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Roy Lester is only 21 years old, but he’s called “Papa” by local skateboarders.
He bonded with the young kids who visit the skate park in Dry Ridge daily after he opened The Ridge Skate Shop in June 2007.
“A lot of my patrons are kids that you see at the park everyday skating,” Lester said. “They’re really the guys who keep my shop up and going. If I wasn’t a stone’s throw away from the skate park, I wouldn’t be able to support this business.”
“I feel sort of a closeness to them. I was them,” he said. “I was the kid in high school with a mohawk and plaid pants with a skateboard and a ratty look. I still am. I just have longer hair. It makes me feel proud of them to see them doing what I’m doing.”
Lester recently was honored with the Business Innovation Award at the annual Grant County Chamber of Commerce banquet.
In order to attend the ceremony, he was tricked by his mom, who told him she was going to win an award.
When Lester’s name was announced as the first recipient, he said he was stunned.
“It kind of made a little bit of tears well up in my eyes for a second,” Lester said. “People care about me that much to nominate me for an award? I’m just a skater running a skate shop. It’s awesome because it makes me feel like I’m doing some good. I want to keep doing good and make some change for the better for everybody.”
Trading his rollerblades in for a skateboard, Lester started skating when he was 11.
He said he first saw it on TV and was attracted to it, but got hooked after playing a Tony Hawk skateboarding video game.
For about a year, Lester was sponsored by Dirt Bag Clothing.
He came to Grant County in 2000 and became more interested in business after getting out of high school.
He had not skated in awhile when the skate park opened in Dry Ridge.
“As far as recreation that people can really participate in, this is really a milestone,” Lester said.
After finding an investor, he took the leap of opening up the shop.
Approaching its two-year anniversary, The Ridge Skate Shop has been a success, he said.
“What I’ve been really surprised by is the support and the open mindedness,” Lester said. “Skateboarding is not your average sport with a ball and a net. It’s kids who dress the way they want with no uniform and they carry around a piece of wood with wheels on it. It’s not appealing to most people’s eyes, but just close your eyes and just hear the board clicking.”
In 2007, Lester helped create the Ridge Riot skateboarding competition with help from Grant County News publisher Ken Stone, who nominated Lester for the chamber award.
The inaugural event drew 450 spectators and contestants, and that number grew to 550 in the second year of the 12-hour event.
The third Ridge Riot in May drew another large crowd.
“It turned out to be fantastic,” Lester said. “It was a tremendous event. It was an overpowering feeling getting to stand behind a microphone and announce the tricks. People were cheering and music was blaring. It’s an intense feeling.”
Dan Riley, who wrote a letter of recommendation in support of Lester winning the award, calls him as “inspiration.”
“I’ve seen Roy work with the kids and it’s an awesome thing to see,” Riley wrote. “He does truly care about the community.”
Another supporter, June Slusher, agreed.
“Roy is young, but a remarkable young man with the talent to communicate with the young people,” she wrote. “He is a great asset to this community. He has great things ahead for him.”