Blog > Skateboarder 'Living Her Dream' Despite a Pandemic
December 17, 2020
Skateboarder 'Living Her Dream' Despite a Pandemic

First-generation Canadian skateboard shop owner attracts skaters in Canada and the US with Niantic.

Niantic gave 1,000 nominated businesses complimentary promotion in Pokémon GO for one year. Now, we are sharing their stories. This week, we take a look at how a female, canadian skate shop owner attracts skaters across the border to visit her skate shop with Niantic.

Sasha Senior is a first-generation Canadian of Jamaican descent who never imagined she’d own a skateboard shop, until opportunity struck. An avid, competitive skateboarder of seventeen years, Senior walked past an ideal location and almost spontaneously decided to open Bliss Skateboard Shop in the border city of Windsor, serving two large skater communities, Riverside Skate Park in Detroit, US. and Atkinson Skate Park in Windsor, Canada.

Bliss Skateboard Shop offers top-of-line skateboards, gear and related products, but it’s also an integral part of the community where skaters connect and share stories. Since opening the shop, Senior has seen an influx of kids and adults picking up the sport. For kids who don’t have the money for a board, she donates her time to give free lessons and provides use of equipment, including pads, helmets and boards.

Senior is the mother of two sons under the age of five, served in the military and works full-time with the Windsor regiment of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. Senior says that her passion for skateboarding started when she was 13 years old, when not many girls were skaters. As someone who started off as an underdog, and is now part of an international circle of respected skaters, Senior is a strong believer in giving back to the community.

Senior said, “It's great to have the skate shop as a platform to give back to the community. I want to support skateboard communities near and far that cannot afford or are not able to get skateboard products as easily.”

Senior opened the skate shop with a vision to support skateboard communities locally and around the world. She hosted a “Skate of Emergency” event in an impoverished neighborhood in Jamaica, donated boards, wheels, grip tape and other products. She collected donations for skaters in Uganda to build safe, sturdy ramps to replace makeshift ones. She also donates to Girls Skate Barbados to encourage, inspire, and educate girls who skate in Barbados.

Although Bliss Skateboard Shop was an initial success when it opened in March 2020, the impact of the pandemic required the shop to close for months. Senior promptly moved all sales online, offering curbside pick-up and free local delivery. The community supported her online store but business was slow and she had little interaction with the skaters. When the store opened again, it was harder to get products as suppliers were limiting the amount of items retailers could purchase.

Becoming a Niantic Sponsored Location

A local skateboarder nominated Bliss Skateboard Shop for the Niantic Small Business Recovery Initiative, resulting in a Pokémon GO Gym representing the skate shop.

“Who doesn’t love Pokémon GO?,” says Senior. “I am very excited about this opportunity, I know it will have long-term benefits for my business.”

With COVID cases rising in her area, Senior has concerns that the shop may have to close again. She is prepared to fight through it with new strategies for the online store and the combined support from the local skateboard and Pokémon GO communities.

Senior said, “I feel confident that the Gym will bring us activity even if we have to close the shop again. There are several PokéStops in the vicinity that will draw players to our Gym. That’s good for us.”

Bliss Skate Shop also plans to promote its Gym with new social strategies to drive awareness and stay connected to the skater community locally, and worldwide. As the colder weather sets in, she plans to hold outdoor events for Pokémon GO players to keep people motivated to get outside and skate.

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