Sonoma Old School is getting younger. Not that Rob Wilson, the high-energy proprietor of the skate and surf shop on Broadway, isn’t young at heart and then some. But the super-popular store owner and youth advocate has sold the business to Jamey Vazquez, age 26. His commute won’t change much — he’s part of the family that owns the El Coyote taco truck out front of Wilson’s business.
Wilson opened the store in 2006, taking over an old Comcast office and turning it into a mecca for action sports gear and clothes. From the start the idea was to create a place where teens would feel comfortable. “I wanted a place where it’s okay for kids to hang out,” Wilson said. “To meet, skate the ramp, have a taco — a safe place that’s theirs.”
“It’s not just a retail store” he adds.
At first Wilson took tips from his own children, who were then in middle school. He had been work-driven contractor, but after a serious accident, he realized that spending more time involved in his kids’ lives was a priority. “All three had their own time here. I really fulfilled a dream.”
Respecting and inspiring youth have been part of the program ever since. Wilson sponsors the skate facility at Maxwell Park, and has been a consistent supporter of youth-based activities and nonprofits. That will continue after he hands over the store keys at the end of the year.
One immediate project: Wilson will ramp up his involvement with a new pump track (ask your kid) at Maxwell Park. The county has approved the dirt bike circuit as part of the park’s expansion. Wilson spearheaded six years of planning, now comes the fundraising.
“I’ll still be involved in giving kids positive activity choices,” he says. Other than that, no concrete plans. “I’m not sure what it will be, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”
The store has been for sale for while, and there were a few serious offers Wilson says, but he wanted the right fit. Somebody to keep the store a teen-friendly skate shop, and add an infusion of youthful energy. And agree to let El Coyote keep its sub-lease. When that proved to be a hurdle (some buyers wanted to scrap mobile food, or run their own on the spot), Wilson approached the Vazquez family. Might they be interested?
Yes, with Jamey (the oldest son), taking the lead as the new owner/manager. Wilson will advise, but it’s the young man’s job now. “It’s very exciting,” he says. It’s challenge, but hey, “no risk, no reward.”
Jamey is thankful for Wilson’s offer. “He really worked with us to make it work. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be here.”
Wilson, OG to the end and likely wearing a Santa hat, worked through December 31st before handing over the keys. After that, the kid takes over. “And the legacy continues.”