If Johnny still wants a pair of skates from Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, a pair of entrepreneurial moms in Fairfield can help with that, through their new business, Volition Skate Co.
Jen Kranz, 38, and Kate Vigmostad, 35, both single moms, grew up skating in rinks in their youth, then turned to Rollerblading as tweens and teens. But as they grew older and their lives grew busier, they hung up their skates — until the COVID-19 pandemic sent them looking for a way to get outside, get some exercise and have some fun.
They aren’t the only ones. They say roller skating is booming among the 18 to 35 age group, fueled by Instagram and Tik Tok stars like Ana Coto and Oumi Janta, as well as Netflix documentaries on jam skaters from the ’80s.
Appropriately, they met roller skating. Vigmostad, a Fairfield native who majored in dance at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, owns Aerial Fitness Underground, a pole fitness and aerial arts studio in her hometown. Her business partner saw Kranz skating around town and invited her to come to a skate- and hang-out event Vigmostad organized in May.
Kranz and Vigmostad started skating together after that. By June, they were talking about joining forces to source skates and, in July, launched their business online. They now have a store front at 103 N. Main St. in Fairfield.
Because of the pandemic, shopping is by appointment and limited to one person at a time, with a face mask. They also have been setting up shop in Iowa City’s Downtown Holiday Pop-Up Market, located in Black Hawk Mini Park on the Ped Mall. The final Pop-Up Market runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 11 to 13.
They work with distributors to sell skates and accessories.
“They’re all handmade, high-quality leather or suede boots that just happen to have wheels on them,” Vigmostad said. “When I first started looking around, I had no idea what they were going to cost. Online, you can find skates for $50 or $100. But if you’re interested in skating regularly, they’re not going to stand the test of time.”
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Higher quality skates made in America come with a higher price tag, she said, ranging from $150 to $250. Kids’ skates run from $55 to $90, with a couple models costing upward of $100. They also offer accessories, like pompoms, a skate bag and ball bearings, as well as some clothing and wrist guards, which they consider the most important protective gear. And next year, they plan to design and sell their own protective gear, too.
“We’re big proponents of safety,” Kranz said, but what’s on the market just isn’t stylish. “We noticed there’s a gap in the industry. A lot of protective gear is ugly. It was invented quite a while ago and the design hasn’t changed.”
One thing that has changed is the dwindling number of roller rinks. They hope to change that, too, and open a new rink in Fairfield someday.
The town’s previous rink holds happy memories for Vigmostad, as do the rinks in Las Vegas, where Kranz grew up. She moved to Fairfield six years ago in January, and is finishing up a degree in digital media and conscious entrepreneurship at Maharishi International University. She plans to apply her studies to Volition Skate Co., incorporating sustainability best practices and offering goods from companies that invest in environmental causes.
Right now, however, their closest rink is Kenny’s Roller Ranch in Burlington. Cedar Rapids still has Super Skate at 5100 Northland Ave. NE.
With or without rinks at hand, just because the days are growing shorter and colder doesn’t mean it’s time to put the skates away ’til spring. Vigmostad and Kranz suggest lacing up on nice days to get outside. Indoor alternatives include skating in an open basement or finding someone with a warehouse with wide open spaces. Small spaces work, too.
“Roller skating isn’t just about roller rinks anymore,” Vigmostad said. “There’s skate jam, which is dancing on skates, and roller fit, which is basically doing fitness aerobic-style on skates, and both of those you can do in small areas like your kitchen.”
“You can learn how to spin in a tiny little space,” Kranz added.
It’s good exercise, too, in spaces large and small.
“You can actually burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time. From what I’ve read online, it’s like 600 calories an hour,” Kranz said.
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“Kate and I will just skate around our shop in Fairfield, and within half an hour, I’m sweating, and that’s just from skating in a very small space,” Kranz said. “It’s great exercise. You can do anything on skates, like work your abs. Kate likes to do handstands with skates on.”
“Other physical benefits are that you get really strong and your balance improves,” Vigmostad noted. “You have to have really good balance to get good at roller skating. It strengthens not just the muscles that help you have better balance, but learning anything new is really good for your brain. Trying something new, there’s a neuro sensation that happens, and that’s a really good thing to keep you young and curious. There’s kind of an endless amount of new tricks to learn on roller skates.
“The other unintended benefit for Jen and I taking up roller skating has been the social community we’ve built around our interest in roller skating,” Vigmostad said. “I really wanted a hobby and also I wanted to grow my friend groups. I’m a little bit introverted, a little bit shy, and it’s been hard to do that in the last couple of years because I’ve been so busy raising my son.
“Just spontaneously, being super-interested in roller skating has drawn to us people we probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. They become like family almost,” she said. “Our little skate crew has become just a really nice social support network.”
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At a glance
• What: Volition Skate Co.
• Where: 103 N. Main St., Fairfield; appointments available via email at email@example.com or through Facebook or Instagram messenger
• Pop-up: Downtown Iowa City Holiday Pop-up Market, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 11 to 13, Black Hawk Mini Park in the Ped Mall, 104 S. Dubuque St.; reservations available at Volitionskate.com/pages/shop-in-person
• Details: Volitionskate.com