Jeff Gray remembers skateboarding in a downtown parking garage in the 1990s. In his teenage opinion, the relatively deserted area seemed as good a place as any to skate and hang out with friends. When someone broke a skateboard, they could just throw it in a heap on one of the fire escapes. Eventually, dozens of boards piled up there.
Years later, after moving away from Lynchburg and then returning, Jeff noticed that the old pile of boards was long gone.
With that memory in mind, Jeff offered customers a credit on a new board in his skateboarding and bike shop—Scene 3—on Main Street, if they brought in a broken one. At first, these old boards ended up in a new throwaway pile, but the waste bothered Jeff. Until, one day, he had an idea. What if he could upcycle the seemingly useless boards into something new? He pulled off the sticky grip tape, and began working with the veneers. He started small for his first upcycled creation making a simple keychain.
“A friend who’s a graphic designer stopped by and said, ‘That’s cool…but you should make it do something,’” Jeff recalls.
So, he crafted a keychain that was also a bottle opener.
“I realized you could make things out of broken skateboards, and it sort of exploded from there,” he said. “It’s cool to think of the potential that lies in each broken skateboard to become something awesome again. New ideas are often formed when I am in the process of making something else.”
Today, Jeff uses the thin layers of maple in skateboards to create key chains, coasters, jewelry, desk accessories, and more through his Scene 3 Designs business.
“I really enjoy the process of creating something, not just cutting it out with a bandsaw,” Jeff explains. “…I also like figuring out why something doesn’t work. I enjoy the journey.”
Jeff began skateboarding as a teenager, which is also when he discovered the joy of making things. He remembers expanding the half-pipe his Dad had made at their house for skateboarding.
Jeff brought Scene 3 to 1107 Main Street after his former store in Forest was destroyed in a fire in 2009. “I saw a lease sign on Main Street, and I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” he said. “I really liked the vibe of Downtown. Things were happening; people were opening shops and restaurants.”
And Jeff has enjoyed watching Downtown Lynchburg transform in the years since he joined in.
“I’m very happy Downtown; it’s a tight-knit community of business owners and loft owners. It’s an active and vibrant scene,” he said.
He enjoys having visitors wander into his shop and discovering something more than they expected.
“A lot of people walk in and are excited to see that we’re the place that makes stuff out of old skateboards,” he said.
Jeff also likes the fact that he’s recycling and reducing waste because estimates show that approximately 2 million skateboards are thrown in the trash each year in the United States.
“Skateboards mean different things to different people,” Jeff explains. “Sometimes you go on an epic trip out of town, and you break a board, so you hang it up to remember that trip….All the decks I gather, they have all these memories stored inside. It’s kind of cool to turn them into something else. Their memories live on.”