do what we love 24/7. It’s an outlet for us to be creative and make the kind of art that we want to see being made.
We decided to start a brand a few months ago, and my friend Luke just happened to be getting food when I called him about it. He suggested we call it Drive Thru and it stuck.
Q: How did you get into skating, and when did you begin to focus on filming?
ROBERTS: I started skating in April 2009 and have been filming ever since. I became almost obsessive about filming a few years later when I went to my first local video premiere for a video called Spazzatura. It was surprising to me at the time that Michigan had such talented skaters and artists making stuff like that. I just thought it was all in California until I saw that video.
Q: The video itself seems like a compilation of a few years of skate culture. Does it primarily take place in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti? What do you think makes the community in this area special or different from other places?
ROBERTS: Yeah, the video is mostly filmed in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. We started traveling a lot in 2021 and there is footage from our trips all over the country. The community here is unique among the other cities I’ve visited. It gets cold out here and nobody really pays attention to skateboarding in the Midwest, so I think the attitude of the scene here is more about having fun and doing this because we love it, and less about getting sponsored and being a part of the industry.
We have a great DIY scene out here, which stems from the Prospect Park DIY skatepark. It’s hard to put a finger on what makes it special, but i think it really comes down to the fact that we are all good friends here. We all worked together to build something at Prospect, and have bonded as a community during the process.
Q: Tell us more about Prospect Park and its influence on Drive Thru and the local skater scene.
FUENTES: About 11 years ago prospect was just a tennis court with no nets. I have memories of seeing people play hockey on rollerblades. The DIY skatepark started with a couple of friends—Miro Lomelí, Eli Stevick, Trevor Karty, Chip Adams, Pat Winkle—who built two skateable benches. They painted them white and green so they would blend in with the rest of the park. They chained them up to the fence and locked them when they were done skating so no one could take them. Skaters around the area started noticing the new spot and as new skaters popped up, so did new obstacles. Wooden ledges and rails started appearing. It very quickly began to look like a skatepark.
Prospect has gone through many different phases. It started with a lot of wooden ramps, ledges, and rails. It had an infamous plexiglass phase. Now it’s pretty much all cement. About every year, all of us skaters have a pour day where we have a cement truck come out and we build new obstacles. Prospect is funded 100 percent by the skaters who skate there and donations from anyone who wants to contribute.
Steve Risner [of Olympia Skate Shop] has been leading the pours the last few years and has put in so much of his own time and money into taking Prospect to the next level.
We have a very tight community. Before Prospect in 2011, Ypsi didn’t have the skate community that we have here now. There was no skate shop, skateparks, or anything like that. It’s 2022 and now we have one of the most famous DIY skateparks in the Midwest, skaters from all over the world have skated here. We have Olympia Skate Shop in Ypsi and they just opened up a second location in Ann Arbor. We have [the Ypsilanti] skatepark that the city built for us with help from the Tony Hawk Foundation. We have a scene now where it doesn’t matter where you’re skating, you’re probably going to run into one of your homies.
Q: Outside of the video, Drive Thru is a brand as well. What made you want to create something new in the skate industry?
ROBERTS: I think that the Midwest needs more attention in skateboarding. I feel like there’s so much good skating and art to see here that gets overlooked, and I hope that Drive Thru can draw attention to the region and get the industry to look our way, and see how much talent and creativity is out here.
Q: What can we expect to see at the release party on Thursday? And what else is in the works for Drive Thru?
ROBERTS: There will be live music from Dad Caps—a punk band from Lansing—My Place or Yours—a punk band from Westland—and some DJ sets from my friends Sam Works and Kaito Osborn. We will have new products available for sale at the event, and just an all-around good time for everyone.
A week after the premiere, a few of us are going to Barcelona to start working on our next project.
Katy Trame is a student, poet, public library associate for Pulp, and music writer for The Michigan Daily.
"Drive Thru" premieres at The Blind Pig, 208. S. 1st St, Ann Arbor. Doors open at 7 pm for the all-ages event and tickets cost $10. My Place Or Yours, Dad Caps, DJ Lonely Saki, and DJ Simone will perform.
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