After taking a gamble on a new career as a business owner, Shane Upshaw, owner and operator of Upshaw’s Roller Dome in Spryfield, says he’s optimistic Halifax's only indoor roller skating arena will be a hit.
The father of four was working for an irrigation company installing underground water sprinklers when he decided to leave his job and start his own business.
“Honestly, if it doesn’t work I’m going be out a lot of money,” Upshaw said. “I’m putting my whole family in the community’s hands basically because if people don’t show up this won’t work.”
Upshaw said he first thought about opening a roller skating rink during the COVID lockdowns when he and his girlfriend were looking for ways to pass the time.
“I was tired of being in the house and she wanted to start roller skating again. I was like, ‘Well, I like roller skating but I’m not going on the sidewalks and I’m not going down the skatepark with all the little kids.’”
Upshaw said he went on YouTube and noticed other roller skating businesses operating in the US. That’s when he said he decided he'd open his own.
“And I just went with it,” he said.
Word began to spread months before the opening of the roller dome. Upshaw hosted a fundraising event, got the word out on social media, and he appeared on Global News Morning.
Upshaw experienced some setbacks when the skates he ordered didn’t arrive on schedule. Still, Upshaw’s Roller Dome officially opened its doors on Canada Day.
“Every day we’re getting more people,” Upshaw said. “We had a couple from Sweden come in. We had a family yesterday from Moncton come down. Every day it’s picking up.”
As a Black business owner, Upshaw said he’s “a little bit” surprised he hasn’t had more Black customers.
“There’s a [Black] family from the States that moved down here, and then there are four other brothers who have come here," he said. "Other than that there hasn’t been any support from the Black community at all.”
“It’s been all Caucasians, which is fine. Race never had nothing to do with if this was going to work for me or not. Everyone’s welcome.”
He said business has been steady with a lot of older people who used to roller skate getting back into it.
“I know winter’s going to pick up because you can’t roller skate anywhere in the winter because of the snow or it’s too cold," he said. "It’s more of an evening thing, I think.”
“We had a couple of parties in here the other day and the kids were so ecstatic and hyped. It was awesome.”
Upshaw said the roller dome is a family business.
“I have four kids. My oldest daughter works here and my son wants to work here," Upshaw said. "My youngest, she just hangs out and helps all day. And my uncle is my manager.”
Upshaw said he works every day on upgrades to the facility. He recently installed floor lights and he's in the process of getting a vendor’s licence to sell food.
Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Halifax Examiner