Back in 2010, friends Martin Schreiber and Fabian Herkelmann did not only share a flat but also their passion for skateboarding. Using their attic as a warehouse, the two started selling their favorite skate brands and products on the web - Bonkers was born. Five years later, the duo decided it was time to turn their hobby into a profession and take their retail business to the street. So February this year saw the opening of the Bonkers brick-and-mortar store in Frankfurt's Sachsenhausen district - right in the middle of traditional Schnitzel restaurants, sports bars and pubs. We spoke to Martin Schreiber about the benefits of this non-fashion location, the challenges of being an independent store owner and how -despite all the hype- the essence of skateboarding is still the same. Interview by Maria Hunstig

What’s the story behind Bonkers?
We started Bonkers in our shared attic in 2010. It was more of a hobby to us back then, something we did after work, so we couldn’t really make a living off of it. We had the idea to open up a skate shop that emphasized the symbiosis of street wear and skateboarding. Skateboarding is incredibly diverse. Whether it’s fashion, art, music, or architecture: skateboarding is all-encompassing. At that time we felt that there weren’t any shops that took the diversity of skateboarding into account, so we had to do it ourselves.

Bonkers, Klappergasse 11, Frankfurt/Main
Bonkers, Klappergasse 11, Frankfurt/Main

Being a young, independent store owner – how are you coping financially?
Earn that shit, spend that shit….

What have been you biggest challenges so far?
That was definitively the opening of our store back in February. Though we had great brands and a strong web shop, the opening of our store meant that it was getting serious, it meant that we really had to make ends meet. It was no longer a hobby. We had no idea what was waiting for us and we were really freaking out. But if we knew back then what we know now, we would have set up the shop earlier.

What do you like about your neighborhood, why did you pick this exact spot?
The area we are located in is very rich in contrast. It’s probably the last remaining bit of the old Frankfurt on the one hand, yet it’s also the most popular entertainment district on the other hand – something Germans call “Amüsiermeile”. We were searching for a place that was a little aside from the shopping boulevards, yet not completely off the grid. We wanted a location that didn’t require us to adapt too much but where we could do whatever we want. We’re actually hosting in-store events and exhibitions and here, like the ‘Hauptsache Hauptwache’ art show (which is about skateboarding in Frankfurt in the ‘90s) where the whole street was packed with our guests and nobody complained! Also, most brands we carry aren’t exactly known to random walk-in customers, and those who are looking for a specific brand will find us anyway.

Art displays in store
Art displays in store

Do you feel that skateboarding is experiencing a renaissance right now? How would you explain that?
Skateboarding seems to receive broader acceptance from society. Whether that’s good or bad is hard to tell – but it was certainly fun to be an underdog back in the days.
We feel that skateboarding is in flux right now: On the one hand, you have the commercialization. You can see advertisements and TV shows frequently incorporating skateboarding today. On the other hand, there’s more and more skateboarders that are fed up with this and are somewhat mourning the 1990s. For instance, there are many skaters who’d sell their HD cams and buy VX1000s to achieve that old-school VHS look.
The same goes for many brands, too. Of course, there are older brands that have grown to such an extent that they’re no longer catering exclusively to skateboarders and thus fail to appeal to many skateboarders today. As a result, there are smaller brands (many European ones, too) that are more authentic. It’s really interesting that it’s those brands that appeal to the street wear in-crowd, whose members are not necessarily aware that they’re buying a skateboarding brand, with a skater actually standing behind it.
Anyhow, skateboarding is still a little rebellious. We’re still pushing through the city, searching for marble ledges. That hasn’t changed.

A look into Bonkers
A look into Bonkers

Who are your customers?
Both skateboarders and street wear folks. We have a lot skaters who buy decks and shoes here or just come to hang out and drink a beer. But there’s also the street wear dude who looks for specific stuff.

Are you attending trade shows? Which ones?
We’re mostly in Berlin for fashion week because the Bright trade show moved from Frankfurt to Berlin a few years ago. Every now and then we’re in Paris. Honestly, though, the trade shows are less significant to us and we’re just dropping by to say hello.

Which are the hottest skate brands right now?
That would be Palace, Polar Skate Co., Fucking Awesome and Vans Syndicate. They’re also appealing to street wear dudes. Then there’s a bunch of smaller companies like The Quiet Life, Dime Mtl, or Ambivalent who really rev up right now drop great collections.

Popular: Dime hats
Popular: Dime hats

Which are your bestsellers in the store?
Both the current Palace collection and our in-house brand.

How are you engaging with your community and social networks?
We’re mostly using Instagram. Facebook is losing significance. We’re also trying to push our Tumblr, and we’re setting up a blog on our website.

If you could change anything in the retail game, what would that be?
More beer and massages for a relaxed cooperation. Other than that, everybody’s got to figure out what works best for them by themselves. We’d rather not interfere with that.

Klappergasse 11
60594 Frankfurt