Roman Oberemok looked at the old roller rink inside and out, and he saw possibilities.
He could see a spacious building perfect for warehousing for his family’s trucking company, its clients or others. He could envision a subdivided space with storefronts for varied businesses, and the monthly rental income they would provide.
He saw many opportunities, and none of them had anything to do with roller skates.
“I know trucking and logistics,” Oberemok said. “We’re not in entertainment.”
But an outpouring of memories from the Spokane community, a social media explosion lamenting the pending closure of Roller Valley and a moment of clarity in faith changed that, and help explain how a family-owned trucking company now finds itself in the family-entertainment business.
Oberemok and brothers Timofey and Dmitriy own TDR Logistics, a company founded in 1997 by their father, Nikolay, a year after the family immigrated from Ukraine. The trucking firm, on Geiger Road near Spokane International Airport, is in the process of buying and reopening the skating venue after it was put up for sale by the family of owner Colleen Bernstein, whose death led to its closing Sept. 1, ending 42 years in business.
The Oberemoks’ interest was piqued when a real estate agent, knowing of TDR’s ongoing diversification into commercial real estate, directed them toward the property on East Fourth Avenue just off Dishman Mica Road. Their commitment to Roller Valley was solidified soon during a visit by the brothers and their wives to the business on its last day, Roman Oberemok said.
“When they saw all the community and people wanting the city to buy this place … and when there were (thousands of views) on Facebook the week they were closing, we thought, they must really want this place to stay open,” he said, perhaps overstating what was nevertheless a significant reaction to the sale on social media.
“It’s a culmination of all these comments and our wives said, ‘This will really break the heart of the community. Why don’t we try to run this?’ ”
A vision and mission
Oberemok talks with his hands and speaks with anticipation as he explains what he and his family have planned for the venerable rink. His words come quickly as his eyes pan the cavernous room and he explains what he sees – a concession area and the rink as they were, what they look like now and what they will become.
A visitor to the rink earlier this week would have seen cosmetic changes to the business in their finishing stages. Patrons of the rink will find its former red, white and blue interior sporting neutral earth tones and fittings reminiscent of their home’s living or family room. Carpet has been cleaned and ultimately will be replaced.
An area with inflatable jumping gym for older kids and a play area for younger tykes are taking shape at the closed end of the rink. Other changes will include what Oberemok calls a European-style cafe setting, complete with high-capacity espresso machine, new tables and chairs, and comfortable furniture throughout for sitting and talking with others.
Some standard concession fare will remain on the menu, but healthier food is planned by Oberemok’s wife, Julia, a manager at an area bakery and coffeehouse. And there will be desserts, pastries and baked goods from a nearby Ukrainian bakery.
“You are going to be a regular customer just because of the cakes,” Oberemok said.
In the short term, the focus is on being ready for Roller Valley’s grand reopening at noon Friday and continuing the business on a solid footing.
“If we cover our cost of operation, that’s what we’re hoping,” Dmitriy Oberemok said.
Such a humble goal may already be realized. Several roller derby teams have booked the rink, and area schools have reserved it for schoolwide skates.
“We have only one free night, and it’s Mondays,” Roman Oberemok said.
But the Oberemoks hope for much more than a profitable business. Their plans are to provide “something different” at Roller Valley, guided by their Christian faith and what they believe is a sense of the rink’s place in building God’s kingdom, Oberemok said.
A volunteer at an area rehabilitation facility, Oberemok said he has seen the impact that lack of parental involvement has on a child’s life, when working with 20-year-olds, some of whom began using drugs when they were 12 or 13. He believes Roller Valley can play a role in bridging that gap.
He’s striving to create a space where families want to come to have fun and connect, where parents and their children can meet and enjoy time with other families. He wants Roller Valley to be a recreational venue with a welcoming environment for community events or for those who want to meet with other believers.
“We want this to be a Christian place for people to come for fellowship,” said Oberemok, adding he and his wife would like to build out a space inside the rink where Christian-related items may be purchased and enjoyed.
His family’s goal also is to provide a refuge amid the family fun, where troubled youths drawn to street life or unhealthy choices can talk with parents or others willing to listen; where parents distracted by life’s daily demands can remember they have children who deserve their time.
Oberemok said it’s the underlying mission his family wants for the new Roller Valley: to provide a wholesome atmosphere where bonds between parents and their children can be strengthened against a world that he sees as increasingly hostile toward families.
“Family is really important to us, from a Christian point of view,” Oberemok said. “We want this to be a place for families, not just their kids.”
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