Operation: Division East

📷 Photos by George Douglas Peterson
📝 Words by Chris Nieratko

A little-known New Jersey poet once wrote, “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.” I have been praying to Jah a lot lately that he was referring to hair when he wrote that verse because, sadly, as I get up in age, the only part of my body that is thinning out is on my scalp. I actually saw it coming years ago and began flipping my hair to the side like Morrissey in hopes of creating a visual illusion of how much hair I actually as left. It’s gotten so bad that I recently started taking HIMS Viagra for hair. I haven’t noticed any difference yet, and the only thing getting harder is looking at myself in the mirror.

A few weeks back, QS hit me up and asked if I’d be interested in writing a little something about Division East’s pop-up shop in Newark, if I could think of an angle. I was down since I always loved D.E. (I’m pretty sure my shop NJ even did a Spitfire collab with them, but the Minoxidil has my thoughts fried so I could be wrong.) The only angle that’s been on my mind is north of my brain-grapes. I remembered that D.E’s owner, Dave Dowd, always had a thick head of hair; I thought perhaps he might have some tips to keep me from going balder.

For those too young to remember, the now defunct Division East was one of the east coast’s most legendary skateshops. It was located in Verona, NJ for three years before relocating to the college town of Montclair (home of fellow bald writer, Allen Ginsberg & Candy’s) from 2001 to 2012. In their tenure, D.E. put out four epicly crusty must watches: Daggers & The Final Countdown by Tombo Colabraro, A Summer Promo and Tomorrow by Davy Lee Marrero, as well as some classic Division East mixtapes with Tame One & Mr. Len and albums by Bullymouth, GDP and Shape. Sadly, the shop went up in smoke when a kush operation went sour.

The pop-up weekend was pretty straightforward: Friday party, Saturday pop up, Sunday skate jam. It was centrally located near Newark Penn Station at former D.E. customers, Nick Keleshian and Joshua Garcia’s DJ studio, The Bunkr. Dowd dug through his storage and pulled out all the old D.E. decks to display and reissued a number of classic shop tees.

“The main goal with the pop up was to bring everybody together. It was super rad to see so many faces I hadn’t seen in a while and it was nice to have them tell me how much the shop meant to them. I’m also hoping to drop maybe five shirts, twice a year if people want them and maybe do some other pop ups,” Dave told me, as I stared at his hair.

I hadn’t seen Dave since Nas performed at House of Vans in Brooklyn ages ago, but his hair was as thick and healthy as ever. I’m pretty sure his hair told me that for the past five years, he has been operating his own production company called Frontside Marketing. “The main lesson I learned from having a skateshop was that I don’t ever want extreme overhead again, so running a production company is rad because there really is no overhead,” which I assumed was the key difference in where our hairlines were at. Last year my partner, Steve Lenardo and I celebrated NJ Skateshop’s 20th anniversary and needless to say, like all skateshops coming out of COVID, we have some overhead and a lot less hair (SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SKATESHOP!)

But I was surprised to have Dave’s hair tell me his secret is, “Only washing it every two weeks and a little salt water from surfing; that’s about it,” which didn’t help me at all because I don’t surf and me and my hair smell like bacalhau if I don’t wash it for a few days.

We all need to hold our friends, hair and memories tightly. Also listen to Dave’s hair and go to divisioneastnj.com.

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