Homebase 610 is open at its location on 14 W. Fourth Street in Bethlehem on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. Other than the Bethlehem store, Homebase 610 has another outlet in Easton in addition to an online store. (Meihui Chen/B&W Staff)

Bursting the Bubble: Homebase610 engages Lehigh community


Homebase610 store manager, 40-year-old Josh Novak, has been involved in the skating community his entire life and has known the store owner, 35-year-old Andrew Po, for quite some time. They met each other while filming a skate video in the Lehigh Valley during the late 1990s and have been business partners ever since.

About 14 years ago, Homebase opened in Bethlehem. The store sells sneakers and skate apparel in its South Bethlehem location on East Fourth Street. For six years, Homebase was located on New Street before migrating to the South Side, where it has resided for the last eight years.

“I learned a lot from (Novak) about retail and customer service,” Po said. “He does a great job passing on skills to our interns and taking care of the day-to-day operations for us.”

From 2000 to 2002, Po, Novak and about a dozen other skaters spent the majority of their time skating all over the Northeast creating and editing skate videos. This helped document the culture and is why it appealed to so many people.

Being a San Diego native, Po wanted to develop the skate scene on the East Coast when he moved to Pennsylvania in 1997. He saw an opportunity, and after being turned down by a store that sold skateboards and made videos, he knew he wanted to go on his own and start Homebase.

Dmitri Cobb, retail staff of Homebase610, works at the counter. Homebase is a skateshop catered to Lehigh students and the larger Bethlehem community. (Madison Gouveia/B&W Staff)

Dmitri Cobb, retail staff of Homebase610, works at the counter. Homebase is a skateshop catered to Lehigh students and the larger Bethlehem community. (Madison Gouveia/B&W Staff)

Since then, Po has built his business based on relationships with the community by being as locally involved as possible. They try to make their customers feel like people, not dollar signs, he said. Big box stores and online shopping such as Amazon have made it difficult for small stores to stay afloat. That positive interaction that Homebase employees have with people on a daily basis is what makes it all worth it to Po.

“Being a part of the community is the number one focus of a brick-and-mortar business,” Po said. “You must give back before you receive.”

In years past, it wasn’t common for college kids to wander down to Homebase, but now students are more exposed to what the store has to offer.

A large part of that might be the discount that is currently being offered to all Lehigh students. Homebase is offering a 10 percent discount for the entirety of the academic year to try and get as much foot traffic as possible. All students need to do is provide a Lehigh ID at checkout to receive the discount.

“We try to reach out to Lehigh as much as we can,” Novak said. “Bethlehem is very lucky to have such a strong culture locally, and the skateboarding scene is huge in the Lehigh Valley.”

While Lehigh students aren’t the predominant force behind Homebase’s sales, it still has customers that stop by in-between classes. Po believes students naturally support small businesses in South Bethlehem and said his store is proof of that.

While clothing and shoes might not be the top priority for college students during the academic school year, he thinks it’s important to have the 10 percent discount year-round so students always feel welcome — regardless of whether or not they skate.

Trevor Wood, ‘19, said he stopped by Homebase to shop for some new shoes and immediately sensed the friendly vibe the store gives off. He found it refreshing that regardless of whether or not he purchased anything from the store, the employees were helpful and welcoming.

“I went to look for some new Vans after my freshman-year Gryphon had suggested the store to me last year,” Wood said. “All of the employees were very helpful. You could sense they really care about what they’re doing.”

Homebase is also working on an after school program with local middle and high schools to create something that will help unify kids interested in skating. This will be held in the spring and will give the store an opportunity to connect with the local community.

The biggest thing Po and Novak are trying to do is come up with interesting ideas they would’ve thought were cool when they were young. By doing this, the employees want to develop relationships with kids in the skate community all across the Lehigh Valley.

“There’s a bunch of stuff that will come out of the program,” Novak said. “It’s more than just skateboarding. It will also help kids stay healthy and active.”

While Homebase was once just a hangout for skaters to watch videos and enjoy a six-pack, it has grown into a business where anyone and everyone is welcome.

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