Skateboard park donation tied to Houkies promotion
VINELAND - Grinding his way through two municipal auctions, Houkie Worldwide LLC president/CEO Mike Fransko is the proud owner of a cluster of skateboard ramps, hubbas and quarter pipes he plans to refurbish and put back into use.
It fulfills his goal of supporting local skaters and helps promote a new product he’s invented to spare their footwear — Houkie Skateboard Shoe Protector — set to launch this summer.
Earlier this month, the city turned to GovDeals.com, a government auction site, to unload the Skatewave equipment banished to the back of the Public Works Department Walnut Road property. City officials closed the Landis Park skate park about a year after its 2012 debut citing insurance and safety concerns.
The first online auction, with a $5,000 minimum bid, garnered plenty of views but no takers. The city reposted and slashed the minimum bid to $500 with a 9 p.m. Monday closing.
Three minutes before the bidding deadline, Fransko submitted the first and what turned out to be the lone bid.
Then he waited.
“I was hitting refresh every 10 seconds,” he told The Daily Journal on Tuesday. Shortly after the auction closed, he received the buyer’s certification. “I paid for it immediately.”
Fransko, 47, is planning to pick up the pieces but final details are on hold for about a week until he returns from his business trip to China to fine-tune the product's manufacturing.
As a dad of a skateboarder and novice student himself, Fransko knows the toll the tricks take on footwear.
“My son was going through skateboard shoes every two months,” he said.
Looking at the shredded shoes, Fransko thought, “Why doesn’t someone invent something?”
“And then I did,” he said.
Since September 2015, his trendy protector design that slips over a shoe like a second skin worked its way through a half-dozen design revisions on its way to development. About two dozen testers submitted feedback after wearing the prototypes.
Last December, Fransko secured a U.S. patent.
“This is brand new, there’s nothing like it for skateboarders,” he said.
Working with investors, Fransko is meeting with a China-based firm next week to complete the molds for the product. The company will launch with three men’s sizes and plans to branch out in women’s and children’s sizes. The Houkies, which sell for about $25 a pair, will be manufactured in Middlesex County.
The Houkie Worldwide business model is to save skaters money on shoes and offer them new venues, Fransko said. The company pledges 10 percent of sales proceeds to develop and refurnish stake parks.
Purchasing the city’s former skate park equipment helps jump start that plan.
“SkateWave is a good brand,” Fransko said. “But they need a lot of refurbishing.
Fransko plans to rid them of rust and dress them up with a fresh look by local street artist Stevie Gandy.
Now Houkie Worldwide, based in Millville, is looking to donate the skate park equipment in return for naming rights.
Potential “Houkie Skate Park” venues must be within 100 miles of Vineland and able to secure the insurance to operate as a skate park.
“We would love to have it here,” Fransko said, hoping local organizations will apply at www.houkie.com.
Ideally, a property would need to be about 90 by 30 feet.
The auction coming so close to his product launch was “perfect,” said Fransko, a Vineland Police officer. “Things fell into place.”
Deborah M. Marko: @dmarko_dj; 856-563-5256; email@example.com
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