At Fargo INC!, one of our favorite things to do is introduce you to local entrepreneurs. Every single person we talk to has a unique story and background, equipping them with an equally diverse set of ideas to contribute to the community. Longtime skateboarding enthusiast and entrepreneur, Tom Kemmer, is no different.
At 46, Kemmer is no longer pushing his limits when it comes to the tricks he is landing on his skateboard, however, he is certainly pushing the envelope in his other pursuits, a list which includes:
- Kemmco Construction – His construction business focuses on high-end custom projects.
- KidCo. Children’s Museum – Opening soon, the KidCo. Children’s Museum will provide children the opportunity to “get their wiggles out” with awesome interactive play areas.
- Hawk’s Nest – A private indoor skatepark that is occasionally open to the public.
- Harold’s On Main – A bar located on Main in Moorhead featuring cocktails, live music and so much more!
- North Dakota Skateboarding Association – “The mission of the NDSA is to generate opportunities that increase skateboarding participation amongst youth and help the community better understand the physical, mental and social benefits of the sport. The NDSA is open to all demographic and economic statuses with a focus on at-risk youth to ensure they have a place to belong in the skateboarding community.”
Check out our exclusive preview of KidCo. Children’s Museum in our debut issue of Trendsetters! This magazine will feature your inside look at KidCo. and other trendsetting individuals and businesses in our community. Watch out for Trendsetters, coming out this month!
We managed to catch up with the busy man for a quick Q&A!
How did you get into all of these pursuits?
I don’t know. I guess with construction, my dad had a flooring company and I worked with him off and on growing up. Then, I moved to the cities after going to MSUM for art for a couple of years—photography, printmaking and stuff like that. A bunch of the guys in the Art Department graduated and had been there longer. We decided to go to the cities and pursue music and art and skateboarding, basically, but really the intent was to play music and see how far we could take it.
I was there for 10 years doing those 3 things and then when I moved back, I fell into the construction world and didn’t want to do floors. I wanted to do something a little more creative so I started my own company. We predominantly do finish work and more so elevated things. We do a lot of custom stuff.
That helped me meet a lot of people around town. There were a couple of years that I spent out in the woods after [moving back from] the cities where a buddy of mine and I foraged for mushrooms and fished.
Yeah, we did that by Pine River. A good friend of mine was there and he was trying to start a bar over there, he asked me to come live there. He had a rambler and 10 acres of land and it was really ridiculously awesome for $500 a month. We did a lot of hunting and fishing, I was always really big into that, as well as mushroom foraging. It was nice because that is a hot area for people from the cities in the summer. So, we could go to a bar around there and get a nice party vibe or we could explore the woods and go camping and whatnot. I love the fact that I was able to do that with one of my very best friends.
How did you make money while you were living in the woods?
I would come back here and work for my dad. I could work for a week and do 80 to 100 hours and then go back. The money went a lot further out there.
Where did you get your experience to start Harold’s?
Through my involvement with music in Minneapolis. Ralph’s Bar in Moorhead is where we all cut our teeth playing music. If you were a touring band coming from Missoula, this would be a place on the punk rock map that you would stop. The White Stripes actually played there before they blew up.
Ultimately, when Harold’s started being talked about, my friend put it out there asking what people here would think if he started a bar and I told him that I would build it for him. It’s basically a bunch of old musicians who own the bar. They also have one in Brooklyn. So, they knew the recipe, they knew what they wanted to do and they needed a local contractor.
Now, we’re going to be four years old. My buy-in to the business was basically my work building it.
What venture takes up most of your time?
Right now, I’m spending most of my time on the KidCo. Museum, which is going to be more of an interactive play area for kids. There will be a music stage, a puppet stage and a tiny town.
I’ve also been doing a lot with the North Dakota Skateboarding association because that is very new. We just got approved as a 501(c)(3) and we got into Giving Hearts Day so we want to keep the momentum going and keep pounding the pavement. It’s a tremendous opportunity to be given because I didn’t apply for it. It was kind of given to us by people who really believed in what we were doing. They have been very instrumental in pushing things forward.
The North Dakota Skateboarding Association was accepted into Giving Hearts Day this year and you can donate to their cause today! Just click the link!
What are you trying to accomplish with the North Dakota Skateboarding Association?
To create opportunities for skateboarding and highlight the physical, mental and social benefits that come with skateboarding with an emphasis on at-risk youth.
Part of our mission is to also get a new public park built. The first thing we want is a public, subsidized, indoor park. The Hawk’s Nest is great but that’s private. We open it up to the public because we see the need, but we would like to have a 5,000 to 6,000 sq. ft. indoor park to keep kids skating year-round. That will allow us to do other programs like an after-school program.
Since we brought the Hawk’s Nest back, me and my partner, Ryan Turner, have been all about visibility. We have been trying to talk to everybody and anybody who will listen. Things really fell into place from there. I got asked to do TEDxFARGO and was supposed to talk for three minutes about skateboarding. Then, Greg Tehven came to visit our place during go skateboarding day. He was going to stay for 20 minutes but ended up staying for two hours. The next day I got an email that said I would be speaking for 10-12 minutes.
There is a huge need for this. These kids need that release during the worst time of year. And this can really help with the retention of youth which is something that people really want around here.
What does skateboarding do for you?
It’s just an endorphin rush. I still try to skate just about every day. The Hawk’s Nest is right next to my woodshop so it is easy to just go there and roll around for a bit each day. When the body is working right, it’s just an amazing experience. I will do it until I can’t.
Keep up with Kemmer’s many ventures!
302b 39th St N, Fargo
Harold’s On Main
1330 Main Ave SE, Moorhead
North Dakota Skateboarding Association
KidCo. Children’s Museum (Open Soon)
814 Center Ave Suite 3, Moorhead
Facebook: Search KidCo Children’s Museum