By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Ashraf Salman can recall playing outside every day as a kid.
That’s why the now 26-year-old was so surprised when, one day, it dawned on him that he’d rarely — if ever — seen the children who live in his own neighborhood doing the same.
“Nowadays, it seems like a lot of kids are inside on computers, on their laptops, on their PlayStations,” said Salman, who lives in Youngstown.
One exception, though, was in Struthers, where Salman noticed a signifi-cant number of skate- boarders along with the untapped opportunity to cater to the city’s skateboarding community.
This realization came at the end of February. By early June, Salman, who graduated from Youngstown State University in 2008 with a degree in business management, had opened Hesher’s Skate Shop at 970 Fifth St., and had hired a handful of avid skateboarders as its employees.
A little more than a month later, Hesher’s Skate Shop is doing well, and “a good amount of people are coming in,” Salman said. He and his 25-year-old brother, Majdy, are still learning the business, which is “kind of a big change” from their first venture: a local cellphone business, City Wide Wireless, which the brothers established about five years ago.
The store caters to skateboarders between age 16 and 24 — though all ages are welcome — and stocks an assortment of items for both novice and seasoned skateboarders, including skateboards, clothing and gear.
“I knew that Struthers was a community that was high on skateboarding,” Salman said. “The kids are active. I wanted to open a little skate shop for them to go buy things that they need without the hassle of parents getting involved or traveling outside the city.”
Salman said he’s hopeful that the skate shop’s opening will be just the beginning of a movement in Struthers, and one that perhaps culminates in the reopening of the city’s skate park, which has been closed since May 2012.
Although Salman said he understands why the city had to shutter the park — a barrage of complaints from neighbors about noise and litter — he thinks that more can be done to improve the situation.
“The whole community shouldn’t be penalized just because of a few kids,” he said. “I’d like to see it opened up so kids in the area aren’t traveling an hour away to go to a skate park.”
Joe Greenwalt, 19, of Struthers began working at Hesher’s Skate Shop shortly after it opened, and has been skateboarding for eight years. He said he was inspired by, and learned from, watching others.
To Greenwalt, skateboarding always has been a way to stay out of trouble, but it’s now becoming too much of a hassle to skateboard within the city, he said.
Skateboarders essentially are “not allowed to skate anywhere” in Struthers, even though there’s really “no place for them to” do so, said Ed Wildes, the city’s safety-service director. If they do, and if they’re caught, they could face citations or court hearings.
“We’re not that bad of people,” Greenwalt said. “We’re just trying to do something we like to do.”
Eventually, Salman would like Hesher’s Skate Shop to become a “center point” for skateboarders from all over the area, adding that he’s open to any suggestions from customers as his business develops.
“Support a local business that is carrying things that you want, and that is open to purchasing items for any outdoor activity,” Salman said.
Hesher’s Skate Shop is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.