Quick Q+A: Corey Bracken + PILLLAR

As a part of Issue #6’s feature on ‘Cities of Skate’, DISPATCH checked in with Corey Bracken, founder of PILLLAR, a Minneapolis-based skateboard company focusing sustainability. Not only that, the company also took over the former Anelace space by Lowry and Central in Northeast with the new Forum cafe, complete with decks, clothing, and a mural from a big deal national artist.

DISPATCH: When Anelace burned down, the neighborhoods around Central and Lowry were worried that cool coffee wasn’t coming back. But with the Forum Cafe it’s both a good vibe as a store for some of your products—and a good cafe with Silverbird beans for the coffee. How did the Cafe come together? Was it something you were looking to do? What’s the coffee and skate shop connection?

Corey Bracken: Before starting PILLLAR in the spring of 2020, I had worked for a different (now defunct) skateboard company in Minneapolis. I always had this idea of combining a skate/retail shop and coffee. There’s a few bike/coffee shops in town and I thought “why not skateboards?” In the spring of 2021, I was skating with my friend Brad (who also built many of the tables and counters in the shop) and I told him about the idea and he quickly responded “you have to do it!” So, that’s really all it took. Just one little “do it” and I was off on the long laborious process of opening a coffee shop.

My favorite thing about the space is all of the skaters that were involved in building it out. I mentioned Brad and Tye of Re_Generate Wood, who built the counters and tables. Ryan Ball, another skater, did all of the pottery for our latte and cappuccino mugs. My good friend, Alex Brown, who also skates, helped with all of the framing. Even my insurance agent for the shop is a skateboarder. There’s many more that came and helped with demo and painting and such. Now that we’re open, the support of the local skateboard community has been great, though you definitely do NOT have to be a skateboarder to feel at home within the cafe.

PILLLAR is striving ot be the world’s first Climate Positive skateboard company, but skateboarding is also about, as you point out, “personal expression and individual freedom”. How do you make that balance? Is there anything more punk than trying to slow down corporate-fueled climate change?

I knew from the start of PILLLAR that I wanted it to reflect my personal values as well as being conscious and respectful of the long history of skateboarding. The environment and climate change is a big part of those values, so starting a company, it only felt natural. I also know that it’s not something that’s really talked about within the skate industry. My philosophy behind it is that this is who we are as a company, if it’s something that resonates with you, great, if not, there’s plenty of other skate companies out there that may be your thing. And our goal isn’t to bash you over the head with it either, it’s part of what we talk about and may give some tips at lessening your own individual impacts on the environment and we’ll keep trying to do our best lessening our impact as a skate company.

How does PILLLAR approach the visuals you all incorporate on things like boards and clothing? And who did the illustrations on the Forum website? 

Our approach to our graphics is that we try to use as much local talent as we possibly can. Minneapolis and St. Paul has such a thriving art community that we will be silly to look outside of that for our graphics. Each run of boards we do 3 graphics from a local artist and then try to incorporate that artwork into our apparel. The mural on the inside of Forum was done by Evan Wesselamn, who I absolutely adore his work. He actually just designed a line of boards for us that we’ll be launching later this summer. So stoked for everyone to see them!


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