Arthur Wisniewski and Sinisa Dragas have taken over the skate shop at the Andrew Stergiopoulus Ice Rink at the Parkwood Complex.
They promise that returning customers will not only be very pleasantly surprised with what they’ve done with the shop when it opens for business this weekend, but also with an expanded list of services that they’re planning to offer.
Wisniewski, a Great Neck resident for over 10 years, is originally from Poland, and his partner, Dragas, who lives in Queens and is from Croatia, have been busy over the past several weeks completely restyling the shop that has been renamed the S & A Pro Shop.
“They won’t recognize the place,” Wisniewski said. “We’ve completely redone it and we did it with mostly recycled materials.”
The two men have been friends for 15 years, first meeting on a job in Manhattan where they were working as craftsmen, so remodeling the shop has come naturally to them. “We’re longtime skiing buddies and biking buddies,” said Wisniewski. “I always skated back in Poland. I was a speed skater and I used to play hockey.”
In recent years, Wisniewski’s interest has been heightened by his 12-year-old son’s participation in the Park District’s hockey program. His son, Ian, is a member of the Bruins traveling team.
Dragas admits to being not much of a skater. “Tennis is my specialty,” he said. “I intend to learn to be a very good skater and learn with this guy,” pointing to his partner. “Arthur’s a very capable teacher.”
Dragas has a degree in physical education from a university in Croatia. “I studied biomechanics and kinesthetics there,” he said. Wisniewski has no training in those two areas but adds, “It’s been a lifelong hobby of mine.”
That interest led the two to develop the S & A CrossTrack, a fitness machine that they have a patent pending on. “It’s perfect for skaters and skiers, anyone who wants to develop and strengthen the hips, knees and ankles,” explained Dragas. They’ll have one on display in the shop for customers to try, but that’s only one part of their plan to expand the shop’s services.
“From day one,” said Wisniewski, “we’ll be providing tennis racket stringing and custom work on racquets. We’ll be providing boot fitting for skates and skis. We won’t sell boots, but if you bring them to us we’ll be able to customize them and make them fit and do corrective work also.” They’ll also have a full line of skates and skating and hockey accessories.
Cycling, especially off-road, is another passion the partners share and they intend to offer custom bike services and maintenance for all types of bikes. “That will come eventually with the change of season,” said Dragas. Wisniewski said that it was their intention to create a sort of “pit stop” for bicyclists as the shop is so conveniently located for area residents and has good parking.
“But the main core of their business was sharpening,” he said, referring to the previous owner, Phil Zhukovin, who ran the shop for about four years. “It’s going to remain the core of our shop.”
“We’ve been trained by him. We spent three weeks training under his guidance and also taking over the equipment that was in the shop. It’s top-of-the-line equipment. There’s nothing better than the Blademaster.”
“He’s famous for sharpening,” Wisniewski said of Zhukovin. “He’s well known throughout the skating community. He’s the best in the business for sharpening.”
Wisniewski and Dragas have become quick learners in the art
Speaking about the capabilities of their shop’s equipment, Wisniewski said, “There are separate attachments for figure skates, hockey skates and for cross grinding when you want to change the shape of the blade. Depending on the preferences or ability of the skater we’re able to change and customize the profile of the blade.
“We can pitch it forward, pitch it back, change the radius and we are probably one of the few shops on Long Island that has that ability. There are very few people that can sharpen handmade blades because of the inconsistency of the metal and because it’s a man-made blade.”
The partners are somewhat in awe of Zhukovin’s expertise. “So far, he’s the best,” said Wisniewski, respectfully. “That’s before we came in.”