Rampage Fashion Event
July 29, Rampage, 1625 Railroad Ave., Bridgeport, (203) 366-7267, (203) 521-1645, rampagesk8shop.com
The first thing that happens when I introduce myself to Dave Peterson is he offers me a piece of meat. But not just any piece of meat — a hunk of homemade beef jerky that he smoked in a smoker he built. Next, he shows me the blueprints for a staircase he's carpentering in Stratford, later the plans to a fish tank he recently finished for an aquarium. Peterson, 31, is not only the owner of Rampage — a skateshop, skatepark and ramp construction company in Bridgeport — but a true maker of things. He and his father/business partner Rich Peterson have engineered dozens of skateparks around the world (California, Oklahoma, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Japan, Guantanamo Bay, the list goes on) and turned Rampage into something of a youth center for local skateboarders along the way.
"I didn't really envision any of this," says Peterson. He's dressed in a matching black Rampage hat and T-shirt, the "Rs" replaced by red guns a la "The Sopranos" logo. "It's like Field of Dreams: 'If you build it they will come.'"
Peterson, a skateboarder since age 11, fell into building ramps as a teenager. When his native Trumbull made skating on commercial property illegal — a crime punishable by a $100 fine — he petitioned the town to build a public skatepark. Trumbull gave the go-ahead, but no company would agree to their relatively small budget. With no other option, Peterson and his father, a professional contractor for nearly 30 years, decided to take the job on together.
"You don't really have to be a skateboarder to build a ramp, but you do need to be a skateboarder to know what's cool and what will be fun to skate," explains Peterson. "With my dad's construction experience, and me with my skateboarding experience, we put the two together and made some ramps." The company was officially founded in 2000 and moved to Bridgeport two years later.
Located on Railroad Avenue, one of the more industrial-looking sections of Bridgeport, Rampage is an 8,800-square-foot warehouse nestled almost directly underneath the train tracks. In front, kids of all ages skate a small half-pipe, a few grind rails and a loading dock that doubles as a concrete bowl. To one side there's a small shop that stocks skateboard decks, trucks, wheels, shoes, and stacks of Rampage gear. In back there's a large workshop where the Petersons construct their ramps out of steel frames and Skatelite (a durable alternative to plywood) before shipping them out.
While Peterson says Rampage typically charges towns between $50-70,000 for a skatepark (the company's main source of income), Rampage allows skateboarders to use its ramps on site free of charge.
"The only cost for skating is that you've got to keep it clean," he says. "I just let kids hang out and it keeps them from hanging out in worse areas."
Through the skateshop, Peterson sponsors two teams: Team Rampage, and a crew of local skaters called Bridgeport's Finest, who he designs clothing for and hooks up with boards. Kids are constantly asking Peterson if they can ride for Rampage, and instead of saying no, he tells them they simply have to beat him in a game of SKATE — a skateboard version of HORSE, where one must match his opponent's trick or get penalized with a letter — if they want a chance.
"It's a lot easier than saying no to some kid, like, 'No, I don't think you're good enough,'" explains Peterson. "If you can beat the owner, you have a chance."
Similarly, Peterson holds games of SKATE 10 weeks out of the year on consecutive Saturdays. Winners are given prizes from local companies and allotted points for each victory. At the end of the 10 weeks, Peterson takes those with the most points on a field trip out of Bridgeport. This year he brought 19 kids to New York City.
"We went to Manhattan, we went to the new LES park and checked that out, we went to Tribeca and skated the courthouse, we saw Alex Olson — a pro skater," he says.
Rampage also hosts concerts, parties and skate demos to raise money for more trips like the one to New York. On July 29, Peterson and his fiancé, Silvia Martins, will host a charity fashion show in the workspace at Rampage, featuring local streetwear designers and live music.
"It's going to be very urban apparel," says Martins, who will have her own designs featured at the show. "I think fashion is a big part of skateboarding here, especially with the kids in the inner city."
While Peterson has thought about expanding Rampage by opening a skateshop in another town, he's content with designing skateparks, holding events, and being a positive influence in the Bridgeport community.
"I'm not a money-hungry person," he says. "I just want to build stuff."