Five years ago, Carpinteria High School grads Spencer Navarro and Naren Porter-Kasbati took a chance and opened their own skate shop. At the time, Navarro was working at Powell Peralta and Porter-Kasbati was at the Church of Skatan. They knew the business, they knew skateboard culture and they were ready to create a different kind of skate shop for locals. Today, Lighthouse Skateshop has five years under its belt and is going strong, while Powell Peralta and Church of Skatan have closed.
“In skateboarding, you’d rather shop at the local skate store,” said Navarro, “it’s way better than going to a mall store or online. You go in and the people working actually skate, know what they’re talking about, and care. This is something we needed in Santa Barbara.”
Porter-Kasbati noted he was scared at first. Working at the Church of Skatan, he was able to see the numbers and knew how much they’d need to make to break even, “and I wasn’t sure if we could make it happen.” Porter-Kasbati studied business at Santa Barbara City College which he said helped him to write the business plan. “I still had the connections from working at the Church of Skatan (which closed in 2014), so we got most of our favorite accounts.”
Finding a location in Santa Barbara came easy as well. Through a friend’s connection, they were able to start renting a storefront on a handshake, “No paperwork involved,” said Porter-Kasbati, “We decided to take the risk and go for it!”
Lighthouse Skateshop is located in downtown Santa Barbara across the street from the Cabrillo skate park. For many of their product designs, they collaborate with local artists like James Carson, Chris Austin, Leah Hamilton, D.J. Javier, Griffin Lounsbury and Vincent Lopez. “We know about every product and brand we sell and educate people who come in,” said Porter-Kasbati. “We help people find what they want to choose. We’re not here to make a buck off every sale, we’re here to help people. Lighthouse is a place where you’re going to get something good. You’re never leaving with a bad board or something set up wrong.”
Navarro and Porter-Kasbati are dedicated to creating an accessible and laid-back atmosphere where all people are welcome. “Lighthouse is a skate hub for the community where everyone’s welcome,” said Porter-Kasbati, “You’re not going to be judged when you walk in. Skating is one of those things where it doesn’t matter what color you are or what gender. If you’re cool, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. A lot of shops have a bad stereotype of having a harsh vibe. Sometimes you walk in and they’re reading a magazine or watching a skate video. We knew we didn’t want to run our shop that way.”
“It’s a place to learn about skating, talk about skating, to hang out and just feel comfortable,” added Navarro. “We want people to feel welcome and not like they’re intruding on our hang out spot.”
Navarro and Porter-Kasbati have been skating for a little over 20 years. Since there hasn’t been a skate park in Carpinteria, they grew up visiting Santa Barbara or Oxnard on the weekends. Porter-Kasbati recalled, “we would go to the skate park and meet the people there that were really into skating. There were a few skate shops in Santa Barbara that we would hang out at, buy boards, get to know the local skaters, and skate behind the shops. The older guys there would joke around with us and give us advice. I feel like we learned a lot just by having a place to go to. We learned a lot by having skate shops to go to, and we wanted to have our own shop to influence the next generation of kids.”
Unlike traditional sports, skate boarding doesn’t require a team. The only thing you need is a skateboard. “You can just skate down the street or jump down the biggest stair set and have a blast, there is no limit,” said Porter-Kasbati. “You have full artistic and creative freedom. You can do the craziest stuff or dork around and anything in between. It’s this euphoric moment of pure enjoyment where you’re able to push yourself and make yourself a better person. So many things are so scary and cause so much fear but when you conquer them, it’s the best feeling ever. There’s such a strong feeling of happiness. It makes you want to keep going and keep pushing it. You can just show up and go do it and make friends and instantly be part of a whole community just by caring about something like that.”
For Navarro, “skating is the freedom of doing whatever your mind wants you to do. You can think of something and just go do it. You can visit new skate parks in new towns, everything is always changing if you travel around. Everyone has their own take on it, they have their own tricks and their own things they like to do on a board.”
Lighthouse is also known for the contests and events they throw for the community. Two years ago, Lighthouse returned to Carpinteria to hold a skating competition at Carpinteria Middle School. Porter-Kasbati commented, “we try to bring in the community with art events and contests. One time we hid products around town and posted clues on Instagram. We’ve had art shows in the store, barbecues, water balloon wars, the annual contests we do at the skatepark. With Covid, we’re doing a video contest where you film a skate video with your friends.”
Lighthouse Skateshop is located at 16B Helena Ave. in Santa Barbara.