“Radio Skateshop is right up the street,” she says, referring to a skateboard shop on Main Street. “So we’re constantly getting each other’s customers.”
Wicked Skatewear celebrated its grand opening on Nov. 7, two weeks after taking over a former tattoo shop on Liberty Avenue. The space sells a variety of roller skates and accessories, even offering custom full-builds, where they convert sneakers, boots, and other shoes into roller skates.
Based out of California, Wicked Skatewear looks to not only outfit local roller skaters, but make roller skating more accessible and safe for everyone in the community.
Dancisin, a Pittsburgh-area native who grew up in West Deer, has spent the last 20 years in Los Angeles, making a name for herself as a member of roller derby teams the Los Angeles Derby Dolls and Orange County Roller Girls.
As time went on, Dancisin, an avid roller skater since childhood, says she realized the toll roller derby, a sport known for its full-contact roughness, was taking on her body.
“After so many ER visits, I’m, like, maybe I’m getting a little too old for this,” she laughs.
Dancisin, who skated under the name Suzy Strychnine, then turned to retail, starting Wicked Skatewear out of her home in 2006. From there, she and her business partners opened two brick-and-mortar stores in Huntington Beach and Los Angeles.
“I did it because of derby, because, back in the day, there were no full-service, everything shops,” says Dancisin. “You’d go to the skateboard shop and get your safety gear, you’d go to the roller rink to get your skates, you’d go to the screenprinter to get your uniform. So I got it all into one location.”
Dancisin says that, originally, she planned on opening a warehouse in Pittsburgh, but after moving back to the area (she now lives in the borough of Saxonburg in Butler County), she was impressed by the vibrancy of the roller skating scene.
“As soon as I moved here, I saw how big the skate community was,” she says. “It was bigger than I had imagined it, I mean, between the rink skaters and the skatepark skaters and all the derby teams. And everyone was like, dude, we need a shop.”
Judging from TikTok and Instagram videos, roller skating got a boost over the height of the pandemic, as people looked for ways to have fun while social distancing. Whether someone has skated for years, or picked up the pastime during lockdown, finding the best wheels can be challenging. Dancisin says that, mostly, customers dictate Wicked’s stock. She adds that she is a big fan of Moxi roller skates, and that Wicked is one of 50 retailers authorized to sell that particular brand.
Dancisin’s work has extended beyond retail into nonprofits that promote skating too, especially for young people. She previously served as a board member of the Girls on Track Foundation, a volunteer-run organization that empowers girls through roller derby. Wicked has also sold merchandise to raise money for causes like Black Visions Collective, a Minnesota-based group focused on eliminating systemic violence against Black communities.
The shop also pushes a message of inclusion, selling stickers that read “You Can Skate With Us” and gear for the Queer Skate Alliance, an organization described as “empowering queer folk of all backgrounds who currently establish and evolve the experience of being a queer-identified skater.”
Dancisin plans on continuing that community work in Pittsburgh. She says she is collaborating with the youth organization Roller SK8 Connection of Pittsburgh, and through them, will lead a program teaching kids how to build and fix their own skates.
She says she also plans on meeting with city councilors to encourage the building of more skateparks and other public spaces for people to skate in. She believes this is needed as skating has been essentially criminalized in the past, as skateboarders, and quad and in-line skaters struggled to find spaces to skate, only to be chased out by property owners or police.
She believes that making skating more accessible, either through gear or better infrastructure, would be beneficial, pointing out how being on wheels has done wonders for her own well-being.
“Roller skates play a direct part in my mental health,” she says. “When you have them on, you can’t worry about all the dumb stuff you’ve been worrying about all day. You have to be in the moment or you’ll hurt yourself. … It just feels so good, whether it’s a bike or skates or whatever.”
Wicked Skatewear. 4618 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. instagram.com/wickedskatewear_pgh