It’s not often that the pastimes of one’s youth can stick with them through the changes of growing up. Even more rare is the chance to make a living doing something one has grown to love. Johnson City resident Jake Hunter is not only one of those lucky few, but he also gets the chance to support others who share the same interests.
Hunter began managing the Angry Penguin Skateboard and BMX Bike Shop when it opened in downtown Johnson City nine years ago. The owner originally wanted to open a skateboard and surf shop but Hunter, who had grown up riding BMX bikes, didn’t think it would work out and instead convinced him to sell BMX bikes, parts and accessories.
BMX consists of both extreme bike racing and freestyle stunt riding, which has a growing community in the area. Hunter said the shop’s customers range in age from 10-year-old beginners to seasoned riders in their mid-30s. According to Hunter, the region’s BMX community has grown substantially since the store opened, and he attributes that to the accessibility the store provides.
“When I was a kid the only place we had to get parts from was if someone had used parts or you had to go through mail order,” Hunter said. “It’s a lot different to walk into a shop and the guy who works there can recommend something over anything else or just the fact that you can walk into a store and buy it and leave that day with it makes a big difference.”
The Angry Penguin not only sells bikes, boards, parts and accessories but also clothing and shoes geared toward skateboarders and bike riders. Staff can also fix broken parts or install new parts.
Hunter began riding BMX bikes as a teenager about 15 years ago.
“My neighbors did that stuff. They raced and they had some dirt jumps behind a local store, and I just went out there one day and I saw them jumping and it just really appealed to me.”
Hunter said though he played team sports in school, he never really enjoyed them. The freedom and independence of BMX riding, however, has kept his attention since he started riding.
“I think what first appealed to me is you’re on your own. Everybody is together and everybody is hyping each other up. Everybody feeds off of each other. But, like with baseball, there are just such strict guidelines. It just didn’t really appeal to me, people telling me this is how you are supposed to do it.”
Hunter said he’s been riding for more than half his life and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“It’s all appealing. Traveling, meeting new people, finding new places to ride, landing new tricks. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, I guess.”
That sense of accomplishment is carried over when he can put in a good day’s work doing what he loves and helping people with the same interests do the same.
“There is the responsibility aspect of it, but I never dread going to work,” Hunter said. “I don’t hate going to my job. Through this job I’m able to support the skateboarders and the bike riders. I keep them going as well. A labor of love is definitely a good way to put it.”