The last time Hudson Valley One paid a visit to Skate Time 209 in Accord, it was under new ownership. Stephen Apkon and Marcina Hale were busy with renovations and had big plans for expanding the appeal of the popular recreational resource.
That was in January of 2020. Less than two months later, COVID turned all our lives upside-down, and congregating in indoor venues became the last thing anybody felt safe doing. The owners stepped up as a community food distribution point during the pandemic, but the roller rink’s grand reopening originally planned for October 2020 was clearly not in the cards.
Flash-forward to 2022, when the place changed hands again. By mid-2021, documentary filmmakers Apkon and Hale had moved on to other projects and put Skate Time back on the market. After a brief, abortive effort by the Town of Rochester to acquire the building to use as municipal office and recreational space, some improbable new interested parties stepped forward. They were the owners of the local artisanal popcorn company, BjornQorn: Bjorn Quenemoen, his wife Stephanie Bauman and their business partner Jamie O’Shea.
“We drive by [Skate Time] every day to get to the BjornQorn facility. We needed to find a new facility to expand our business. It’s really tight where we are,” relates Bauman. “We knew there was a lot going on with the facility and the Town; the Town was thinking about buying it. We also knew that a lot of roller rinks are closing, and we didn’t want that to happen.”
So, despite never having been in the skating-rink business before, the BjornQorn folks started to look into acquiring the 30,000-square-foot structure, which had 8,000 square feet of unused warehouse space where Apkon and Hale had dismantled a former skateboard park. “We tracked down [realtor] Sean Nutley, who is a rolling-skating enthusiast,” Bauman continues. Nutley loved the idea and helped them connect with investors Liese Mayer and Stefan Merrill-Block. The new consortium closed on the property this past December, and as of March 4, Skate Time 209 is once again open for business – on weekends only, for now.
“We opened in five weeks. It’s the five of us, and we just got down and dirty in those five weeks,” Bauman recounts. “Bjorn completely redid the sound system and fixed the broken arcades. There’s really nothing he can’t do. We opened the doors last weekend. We didn’t know that the community would respond, but we had 1,500 people come through our doors on opening weekend.”
Newly recruited to help run the operation as general manager is Tara McFarlane, whose career in the hospitality industry has been focused on special events. “She read about us buying the building, called us up and said, ‘I want to join your team!’ The universe gave us this huge gift,” says Bauman.
The food angle is one that the new owners want to play up, for obvious reasons. “I’m really excited about the snack bar. We have two incredible people helping us create a new menu right now. The idea is that we’re bringing rink food up a notch – making pizza in-house, creating the sauce.”
Showcasing new or limited-edition flavors for BjornQorn, which has a “cult following” according to Bauman, will of course be a feature of Skate Time’s snack offerings. The popcorn, which is popped to the tune of 500 pounds a day using solar power, is GMO-free. A large percentage of the corn is grown by Quenemoen’s father, supplemented by Kelder’s Farm and the Hudson Valley Farm Hub.
Moving the company’s popcorn factory operations into what is now empty space on the premises is expected to involve an 18-month buildout. “For now we’re using that space as a warehouse and storage,” she says. “We’re building a dividing wall between the two spaces. It’s going to be our production facility. We’re getting rid of our other place. This will be our home base.”
Presumably, a time will come when an outing to Skate Time can include a fun factory tour, with plenty of popcorn-sampling; but for the near term, the focus is on enhancing the appeal of the rink facility. It will continue to serve as home base for the Hudson Valley Misfits roller derby team. And music-focused skating events will become a regular attraction.
“I was a music publicist in a former life, so I’m hoping for Live at Skate Time in the future,” says Bauman. “For now, we have a lot of great professional deejays in the community, and the ones who came out for opening weekend absolutely killed it. Since then, seven more deejays have reached out to us.”
Working with McFarlane, the owner/operators also envision expanded use of Skate Time 209 as an events venue for not-for-profit fundraisers, private parties, school and camp field trips and the like. “We want people to know that we want to be a real community gathering space, to host other people’s events,” Bauman says. “We’re excited to be popping ourselves further into the community this way.”
Most of all, they’re happy to have the facility return to service as a social hub for young people after a long period of enforced isolation and solely virtual connection. “We’re really excited to be a place where teenagers can go and be in real life together. Community is what sustains me. To be able to offer a safe and cool, fun atmosphere for teenagers seems really important to me.”
While plans are afoot to open more days of the week in the foreseeable future – “once we take our training wheels off,” in Bauman’s words – at present Skate Time 209 is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, and from noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Admission costs $12 for adults, $10 for children and students. Skate rentals cost $7 for adults, $5 for children aged 8 and under.
Skate Time is located at 5164 Route 209 in Accord. For more information, call (845) 626-7971 or visit skatetime209.com.