Plus Skateshop Celebrates 35 Years

Jamie and Lee HEader 2
Ten years is a milestone for any shop in this fickle business. Now many are celebrating a quarter century, but 35 years is almost unheard of. Somehow Plus in Fort Walton Beach has managed to supply the scene with skate goods since 1987 with Lee Feldmeir guiding it, first as a worker, then as an owner. With a huge year in their history, and a new video on the way, we called up Lee to see how he took this tourist beach-supply store and turned it into a Florida institution. You’ll also hear from early rider Jamie Thomas, along with the new dudes Chap Poore and Jake Watkins, as they fill in the gaps. This is how you hold down your locals.

The shop's new blood Chad Poore and Jake Watkins fire off in this high-impact two-parter 

Lee Feldmeir (owner of Plus Skateshop)

Thirty-five years, how the hell is that even possible? Give us a history lesson. What were skate shops like 35 years ago?
I moved to Florida in '89 and started working at the shop. It opened a couple years prior in 1987 as a tourist store, under the name Beach Plus. The owner at the time, Mike Johannes, played some drums and had a few buddies who were into music and the sorts. Some of them skated and had inquired about Mike ordering some skateboards at wholesale. He obliged and from there on out would add a few extra decks and parts to sell in the store. So it was basically a skate/tourist store. I'm talking straight tourist shit, like water wings and floaty air mattresses. Hell, we even carried greeting cards, ciggies, beer and lottery tickets. By '89, when I started working at the shop, it was about 50-50 as far as merch distribution between skate and tourist stuff. In the ‘89-’90, range we started doing mailorder. Tourists would come into the shop and want to buy stuff, but not have any money. We got an 800 number— we still have the same one—and handed out business cards and Xerox copy catalogs to the tourists. Before long, we were doing mailorder like crazy. All were sent out C.O.D. We still do a good amount of mailorder business. Our website took over the 800 number now though.

Beach Plus Old shopBefore the name change

Since the early ‘90s, we have always had such amazing support from our locals and the Southeast in general. Being in the panhandle of Florida, people in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana would get their packages the next day. Our location definitely helped us grow as a major supplier of skate goods to the Southeast. Our "team" throughout the decades has always included people from all of our surrounding states as well as our locals. I bought the shop in 2000. We officially dropped the "Beach" part of our name to try and stop the annoying tourist phone calls looking for sunscreen and beach towels. With a name like Beach Plus that's what you get. It was also easier to make graphics without having to use the word Beach on them. So, now we just run as Plus Skateshop. So much has changed since then, but so much remains the same. The shop was our hub and we would be there as long as it was open or unless we were out skating. Sleeping under the t-shirt racks was not uncommon for us back then. We skated crust, so that's a big difference compared to today. I have been here since '89, it really seems like the 34 years I've been here has absolutely flown by. Now we are in our 36th year of business. So crazy.

Plus 35 Collage 1 1500Left: Young Lee at the OG Beach Plus
Right: Shop mailer with Misled Youth era Jamie shot by Atiba

When and where did you meet Jamie, and what has his involvement been with the shop throughout the years?
Jamie started driving down from Dothan, Alabama around 1990. He was super good at skateboarding back then, as he still is now. But he definitely lit some fire beneath all of us to shred. We were making Beach Plus videos back then and he would always come through with the ender part. He's been jumping down shit his whole life. He did have this annoying habit of calling my parents' house once a week at three in the morning. They told him to stop; he never did. Jamie has been a great friend since back then. We don't chat too often, but when we do get to talking, everything picks up right where we left off. We have done so many collaborations with Jamie and he has always had a big part in the design and the marketing. His wheels never stop turning in his head or under his feet.

What's next? and how do you keep a shop relevant for all this time?
Shops have to be in touch with their community. The skate fam is a tight one. I think that is what keeps shops relevant. Having a great bunch of people that support the shop is huge. We have always had a great bunch of skaters who want the shop to succeed and create great videos. It's so crazy how many "team riders" we have had over the decades. One thing that remains constant is our love for skateboarding. We are diehard skate nerds.

Plus Quote “Any shop not carrying Zero is blowing it” 2000
Lee Chad Keith Jamie JakeLee, Chad, Keith and Jake under the Zero banner

How does Zero do at the shop in comparison to other board brands?
Zero crushes it, and always has. It is a top-selling brand for us. Talking with other shop owners they say the same thing. It has stood the test of time as a brand and is synonymous to skateboarding. Any shop not carrying Zero is blowing it.

How has it been watching Jamie grow Zero from your perspective as not only a business associate, but also as a friend?
Jamie, to my knowledge, has certainly learned so much of his business prowess from on-the-job training and being surrounded with people that have his back. He is a skateboarder, number one, and a businessman, number two. He has shown the world that he can run a massive business like Black Box and still put out a video part that any pro would be proud of. He is a terminator in that sense. It's great to still have such good conversations with him. We have tremendous respect for what each of us has accomplished in this industry.

With the trajectory of board prices going up and up, are you worried about where this leads?
Yeah, a lot, actually. With wholesale deck prices for some brands reaching the 45-50 dollar range it doesn't seem unlikely that skateboarding will "price" its way out of being affordable. If a kid buys a deck for 70-80 bucks and break it 10 minutes later, chances are that they aren't going to shell out another 70-80 dollars right away. So, maybe that makes interest in the activity less attractive. Skateboarding has always been a cheap activity compared to many of the other youth activities like baseball, football, et cetera. But with the hardgoods prices going up the way they are, I hope it does not affect the participation level for kids. Even me growing up, my parents did not really help me buy decks on a regular basis. That was up to me to work to earn enough to get a new deck.

Any advice for anyone out there interested in opening up a skateshop?
Keep it simple. Listen to your locals. Respect everyone. Carry Zero. I want to thank everyone that has helped keep the shop alive for the past 36 years. From employees, to team riders, locals, the entire southeast and the industry. We are here because of your support and respect,1987-2023.

Jamie and MikeThe first owner, Mike Johannes and Plus OG JT

Jamie Thomas

Jamie, explain the connection between yourself and Plus.
When I was a kid growing up in Alabama, Plus was the best shop close to me. I would make the two-hour trip to hang out at the shop and skate with the locals whenever possible. They supported me when I first got to California and throughout my career. When Lee took over the shop, my connection only grew stronger to the shop because we grew up in the same area, in the same era of skateboarding. We share so much appreciation for the same things; skateboarding, family, music and business. It seems like the older we get and the more grateful we are to be in this for as long as we have been, the closer we are and the more respect we have for each other. Plus is my “homeshop” and always will be.

It’s so cool your guys’ paths have grown in a way that allows you to be friends and also business associates, for lack of a better word. You ever have to shake Lee down for late payments or anything like that?
Ha, never. He always pays up or communicates if there’s a delay. He’s a professional.

JamieThomas Pole Jam Photo Hodge Pole jam for Plus, Jamie still brings it for his old home shop     Photo: Hodge

Safe to say you’ve been to more skate shops than most people. Do you have any advice for anyone out there interested in opening up a shop? What have you seen that works, and what doesn’t?
I think knowing what your customers want is the obvious first step, then building and supporting the skate community like Plus and all the other amazing shops have done. Throw events, make videos, make cool products, basically just give skateboarders a reason to be loyal to your shop. Treat customers with respect, listen to what they want and accommodate where you can. On the business side, I’d say communication and organization are probably the most important components. I guess that’s the same for any business. If I was going to open a shop, I’d study what all the best shops do and learn from them. Apply what fits and let go of what doesn’t. It’s the same way you could treat any business.

Jamie vs LeeThe game is still the same

With the trajectory of board prices going up and up, are you worried about where this leads?
If it was only board prices going up, it would be a concern, but everything is more expensive. I’m not sure if you’ve bought plywood or Bondo at Home Depot lately, but those prices have doubled in the last few years. It’s not something I can control, so I don’t worry about it.

And with technology advancing and shopping patterns shifting more towards a direct-to-consumer landscape, how can skateshops and skate companies work together to keep both sides afloat?
Direct-to-consumer is a necessary part of the evolution of our business, but the best shops take precedence over everything, as they’re the lifeblood of our industry. It’s imperative that we do all we can to support the shops that support us.

This video is based around the two Florida flow guys Jake and Chad. What is it about that state that keeps pumping out these rippers?
Florida has a rich tradition of skateboarding and skate scenes that are alive and thriving. The best shops in the world and the scenes they build will always produce talent. I’m super hyped to have Jake and Chad repping Zero in Florida. They hold it down for us!

ChadPoore FsBlunt Photo KnightChad keeps the night missions going with a bold front blunt    Photo: Knight

Chad Poore

Tell us about this project. How long did you work on your part and how did this compare to other parts you’ve filmed?
Yeah, we talked about doing an edit for the 35-year anniversary. I just figured it would be all of the shop guys, then it turned into a Plus and Zero thing, so me and Jake have parts and everyone else is just sprinkled in. At that time, I had nothing filmed at all. So I got sober on September 5th and slowly started to film stuff on weekends when most of us had off work. Aside from maybe two tricks, everything I got was during the seven months of being sober, so like 14 weekends.

ChadPoore Kickflip Photo Knight
Putting down some heat will beat any party. Kickflip off the dock    Photo: Knight

The terrain in Florida is just about as flat as it gets. How was it trying to film for a Zero video in that environment?
We tried to do weekend missions out of Orlando as much as we could. I don’t think I jumped down anything bigger than an eight, just to avoid getting hurt again when I didn’t have any footy. Jake had that covered anyway. I ended up rolling my ankle the last month to film for the video, which sucked, but it happens. Maybe my next part I’ll put my jumping shoes back on when there’s not a tight deadline.

Growing up, which Zero video was your go to?
New Blood, I’ve probably watched a few hundred times.
ChadPooreFsBluntKF Photo KnightAll that Chris Cole viewing must've rubbed off. Front blunt kickflip out    Sequence: Knight

JakeWatkins FSBoard Photo HodgePlus rider Jake Watkins, front board across the sack trap      Photo: Hodge

Jake Watkins

Tell us about this project. How long did you work on your part and how did this compare to other parts you’ve filmed?
I probably filmed for like a year. This part was a little different then filming with the boys for a shop video, since it had Zero's name on it and Jamie was backing us on the project.

JakeWatkins Ollie Photo HodgeHeel bruise be damned, Jake takes flight with the slimmest shoes on the market    Photo: Hodge

JakeWatkins Bs180 Photo KnightCan't find a set? Just boost a big back 180 on a local bump to bar     Photo: Knight

The terrain in Florida is just about as flat as it gets. How was it trying to film for a Zero video in that environment?
Filming a part in Florida is pretty terrible if you're looking for rails and stairs. Every good rail or good set is usually an absolute bust, or there is something super weird about the run-up or roll-away. Luckily, we got away with some of it by barging spots or cutting kinks. The rest was from traveling out of state.

JakeWatkins Smith Photo HodgeAll black kit, hoodie up, front Smith down, this says Zero all over     Photo: Hodge

Growing up, which Zero video was your go to?
Growing up, my all-time favorite zero video was New Blood. That’s when I actually started skating rails and throwing my carcass down stuff. But honestly, every Zero video is done so good and still gives that zero vibe to this day so no favorite now that I’m old as shit.

JakeWatkins FsFeeble16 Photo KnightFront feeble down 16 among the foliage for the Thrill of it All. Salute to those still putting down hammers for the Zero army. Congrats again to everyone at Plus for carrying the flame for over three decades. We salute you      Photo: Knight
  • First Look: Jamie Thomas

    First Look: Jamie Thomas
    Jamie was on King of the Road with Zero three times and they won it three times. It takes a KOTR legend to comment properly on our February issue.
  • Jamie Thomas' Signature Denim

    Jamie Thomas' Signature Denim
    Check out this video of Jamie Thomas talking about making his new denim from Active.
  • Best of KOTR: Barefoot

    Best of KOTR: Barefoot
    It feels strange and can be fun for a minute, but skating barefoot is straight-up gnarly and can take you out quick. Here's the best barefoot skating in KOTR history including Grant, Raven, and Jamie Thomas with sick enders.
  • Ask the Pros: Jamie Thomas

    Ask the Pros: Jamie Thomas
    Jamie Thomas answers your questions in this clip from Active. Watch it here.
  • Active welcomes Jamie Thomas

    Active welcomes Jamie Thomas
    Active welcomes Jamie Thomas to their pro team with this clip. Watch it here.