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United Skates is Hiring.

Looking for a career in rink management? United Skates is hiring. With 20 nationwide affiliated rinks, its newest in Clovis, California, USA has roller rink and family entertainment center (FEC) operations down to a science.

Internal Promotions

Karen Palermo is the current President of the affiliated rinks and is based in New York. She understands the culture well, launching her career at the admissions window at age 16 and working her way up to President. “We have a tremendous amount of tenure in our company and we’re incredibly focused on promoting from within,” she said, adding “One of the reasons I stayed so long was the financial information I learned, such as Cost of Goods, payroll percentages, how to control the different costs and maximize revenues.”

Palermo became hooked on the company while she was still in college. “I was thinking of going for my psychology degree. Instead, I looked into a sales job (with the company) and got it because I asked for it. Once I started doing sales, I loved reaching out to our customers.” From there she moved up to Vice President, Executive VP — and more than two decades later — President.

Freedom with Accountability

Palermo isn’t the only employee who has stayed with the company for 10+ years. She attributes the long-time loyalty because managers are given the freedom to run their facilities as they see fit. Not that there isn’t accountability. Every Monday, the managers check in for a company conference call to go over the week’s numbers and cover a topic of the week to keep the rinks running optimally. And the company’s policies and procedures are internally generated. “We take the best practices from one rink and use them across the organization. Although some of it is trial and error,” Palermo admitted.

From Floor Guard to Sales Manager

Cheryl Thomas has spent nearly a decade with United Skates of America, starting part-time when she first moved to Phoenix 9 years ago from Sacramento. She was originally hired as a floor guard at Great Skate Glendale, and then moved into all of the other rink positions over the next 18 months: admissions, café, party host, DJ, and rental counter. After that, Thomas was promoted to session manager and is now the General Manager of Sales and Marketing at Great Skate.

The STEM Field Trip Program demonstrates the principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and how they apply to a roller skating rink.

Her day-to-day job duties involve selling school field trips (fun and STEM educational) and fundraisers to PTAs, booking private corporate parties, and placing 40-80 calls per day to stir up business in the rink. She’s also on hand to help with the mad rush of rink guests, alleviating backups in the café or stuff shop. Usually after 30 minutes, the lines are gone and she’s back at her desk selling parties and field trips.

Thomas says she likes that someone at USA Corporate is always there to help and only a phone call away. “They provide great communication with the staff, excellent training programs, and beyond. I knew nothing about sales and they taught me.” She also credits her success to her passion for the roller skating industry.

Company History

United Skates of America was founded 45 years ago by Norm Traeger. “He took his kids for a roller skating party and the experience was terrible,” Palermo revealed. “But there were a lot of people there.” He figured if a business can do that well giving a bad experience, then a clean, fun, friendly and safe facility can do even better. His first two rinks were opened in Columbus, Ohio: United Skates on Refugee Road, followed by Skate Zone 71. Both are still in operation.

Career Progression

United Skates Clovis
Floor Guards have to be good skaters. They usually get promoted to DJ.
Image provided by United Skates of America

For the entry level positions, no experience is required and USA puts every employee through training. The key is finding the right team. DJs are typically promoted from Floor Guard. Floor Guards have to be good skaters and be able to assist our smaller guests and approach adult guests that may be breaking rules. A 16-year-old who isn’t timid or shy. “They need to be able to tell an adult to remove their hat on the skate floor,” said Palermo.

Smiling Snack Bar employees
Most party hosts are promoted from the snack bar. Image provided by UnitedSkates.com

Being a Party Host is often times a promoted (and well paid) position, according to Palermo. “They’ll work in cafe first to learn the system.” Palermo emphasized that party hosts must have an absolutely fabulous personality and be incredibly organized to keep the parties straight. “They get tips and can earn a lot for more than their hourly wage,” she added.

The Process

USA hires their entry-level team members through group interviews. After submitting an application, if you’re qualified, you’ll get a call back telling you the time and place to show up for the interview, how long it will last, how to dress, and an emphasis that you must be on time or you won’t be allowed in late.

At the interview, you’ll meet a panel of managers who will introduce themselves, talk a bit about the company, and describe the different positions that currently need filling. Then they ask the candidates to stand up and introduce themselves in front of one another. Because this is an entertainment business, you can’t be timid or shy, because you’ll be talking to a lot of different people on a daily basis. That’s why they’re interviewing you in front of 10 or more strangers.

Managerial Positions

Those applying for management jobs at a USA Rink won’t have to undergo the group interview. And even though USA prefers to promote from within, they do recruit outside the organization when that isn’t feasible. “I’m passionate about adding great people to our team and focusing on their development. We especially prefer those with a guest services or restaurant management background,” said Palermo. As far as compensation, USA claims they are competitive and the GMs of each facility earn bonuses for surpassing revenue goals.

Online Reviews

The online reviews from current and former employees of USA are mixed. Some revealed the environment can be hectic, and were quite happy working there. Others were not so pleased with management at a few of their locations. Determining the legitimacy of these reviews is difficult, as some could be coming from a bitter ex-employee who didn’t take well to being fired. With some sitess, such as Glassdoor.com, there has been some pushback because reviewers aren’t verified. Your best bet is to go visit the USA rink you’re interested in, check out the staff, ask why they like working there and how long they’ve worked there and decide for yourself if it’s a good fit for you.

Here are the reviews we found:

Also note, USA rinks are typically open on all holidays, so you will be scheduled to work on some of them.

 Where to apply

United Skates lists their job openings on their rink websites. Their nationwide affiliated family entertainment centers include Arizona, Florida, California, Ohio, Indiana, New York, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan, and Rhode Island.

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Susan Geary is a multi-certified resume writer at 1st Rate Resumes and SRSTA Certified Learn to Roller Skate Instructor in Roanoke, Virginia which is home to 3 roller rinks with wood floors.

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Careers Featured Jam

Florida artist carves out career on skates

James Wilson runs a radio station, skate academy, and entertainment company. The 35-year old is making a name for himself among skating peers and at his new home rink, Skate Reflections in Kissimmee, Florida.

So if you’re tired of the same boring skate music, Wilson has a solution for that. Or if you need a unique entertainment crew for your next event, he has a solution for that too.

Photo Credit: Christopher Aldrich

Born into the industry, he’s been skating his whole life and has managed to develop a unique resume. He’s a partner with Anabolix, co-founded the Jamskate Academy, runs a skate entertainment company, and has relaunched his current project, SkateFM.com. In his spare time, he hosts “A Night with Jamskate at his home rink and around the state of Florida. He’s an Indiana native, and relocated from chilly Indianapolis by way of Ohio to sunny Florida a few years ago. Wilson runs his own production company, with all of the photography, videography, editing, and choreography done inhouse for Jamskate Entertainment. He markets himself as a roller skater available for background work, concert shows, and casting calls where skaters with advanced skills are needed.

A Skating Bloodline

Wilson spent 15 years as a competitive art skater where he brought home regional and national titles. Plus, roller skating is in his blood(line) with genes passed down from his grandfather, Bob France who taught art skating for more than 50 years. His mom is Pro-Coach Margaret Wilson. His late father, Jim Wilson ran meets in the Great Lakes. He also edited music for freestyle skaters, and mounted and repaired skates. Additionally, he told the RollerSk8r his uncle is Dominic Cangelosi, famed organist and owner of Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale, CA.

After hanging up his art skates, Wilson ventured into the world of jamskating where he started the Jamskate academy and taught others how to dance on skates. He skates on Riedell and partners with Anabolix, commenting they are the best wheels he’s ever skated on. “Our other great partner is East Coast Roller Sports. We sell Jamskate Entertainment apparel there,” he added.

Skate FM

Where others see a problem, Wilson sees a solution. He’s listened to the complainers of bad music and launched an internet radio station, SkateFM.com for people to choose their channel and find their jam. While some rink owners may not appreciate skaters wearing headphones, there are other rinks putting on a “silent skate session“, where you’re expected to bring your own music and wear your headphones. Or the rink provides simultaneous DJs for skaters to choose from. At SkateFM, listeners can select pop music, old school rap, funk, freestyle, and burgeoning formats. “It’s essentially a radio station for skaters by skaters. It came about because it’s very hard to find skating music on the radio or on the internet. It would be nice to have a station that played our kind of music,” said Wilson.

He noted that SkateFM gives aspiring and experienced rink DJs a chance to get themselves heard. A lot of DJs start in rinks, and they need a platform to get their work out there. They just need submit their tapes.

SkateFM is not really new. It existed in the past, but the site went down and then Wilson relocated to Florida, the project got brushed to the side. “We want a station for skaters. We’ve had a lot of people ask for it and we have more resources right now. It’s a reboot with a new generation of listeners so it’s basically a new station again” Wilson is hoping to grow the station to include skating ads and anyone who wants to advertise, including rinks. Like RollerSk8r, their demographic is also made up of roller skaters.

SkateFM specializes in music that skaters have been asking for.

A Night with Jamskate

Wilson is currently promoting , “A Night with Jamskate” at two Florida rinks. One on August 17th at Skate Reflections, and another at United Skates Tampa on September 21st. Wilson explained how it works for rink operators to bring this type of event to their business: “If a rink normally runs a session from 7-11PM, then we come in and do a class one hour before the session.” It’s free with paid admission. “We ask the rink for an extra hour until midnight,” he added. The rink charges whatever they want as far as admission goes. “Jamskate does a live show during the session where everyone clears the floor.” Then they do a jamskate so everyone can showcase their talents. These events include prize giveaways, a chance to take photos, and also practice new moves. Wilson mentioned that he’s available to bring this promotion to other rinks.

An artist on skates

People seemed surprised that skaters can make a career out of skating. And Wilson has the perfect response to those who say “oh you’re a skater?” He corrects them with a smile stating, “I’m an artist and my skates paint a picture.”

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Careers Featured

Lights, Camera, Skate!

Get cast on skates in television, movies, and print.

Who hasn’t given at least a passing thought to seeing their name in lights or face onscreen or in a print ad? Most of us won’t be signing multimillion-dollar contracts anytime soon, but with more and more roller skaters being cast in TV commercials, films, and print ads as extras and featured players, you can at least get a taste of life in front of the camera.

 Fortunately, you don’t need to live in a major city to find acting and print advertising opportunities. Many casting agencies hire real people for all types of jobs all over the country, so the “secret” to landing this type of work isn’t really a secret at all—just do some research and find a casting agency near you and sign up for their email list. Most agencies send email notifications to their subscribers about jobs in their coverage area. “We never know from day to day what the specs will be for a job. If someone has that particular skill, we recommend you get back to us very quickly,” advises Julie Knowlton, casting agent with Slate Casting in Boston, Massachusetts. “Give us a brief description of your experience and what type of skating you do. Pay attention to the information we give about what we need.” Slate Casting conducts searches for real people for projects all over the country, and professional actors for film and TV work in New England. Visit the “For Actors” page on the agency’s website to sign up for their email notices.

Rachel Mossey, owner of casting agency Weeble Mountain in Portland, OR, says any skater interested in acting opportunities should create a profile in the agency’s database.  “Skaters should definitely log into their profile after applying and list your skills! We also recommend skaters upload photos of themselves skating, in addition to some everyday shots. You definitely don’t need professional head shots. In fact, snapshots are often better for us.” Weeble Mountain casts actors, models, and extras for all kinds of on-camera projects in Portland and the Pacific Northwest, including film, TV, commercials, music videos, photo shoots, and more. “Once you’re in our database we can reach out to you for all kinds of projects—not just those that are skating-related. You’re always free to decline anything you’re not interested in, but it’s good to get experience on set if you’re interested in this kind of work.”

How to break in and stand out

Preparation is the key to a successful audition, and casting agents can tell the difference between someone who’s prepared and someone who’s not. “Preparation” means a number of things. “Have a toolbox of things—pictures of yourself, a video of you skating, maybe some bullet points of yourself so that’s all set to go,” Knowlton suggests, reiterating that it’s not essential to have a professional head shot, but helpful to bring an 8×10 photo of yourself with your resume, skating experience, and all-important contact information on the back. “Be fully available and get the information to us as quickly as possible. Being able to reach you is really important. As far as what we look for in talent, read up on what we’re asking for, if there’s a script you can look at that in advance…be as prepared as you can be. Be confident and feel good about yourself, and do your best.” Above all, point out any unique skills or qualities that help you stand out from your competition. “For something like skating, skill comes first!” Mossey says. “Then we look for an interesting look. We really value diversity and people who look real and relatable. There is so much you can’t control about how people perceive you. We want to see what people really look like—not highly curated, filtered shots, and get a sense of their personality. Trying to control your image and sending us what you think we’re looking for is the wrong approach.”

 Nicole Fiore, a former professional skater who turned to coaching and acting full-time after retiring from competition, has a series of tutorials on her YouTube Channel for skaters who want to break into acting. She has a few additional tips: “Learn to look comfortable on skates in a very small space. Rinks are wonderful, but most shoots are done in very small spaces. So get those edges right and you’ll be good to go! And don’t take anything too personally. You could be the best skater in the room and not even get a callback. It’s simple. You may not have the look they were going for. Let that stuff roll off your shoulders and move on.”

How to find acting and print work

Fiore has been skating since she could walk and began competing at age 4. Her successful professional career included four World Championship medals. She started auditioning at 16 and has worked on projects for Tommy Hilfiger, Katy Perry, and others.  “I have two older brothers who were working in the industry and auditioning frequently, so I tagged along. Most jobs only hired 18-plus for legal reasons. Every once in awhile I would get hired on and they would find out I was only 16 or 17, and would have to fire me. At age 18, I was finally legally hired on jobs and began working!”

For skaters new to the business and trying to find jobs, Fiore says there are some good resources available besides signing up for casting agencies’ lists. “There are many websites available, like LACasting.com, but most of the jobs are spread on Facebook and word of mouth. There are Facebook groups that send out information as it comes through. And it’s a good idea to get connected with your local rink owners/managers because they get calls all the time and will need skaters to refer.” If you’re serious about breaking into on-camera work, it’s good to read trade publications like Backstage in order to stay current with trends and news within the performing arts industry.

What to expect during an audition

An “audition” is a broad term for anytime a performer must demonstrate their skills. Casting agents typically hold two types of auditions—an open call, in which essentially anyone can show up to audition, or a closed call, in which a performer has an appointment with a casting agent.  Although the atmosphere of every audition is different, expect plenty of controlled chaos with so many performers and personalities in one room. “[A casting call is] a bunch of people on skates—some great, some terrible. A casting call can be held anywhere—a rink, a studio, outside. Typically you get a number and wait for awhile. You are called up to introduce yourself, take a picture, and maybe say a thing or two about your skating experience on camera [called a “slate”]. They hopefully put a song on—it is so awkward to skate to no music—and you show them your best moves for 30 seconds to a minute. Say thank you, leave, and hopefully get a call a few days later from them that they want you!”

Not every project has an audition, Mossey points out. “Some roles are booked directly from photo or video submissions,” she says. “Some require auditions, and some require callbacks (a second audition) or a go-see (meeting with the director) too. These are unpaid—think of them as interviews. You are only paid if you get hired for the gig.” Mossey adds you should only go to the audition if you are completely available for all dates listed—callbacks, wardrobe fittings, and all shooting dates. Casting agents expect and appreciate patience and professionalism. “You should set aside a full hour for the audition. The audition itself may only take 2-7 minutes, but there is paperwork to fill out, and a waiting period. It is very difficult for casting offices to stay on schedule, so there is often a significant wait, but it’s almost never more than one hour. Don’t ask to skip the line or mention a time crunch; it’s most professional to expect a long wait, then sit patiently,” Mossey adds.

Pay rates vary depending on the type of job and how long you’ll be working. You can expect to make anywhere from $350 for a few hours of work to a few thousand dollars for a shoot that takes several days. Casting agents typically include pay information in their casting call emails.

What’s it like on set?

Just like auditions, every set is different. “In general there’s a lot of waiting, but when you’re called to set, it’s all about being professional and listening to the people in charge. And you usually get a really good lunch!” says Knowlton. “I rarely hear of anyone who doesn’t have a good time—it’s always a learning experience. Just have fun and enjoy it.”

Fiore recalls one of her more memorable projects. “One of my most memorable jobs was actually my very first job. I had mono and was so sick. My doctor told me not to do any physical activity whatsoever. I told him I had to skate in a commercial the next day. We shot all day in Venice Beach and I felt awful by the end of the day. Luckily, it was so much fun and so worth it.”

Another memorable job was working on a Tommy Hilfiger/Gigi Hadid fashion show in 2017. “We had just filmed an ad for the line. We were called Tommy’s RollerSquad. A few weeks later, we were asked to roll through the actual fashion show. As a fully-grown woman standing 5 feet 2 inches, without my skates on, this was a dream come true! I got to roller skate in a huge fashion show! It was amazing.”

That’s a Wrap

Like so many other ventures in life, you never know what opportunities your passion for roller skating may bring your way. But if you’re interested in seeing what possibilities could be in store for you on camera, follow the above tips, do some research, and make your talents known to casting agents and others in the industry who are looking for what you have to offer—who knows where your skills may take you!

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Careers Featured

So You Want to Run a Roller Rink

 What are you thinking? No seriously, have you done your research? To help you out here are 10 things you must know about the industry before opening your doors.

There’s a lot of cleaning. It’s a grimy business, and dust collects quickly in your ceilings, corners, and walls. A dirty rin20160514_135115k will keep customers from coming back. Plan on keeping your employees busy with constant cleaning.

It’s not a steady business. Gorgeous outdoor weather will be your greatest competition. It’s a seasonal business where cold, wet, and extreme temperatures will boost attendance numbers. Some rinks report a slowdown in the summer when families all go on vacation. For other rink operators, the bulk of their business comes from summer camps. Results vary depending on your local weather conditions, seasons, or when the carnival is in town. You must be creative to keep the building full of customers.

Starlight SkatiumYou’ll be hiring and training a lot of teenagers. This is their first job and will need constant supervision and correction. Some are more reliable than others. Some don’t take criticism well. Learn how to conduct group interviews and spot the cream of the crop with a good attitude and work ethic.

It’s not a weekend hobby. Don’t think you can open your doors Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and stay shut the rest of the week. Someone needs to be in the office to receive deliveries, answer phones and complete many tasks such as insurance forms, music licensing, hiring, firing, selling, painting, repairing, purchasing, scheduling, party planning, group sales, payroll, tax filing, banking, food server certification, accident reports, surveillance video, lighting, sound, POS system oversight, cleaning, training, capital improvements, office management, publicity, graphic design, and marketing. HVAC systems need regular service, rental skates need to be serviced, the parking lot needs cleaning, the list goes on and on.

Lessons PhotoLessons are essential. If you want to cultivate a loyal group of customers, you’ll need to get them rolling in the right direction with a lessons program. Good skaters are great for business. They bring their friends. They grow up and have skater kids of their own. Plant the seeds early and often. When they love to skate, they will come back and support your rink.

Skate Rentals NeonRental skates matter. When customers have a good experience at your rink, they will come back and eventually buy their own from your pro shop. If customers are expected to skate in old broken down rental skates they will have a horrible time and never come back. The brownies (or peanut butters as they are referred to) are manufactured by Sure Grip, Golden Horse, Riedell, and Crazy Skates. They average about $150 a pair and you can keep them well-tuned with replacement parts (including boots) for years to come.

RSA LogoJoin the Roller Skating Association (RollerSkating.com) International for about a buck a day as a “future operator.” You’ll get their magazine – Roller Skating Business, a weekly digital newsletter, invitations to all their trade shows and section meetings, volume discounts, exclusive marketing programs, access to vendors who serve the rink industry, and social forums when you can ask questions of other rink operators. You’ll save thousands of dollars learning from the mistakes of others.

Subscribe to RINKSIDER magazine. For full disclosure, I am the Editor of The RINKSIDER. Our advice columns range from IT issues, music licensing, floor maintenance, snack bar profits, novelties, and redemption, parties, and anything relevant to the successful operation of a skate center. You can also get a glimpse of previous articles at RINKSIDER.com free of charge, and follow us on Facebook. 

Plan on having a lot of fun! Owning a rink means meeting new friends and spreading your passion for roller skating. Rink operations is not for everyone, but for the right person it’s a life changing experience where you’ll work in a fascinating industry full of helpful people who want you to succeed.