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The Blade Renter : In-Line Skates Are Just Part of the Action at Beach Store

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Inside Glenn Koshi’s rental store, the Italians visitingfrom Rome are trying on in-line skates sans socks, teen-agers in a corner are noisily gushing over Koshi’s hot new skate wheels, and a family from Riverside is checking out the surfboards.

“We get real busy in the summer,” said Koshi, 32, owner of Paradise Beach Co.

No kidding. On a hot and humid recent afternoon, Koshi’s store, which is nearly tucked beneath the Huntington Beach Pier, had a solid stream of customers. It’s been that way, he said, even before summer started.

“I haven’t had a day off in three months,” Koshi said. “They’re knocking on the door when I get here to open up at 10 a.m., and they’re knocking on the door when we lock up at night at 7 p.m. And we’re open seven days a week.”

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Just then, an older guy with a 4-year-old daughter popped in and took a soaking wet dollar bill from his swim trunks. “This is for licorice and jawbreakers. Thank you,” he said, as he and the girl left the store.

From his position on the boardwalk, Koshi has a ringside seat for the daily colorful circus featuring thousands of beach visitors. Young women, dressed in some of the skimpiest swimwear this side of lingerie, saunter by. Men parade by in various forms of this year’s uniform--long hair, no shirt and cut-off jeans . . . unbuttoned at the top by the young Fabios.

And to those who zip along the boardwalk, Koshi has been the Blade Man--the main man here for in-line skates. Umbrellas, fins, even volleyballs also are available.

“We rent everything in here,” Koshi says, smiling and pointing to a price sign.

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It’s true. You supply the money, and a driver’s license, and you too can zoom around the coastal bike path with banged-up knees. In fact, for one hour, you can rent skates for $6. There are two of you? Hey, take a tandem bicycle.

When Koshi started in Huntington Beach 13 years ago with his partner, Scott Einbinder of West Hollywood, he sold Hawaiian-style shaved ice. When a nearby beach rental store became available, Koshi and Einbinder grabbed it.

Koshi enjoyed skating. But the boom was about to strike.

“The popularity of in-line skating has just been phenomenal,” Koshi said. “It’s taken off.” It got a big boost when the popularity of ice hockey, “courtesy of Mister Wayne Gretzky,” Koshi added, led to the craze for street hockey, played on in-line skates.

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As he spoke, a youngster came into the store.

“Hi, Glenn,” said 12-year-old James Shipley as he slurped a snow cone. “What are the names of the new boots coming out, huh? . . . Are there any new skates that are gonna be nice?”

Patiently, Koshi answered both questions.

In the store, Koshi keeps about 75 pairs of in-line skates for rentals, two dozen beach cruisers and mountain bikes, another dozen boogie boards and several soft surfboards, so first-time surfers don’t get hurt.

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Mention speed skating and stand back. It’s Koshi’s obsessive love. He sponsors a Team Paradise, composed of skaters who compete around the country. Team members Beto Pena from Texas, and Aimee Sanderson of Las Vegas recently raced at a regional speed skating competition in Idaho.

On Friday, Koshi was headed with the team to Chicago.

“Our team is so good that the only other teams we compete against are the manufacturer’s national teams,” Koshi said. “Those teams are sponsored by Rollerblade, and those people are good, but we’re holding our own.”

In fact, much of his business doesn’t have anything to do with rentals. Koshi is on the verge of becoming one of the larger sellers of speed skating equipment on the West Coast. With four employees, he has begun a mail-order business and is coming out with one of the first color catalogues on skate products.

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His store also specializes in custom orders dealing with super light speed skates that can cost from $300 to $900 a pair.

Opening a box, Koshi explained that one skater enjoyed the fit of his ice skates so much he asked Koshi to make them into in-line skates. Koshi removed the metal blades, put on a new bottom sole, and attached a gleaming aluminum frame with some of the hottest new polyurethane wheels on the market.

“The guy said he loved his ice skates because they fit like a glove,” Koshi said. “So, he had me fashion them into in-line skates.”

A woman in a red swimsuit rushed in with her two children, who clamored for 25-cent suckers. “I only have two nickels. I left my purse with auntie. You guys get licorice only.”

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“Awwwww, mama. Please! Please!” they urged.

“No, licorice. Now let’s get out!”

Koshi only smiled.


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