Five People Making L.A. a Better Place
5. Armando Gonzalez
After graduating from Cal State Los Angeles and working as a field representative for city Councilman Jose Huizar, Armando Gonzalez quit his day job and opened his own skate shop, Soul Skating L.A. It is more than just a place to sell decks and wheels; it is, he says, "a movement."
The idea is to find neighborhood kids and give them an option that doesn't require banging, being a coward or becoming a nerd. In other words: skateboarding. The shop offers free introductory skate lessons and sponsors a Zephyr-like team of up-and-coming street rippers ages 17 to 19.
The location is close enough to Hollenbeck Skate Park, just up the short block, that kids can go from ollieing local curbs to catching full-on ramp air at the park.
Inner-city skating is hot. Gonzalez, who bought a house in Boyle Heights with his wife eight years ago, says that even some gang members have taken up skating. But his kids learn that the motto is no longer "skate and destroy," the way it was in the '80s. "The skateboarding world is so essential to inner-city neighborhoods," he says. "Our motto is 'live, skate, create.' " For more, see Dennis Romero's profile of Armando Gonzalez