Tom Kemmer builds beautiful handmade skateboards at his tiny shop Kemmco Cruisers. But he’s built so much more than that where he lives in Fargo, North Dakota. He and a handful of skate enthusiasts spent 6 months building a skateboarding cooperative called The Hawk’s Nest. Tom Kemmer, Ryan Turner, Mark Leski, Steve Bohr and others work together to continuously refine the cooperative and expand their community. Tom’s philosophy: “All are welcome.”
Eric Hansen skating the bowl at The Hawk’s Nest in Fargo, North Dakota. Music by dArKAngLe.
Why did you decide to build The Hawk’s Nest skateboarding cooperative and how does it work?
I wanted to build a place for people to skate because I was lucky enough to be involved in similar co-ops in the Twin Cities when I lived there—places like The Hiawatha and The Blood Bowl. Fargo just needed it and if I was gonna live in Fargo, I needed it. That being said, The Hawk’s Nest wouldn’t be around without a lot of people coming together and donating their time and resources. People like Ryan Turner, Mark Leski and Steve Bohr, just to name a few.
The Hawk’s Nest is really just like a health club. All members have a buy-in, and then they pay monthly dues. They get a key and have 24/7 access, and can bring guests to skate.
How much did it cost to build? How were you able to fund it?
I really don’t know how much was spent building The Hawk’s Nest. We funded the project through buy-ins and donations. People would bring scrap wood, or what ever they could. A few people just asked what I needed and the next day it was waiting at Menards and had been paid for. A lot of people came together to make The Hawk’s Nest happen.
How many people need to be part of the cooperative to keep it going? How many are part of it now?
We have about 10 key holders right now? In a worst-case scenario we could keep The Nest open with just a few members. More members allows us to do more, like barbeques, pizza parties, art shows, or other events.
Besides giving a space to people who like to skate, how else does The Hawk’s Nest serve the community?
Its mainly about giving people a place to skate, creating a community around skating and building relationships with other skaters. We have also hosted various other events involving the music and arts communities in Fargo.
Who else is part of this community and what do you value about their contributions?
There are a lot of people, the people I mentioned earlier, as well as the guys from THIS Skate & Snow. Matt, Steve, and Nick. Those guys run a totally legit shop. It’s a real skate shop. Half pipe in the back, street setup down stairs. They have been hosting a young kids open skate at The Hawk’s Nest which is great because these kids get to experience a private facility and hopefully they get hyped, wanna skate more and want something like The Nest when they get older. That’s how these things keep going—getting people involved to the point where they care about a place and will work to keep it around, or build another.
What else is happening in Fargo to support the growth of this community?
The Fargo Park District has a few skate parks planned for the coming years. They will be smaller skate parks located around the city in existing parks in order to create more accessibility for skaters. These parks will offer different terrain and obstacles than the current Dike West Skatepark.
How has building this cooperative transformed you or changed the way you think about your own role in the community?
It has shown me that anything is possible. We didn’t have a lot of money when we started, and we still don’t. (Ha ha.) We do have a place that brings people together and that’s all we needed. It’s just about having an idea and putting it out there. If it’s a good idea people will get on board and make it a reality. I’ve always been involved in something—art, music, skating. I don’t really think about what my role is, I just think, “What’s fun, what’s missing?” And I go from there.
What the challenges have you or the community had to overcome?
There were a lot of different challenges with The Hawk’s Nest, and there still are. We are lucky though. Everybody gets it. They understand that we are lucky to have a place like this. So everybody pitches in and gets the work done so we can all have fun.
What is unique about the skateboards you make?
They are made from exotic hard woods in the style of some of the first skateboards made in the ’70s. I use African woods as well as a native woods. Some of the woods I have used are oak, maple, American cherry, bocote, lacewood, purpleheart, walnut, hickory, redwood, basically anything. They are solid wood cruisers that remind me of the first skateboards I ever road.
What goals do you have for Kemmco Cruisers?
Keep making skateboards and see where it goes. If my job was just building skateboards that would be pretty awesome. I couldn’t really ask for more than that.
What really matters to you in work and/or in life?
Family, friends, fun.
Tom’s Tips for Creating a Successful Co-op
1. Believe in what you’re doing.
2. Work hard.
3. Have fun.