Big Air Lab is not a classic store, it’s a unique and amazing reality located in Camerano, east coast of Italy, with an incredible indoor bowl inside the shop, an awesome concrete skate plaza with palm trees and a staff of passionate people who know and love what they do. For their 18th anniversary they have teamed up with Nike SB and longtime friend and artist Fiumani to customize some SB iconic items. We had a conversation with Mario Paolillo, owner of Big Air Lab, who told us more about the store, its history and about this special collaboration project. Happy birthday Big Air!
Hi Mario and Luca! So during this crazy year Big Air Lab turns 18 years old! How do you feel about it?
Hi Dave, first of all, thank you for your interest in Big Air, we have reached a important milestone by turning eighteen! We should probably say that when we opened Big Air we didn’t know where we were going. But to tell you the truth, we had a clear idea from the very start. We wanted to create a project, something cool to share with our friends and customers. And now after eighteen years the venture has grown in size and we are very satisfied with the work done so far. You cannot imagine how much it hurts to keep going during these crazy times, even though we are full of ideas and we want to keep growing together with our community!
Can you give me a brief rundown of the shop’s history?
Big Air was born in 2002 as a small shop in Osimo, and at the time it was one of the few skate shops in the Marche region. Over the years we have set out to help the local scene in any way possible, for example by following the construction work at the Osimo skatepark or by actively supporting the local skaters. In 2012 we moved to Camerano to a bigger location with an indoor bowl, closer to the coast and easily accessible from the highway. We opened an indoor Bowl and in 2018 we completed the “Lab” with a skate plaza in the backyard, a restaurant, and Betties Kler’s tattoo studio. All this was possible thanks to the daily effort of our staff and the support of all the customers who’ve stayed with us throughout the years!
Luca Crestani, nollie switch crook.
So for your birthday you did a special collaboration with Nike SB. Can you tell us something more about it?
The first seed was planted last winter during a Euro meeting where we mentioned to Nike the idea of creating something together for 2020 but the spring lockdown was good to spend more time working on this collaboration. Basically it’s a customization project on existing products and this made it easy to work on. We chose the product we wanted to use, the artist imprint, the riders, etc. and submitted the project to the Nike SB EMEA team that was stoked on it! At that point it took a few months to work on customizing the product and organizing a party to celebrate these 18 years in a proper manner! Unfortunately this second Lockdown has made us cancel all our plans of hosting a physical event, so we had to replace the original idea with a digital format!
How was working on this project?
Definitely fun! It made us go back in time and reminisce all the best moments of the last 18 years, our riders, the parties we threw, and the development of the store. Also, being able to see one of our favorite shoes customized according to our taste is priceless!
You collaborated with the artist Fiumani for this project, right?
Fiumani, despite living overseas for years is also a local from Osimo, where he grew up. He has always been part of our family as a skater/surfer and in recent years he is finally getting his much deserved success as an international artist! His style is very much reflected in our imagination regarding Big Air and considering that he has followed us from the beginning, the choice to bring this project to light was completely natural.
Luca Crestani, slappy crooked grind.
If on one hand this second lockdown prevents us from celebrating appropriately, on the other hand a project like this is helpful in keeping the spirits and motivation high.
Not being able to organize something physical in the store is a disappointment for us. We would have loved to celebrate with a big party for all our customers!
Anyway, all the people who support us and appreciate our work give us sufficient motivation to continue doing what we do on a daily basis!
How did you deal with the first lockdown? Apart from the tragedy it ended up being from all points of view, was there anything positive about it?
Apart from the first days that destabilized us, we were committed to provide safety to our partners and staff and cover the business duties of our shop. For sure, among the positive aspects was the fact that we had more time to spend with our families and ourselves. After the lockdown, another positive aspect was certainly the explosion of all outdoor sports activities and skateboarding benefited from it as well!
Big Air Lab is not a classic store, you’ve created a unique reality, with an incredible indoor bowl inside the shop and an awesome concrete skate plaza with palm trees… Besides the pandemic that has influenced and will keep influencing the global economy, how can a skate shop or store survive nowadays with all the e-commerce going on and people constantly looking for the lowest price?
Part of the main focus of our work is customer service and the exclusivity of the products we handle. Today it is extremely easy to shop online but we believe it is equally important to offer a curated and exclusive sales experience for each of our customers. We also believe that for our customers it is important to feel part of a community and not just experience the store for shopping but also for spending time in the plaza or using the bowl, for example!
Luca Crestani, polejam 180.
2021 is right around the corner, and no matter what happens, when this emergency is over we should avoid being caught unprepared. How are you preparing to get over the hump and launch yourself towards 18 more years of success?
We see 2021 as a year characterized by steadiness with partners and companies. We have some collaborations in mind and are already working on them, but they still need some time before they come out. Definitely, new sales methods and services will make the difference now and we are working in order to be ready for these changes!
Is there anybody you want to thank?
Eelco De Koning, Freddy Cardenas and all the homies at Nike SB EMEA, Luca Grattafiori and all our staff, Luca Crestani, Mathias Crestani, Mattia Tommasoli and Davide Biondani at A Brief Glance.
Photos & interview Davide Biondani.