HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Roller skating is more than the family business. It has been a way of life for Judy Young Link and her husband, Jim Link, owners of Young’s Skating Center in Mays Landing.
Judy Young Link’s parents, grandparents and other family members built a skating rink in Ventnor, named the Ventnor Athletic Center, in 1935.
“Our family lived above the skating rink. I went to sleep every night to organ music. You could definitely hear it upstairs,” she said. “I had the advantage of running downstairs and getting ice cream, though.”
Her parents built the skating rink in Mays Landing in 1973 in a 25,000-square-foot building. Judy Young Link, a former high school biology teacher, and her husband took over the business in 1995.
Previously they had run two rinks in Pennsylvania. The couple even met at a skating rink.
“It’s one of those activities that we find transcends the generations,” Jim Link said. “When mom and dad come skating, they bring the kids. When kids grow up, they bring their kids. In fact, we use that on our letterhead: generations of roller skating tradition.”
To be successful in the rolling skating business, “You have to keep it fresh. And you have to keep it disciplined,” Young Link said. Consistency is also important.
Although there are few roller skating rinks in the region, competition is everywhere, Link said.
“We compete with Sony. We compete with Walt Disney. We compete with Sears, J.C. Penney, the mall. Anything that takes someone’s consideration for leisure is what we compete with,” he said. “We have to make ourselves attractive to those people when they think, ‘What are we going to do this weekend? Let’s go roller skating.’ That’s the first thing we want them to think about.”
The business uses a series of promotions and advertisements and tries to introduce new features every year or so, including a glow-in-the-dark room for birthday parties and skating aids that help beginner skaters balance themselves. The rink has also been tying into national promotions touting roller skating as exercise.
Recreational skating and birthday parties make up much of the rink’s business.
“Roller skating is one of those recreational pastimes that transcends just recreation. It transcends gender and age,” he said. “We just had a birthday party for one of our skaters who turned 85 years old. Judy has taught kids to skate when they were 2 years old, barely walking.”
The rink is also home to clubs for figure skaters, speed skaters and roller hockey teams.
A Zumba class — not on roller skates — also uses the rink several times a week.
Most of the music that plays for skaters is digital now, although the skating center still hangs onto its musical past — a vast assortment of 45 rpm records. Link estimates the vinyl collection at about 20,000 titles.
“We had an original ‘Twist and Shout’ by the Beatles,” he said.
The business employs about 25 to 30 people, including a number of young adults over the years who got their first work experience at the skating rink, Link said.
“Even now we have two kids who worked here, are now engaged, and they’re going to have their reception here,” he said.
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