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Levin brings ‘4 Seasons’ of skateboarding to Milwaukee
June 8th, 2007
This is part of “Our Stories,” an ongoing series of articles about extraordinary members of the Wisconsin Jewish community.
On a recent Monday afternoon, Neal Levin could be found operating a forklift outside a massive converted warehouse at 200 N. 25th St. in the Menomonee Valley, not far from Marquette University.
“We do everything ourselves,” he explained.
That apparently included building — quite literally — an outdoor companion to his very successful 4 Seasons Skate Park, a haven for young people (mostly boys) who, like Levin, are smitten with skateboarding.
4 Seasons is filled with colorful ramps, slopes, “street courses,” and “bowls” (think empty rounded swimming pools) appropriate for the most advanced skateboarders, inline skaters and bikers — along with miniature versions for beginners. There is also an upstairs lounge for parents, complete with couches and a window overlooking the action down below.
Levin’s goal is to create a community and to provide a place for young skateboarders to practice their craft year round — something that wasn’t possible for him as a kid.
“When I was young, we had nowhere to go,” he said. “We had to go on the street or make our own ramps.”
Levin, 35, began skateboarding after he moved to Wisconsin from Illinois at the age of 11.
“My friends got into it, and I fell in love [with the sport],” he said.
As a student at Homestead High School, Levin was a sponsored skateboarder, which meant that he often traveled to participate in various shows and competitions. When he wasn’t in school or on the road, he used almost all of his free time practicing on an indoor ramp in his friend’s garage.
After graduating, he worked for a small skateboard camp in California, which led to a position at a skateboard apparel company. That job inspired him to start his own company, Rewind Clothing, in 1994. He soon joined forces with a Canadian company of the same name and moved to Montreal, where he was in charge of design and promotion.
“I traveled everywhere — Japan and all over Europe,” he said. “This is such a niche market that the [skateboard] styles are international.”
In 1999, Levin decided it was time for a change. He sold his shares in the company and moved back to Wisconsin.
“There was no indoor skate park here then,” he said. “People had no place to go six months out of the year.” He wanted to change that.
4 Seasons has been so successful that Levin started a Madison branch in early 2006. Each week, about 500-700 young people come to the parks to skate, socialize, participate in contests, and take lessons.
Despite their dedication to the sport, “the kids have a short attention span and get bored really quickly,” said Levin, adding that every few months he and his staff will build entirely new skating courses. To do what he does, “you need to be passionate, and you have to be in touch with the kids.”
And exactly what is it about skateboarding that inspires so much passion in so many people?
“It’s very creative and individual — you can do it in your driveway,” explained Levin, who lives in Milwaukee with his wife of one year, Jessica. “It’s a very copied culture because it’s so expressive.”
He added that each skateboarder creates his or her own tricks and maneuvers, and some even purchase custom-made shoes and boards.
“Neal puts his heart and soul into this,” said Jeff Gozdowiak, a longtime friend of Levin’s and the manager of 4 Seasons Skate Park.
“We’re not going to get rich doing this, but it’s what we love more than anything. Neil has given a lot of people the opportunity to enjoy skating.”