By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – Today’s skate centers aren’t what they used to be.
Dale Taylor, owner of Skate Zone in Tupelo, got into the business in 1978. In those days, teenagers and young adults were regulars.
“It seems like the longer I’ve been in the business,” he said, “the younger the kids are.”
That’s by design.
It takes only a few bad apples, but older kids are more prone to discipline problems.
“We don’t do the dances and teenage parties any more,” Taylor said. “Our target audience is families and kids.”
He said that focus was intended to let parents know their 14 and younger kids would be in a safe environment.
In addition to skating, young customers have access to a prize shop, concessions and arcade games at Skate Zone.
“One of the biggest changes is birthday parties,” Taylor said. “They weren’t a big deal at the beginning, but that’s the big thing.”
The parties vary in popularity depending on the season, said Kenny Berry, general manager of Skate Zone.
“During the summer, on a weekend, we’ll do nine to 12 parties,” Berry said. “When it starts getting cold, we’ll run 18 on a Saturday and six on a Sunday.”
Because of its chosen clientele, Skate Zone and Taylor’s skate centers in Columbus, Starkville and Meridian are linked to the school schedule.
“When it gets colder, our weekend business picks up,” Berry said. “During the summer, your weekends are going to slow down, but we’re open during the week.”
Taylor said he thought focusing on younger kids would cost his bottom line since older skaters wouldn’t be contributing their admission and skate rental fees.
“I was surprised,” he said. “As we focused on families and kids, our revenues increased.”