SPRING HILL — Billy Long has what many people his age would consider the ultimate dream job.
When school lets out each afternoon, he heads to the Sand Storm Skate Shop, where he sells skateboards, accessories and clothing to customers typically his own age.
However, to the 17-year-old Long, it's more than just a part-time job. He's also the boss.
He takes inventory, places orders with suppliers and generally oversees how the shop serves its young clientele.
"It's been a lot of fun so far," said Long, a junior at Springstead High School. "I get to do what I like to do while learning how to run a business at the same time. What kid wouldn't want to do that?"
Since Sand Storm opened in August at 5476 Spring Hill Drive, it has become something of a mecca for Spring Hill skateboarders, many of whom have come to know Long through his avid love of the sport.
Long said he started the business more out of necessity than anything else. As school was letting out for the summer he began looking for a part-time job, only to find such offerings scarce. With encouragement from his parents, the teen decided it might be time to invest in his own future.
With $4,500 from his savings, plus a matching amount and other help from his folks, Long set up Sand Storm Industries in the former home of a chiropractic clinic inside a small strip mall.
He also brought along high school friends Dylan Hall, 17, and Eddie Valencia, 16, as minor partners to help run the shop.
Although open for just a few months, Long said he is learning the responsibilities of keeping a business open. Every dollar earned so far has been put back into the business in an effort to build inventory.
About the only duties Long doesn't handle are those that require that someone to be older than 18, such as certain banking matters. However, his parents, Bob and Maryann Martini, keep the books and look after the shop while Billy, Dylan and Eddie are in school.
"Owning a business is one of the greatest learning experiences a teenager can have," Bob Martini said. "These kids have some great ideas that I think are going to make the shop a success."
Indeed, Billy Long believes that carving a niche in the highly competitive skateboarding market is key in gaining and keeping customers. He credits Sand Storm Skate Shop's early success to its ability to offer high-quality boards and accessories at reasonable prices.
"It's important to show people they don't need to spend a lot to get good stuff," he said. "Most of the kids that come in are looking for a good deal."
The shop caters to beginning skaters by offering top-quality ready-to-roll boards for as little as $95, about half the price found in most larger shops. In addition, the teens offer free setup for any accessories such as trucks and wheels bought in the shop.
Marketing is another aspect of the business at which Long and his partners excel. Shortly after its opening, the shop hosted a daylong skate competition to help buy a new skate ramp for Stewy's Skate Park in Spring Hill.
The event, which was advertised at more than 150 skate shops around Florida, drew about 600 participants. In October, they organized a two-day contest that drew more than 1,000 enthusiasts.
For Long and his friends, the true enjoyment of owning a skate shop is being able to stay closely connected with an activity they have done nearly all their lives.
"To us, it's much more than just a job," he said. "All of us pretty much live for skateboarding."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.