To Pigeon’s Roller Rink and Skate Shop owner Shayna “Pigeon” Meikle, Long Beach is a destination for skaters. But soon, the city could be losing its one and only roller rink.
Before opening up Pigeon’s Roller Rink nearly two years ago, Meikle—whose eponymous skate shop will reach its 10-year mark in November—knew Long Beach was in need of a roller skating venue.
In the past, Long Beach had been home to at least three rinks, in locations that have since become the Museum of Latin American Art, apartments on Alamitos Avenue and First Street, and a Walgreens on Del Amo and Paramount boulevards.
“It’s such a part of American history, you know,” Meikle said. “It’s an American pastime.”
When the pandemic brought a resurgence of popularity to skating, she said it was like “the dreams are coming true.”
“Everyone wanted to roller skate,” Meikle said. “We had all of these new customers, all these new people on skates, all these people really finding joy in skating in a time where they needed joy.”
Meikle began scouting out a potential location for a rink and roller derby venue (she also runs a roller derby league that has been on hiatus since the pandemic), and soon she stumbled upon an empty space in the newly opened 2ND & PCH shopping center—although the space was a bit too small to serve as a roller derby venue, it was perfect as a community rink, Meikle said.
To Meikle’s surprise, 2ND & PCH went for the idea.
“What I think is just as remarkable as this existing, is them actually saying, ‘Let’s give this a try,’” Meikle said. “This is a corporate place … like, this venue wasn’t designed to be a roller rink. It wasn’t designed for a small business to be there at all.”
At first, the shopping center’s plan was just to open the rink as a pop-up over Easter weekend, in spring 2021.
“I was like, ‘Oh, girls, you’re gonna want us here longer than that—trust me, people want this,’” Meikle said. “I knew the power behind the wave I was riding.”
Instead, Pigeon’s Roller Rink officially opened a few months later, in September of that year, with a lease lasting through Dec. 31.
“To me, that was more than I could have ever asked for,” Meikle said.
In those three months, “hundreds and hundreds” of people flocked to the rink for theme nights, skate classes, skate fitness and more, Meikle said.
A week before the lease was supposed to come to an end, on Christmas Day, Meikle received “the best present ever”—another lease, this time for nine months.
But after the nine months were completed, Pigeon’s Roller Rink moved to a month-to-month lease, which essentially means that as soon as a new business claims the space, “then we gotta go,” Meikle said.
A representative for 2ND & PCH declined to comment on the status of Pigeon’s Roller Rink beyond confirming that “Pigeon’s Roller Rink is designed as a pop-up experience at 2ND & PCH and since its opening remains a short-term tenant.”
Making roller skating accessible
For Meikle, roller skating is about being accessible.
This meant that when the price of everything from gas to food began to skyrocket around March of 2022, and business began to decrease, Meikle took the opposite approach of many other businesses: She slashed her prices.
With a previous price of $25 or $30 to skate to balance the high overhead costs, it now costs $10 to skate during the day or $15 during the evenings.
“We realized, ‘OK, people can’t afford that,’ like this is supposed to be what brings people joy in times when things are stressful,” Meikle said. “I think that was a really important move as a community location.”
Meikle’s attempt to bring affordability to the venue was successful—in just the past year, about 25,000 people from Long Beach and beyond have come to Pigeon’s to skate.
But Meikle noted that Pigeon’s Roller Rink does not pay the same amount of rent as a larger company would.
“We’re on a special arrangement where they get paid, what makes sense for our business, you know, because of the amount of people we bring,” she said.
The rink’s future
Now, because of the rink’s month-to-month lease, it’s unclear if the next move will be closing down entirely or trying to relocate—or when that will need to happen, she said, adding that staff from a couple of companies have come to inspect the space.
While on the roller rink’s original three-month lease, Meikle toyed with the idea of franchising or moving to a different mall. While the offers rolled in from across the country, none of them felt like the right fit, for various reasons.
“I’ve been constantly, these last two years, trying to see what’s out there, see what works, and it’s super disheartening,” she said, “because there’s just a lot of regulations on parking, for permitting.”
For that reason, connecting to a mall is a great fit, due to its plethora of parking spaces. But ideally, having her own space in Long Beach—an “open-to-the-public, retro, vibing spot” like the current venue, is the dream Meikle has been pushing for over the past few years.
Part of a bigger dream
For Meikle, her foray into skating began in college at UC Santa Cruz, when she was recruited to a roller derby team. The passion stuck with her—as she went on to become a seventh grade science teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, by night, she ran her own roller derby league.
After receiving a sponsorship from Moxi Roller Skates, Meikle bought into the company, and she left teaching to run the Retro Row skate shop formerly known as Moxi Roller Skate Shop, before rebranding to become Pigeon’s Skate Shop in 2020.
Expanding to also offer a roller rink—a place for people to go after buying their skates—felt like a natural fit to Meikle.
“Skaters are really creative people. A lot of them are artists, or like the weirdos and the others, you know, and so we’re not really cookie-cutter-type folks,” Meikle said. “And so creating our own little world here where we have this activity we enjoy and then we have this way to get it to other people … it’s really amazing.”
Despite its challenges, being immersed in the skating world has been more fulfilling than teaching, Meikle said.
“Teaching is amazing, but I felt like adults really need something,” Meikle said. “How people’s lives change when they get roller skates is amazing.”
While the next iteration of Pigeon’s Roller Rink may need the help of a mall, or assistance from investors or developers in an independent building, Meikle envisions having a rink attached to a restaurant and bar, so that diners can enjoy the entertainment of the rink, from the music, the lights, and of course, the skaters.
“At night, people are actually dancing, the moves are just hypnotizing,” Meikle said. “Like, these are people performing, and people train just on their own, and moms and nurses and old grandpas, like they come and they look nice, and they really bust a move.”
For the over 25,000 people who have visited the rink in the past months, the rink has become a hub for birthday parties, for gatherings and for building community, Meikle said.
“It really is inspiring in the amount of joy that it brings people and the stories that I hear,” Meikle said. “People find skating sometimes in their lowest points, and it changes people’s lives. … It gives them … a way to feel all the things they need to feel to feel alive.”
Although the future is uncertain, for now, it’s still month-to-month.
“So take advantage,” Meikle said, “if you are interested in experiencing something that could just be a part of Long Beach history soon.”
Pigeon’s Roller Rink is located at 6400 E. Pacific Coast Highway.