Suzy Dancisin is on a roll.
On Nov. 7, the owner of Wicked Skatewear, a Los Angeles-based skate shop and clothing brand, opened a location at 4618 Liberty Ave. in Bloomfield.
If you drop by during business hours — 1 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday — you’ll see Dancisin zipping around on her roller skates.
The hardwood floor was a big reason why she chose to occupy the former tattoo parlor.
“There’s a direct connection to me skating and my happiness,” she says. “It forces you to be in the moment. You can’t think about your problems when you’re on skates or you’ll fall down. It’s a nice little break from your brain.”
In addition to apparel, accessories and protective gear, the company offers custom builds. You can bring in your favorite shoes and have them transformed into fast footwear. Dancisin has modified cowboy boots, Dr. Martens and even a pair of high heels for a burlesque dancer on the go-go.
A former sound engineer, the West Deer native moved to California 20 years ago for a change of scenery. She worked random office jobs around L.A. and joined a roller derby league to make new friends.
That’s when Suzy Strychnine was born.
Players and referees adopt tough, punny nicknames. The high-intensity sport boosted her confidence, competitiveness and physical strength. (But any Debbie Gibson song will get her out on the floor doing lighthearted laps. It reminds her of 1980s-era birthday parties at the old Ches-A-Rena in Cheswick.)
Instead of spinning her wheels waiting for a new career opportunity, she made her own by launching Wicked Skatewear in 2006. There are two retail shops on the West Coast along with a production facility, which Dancisin plans to move to Pittsburgh.
She wanted to come back home to serve as a headquarters for area roller skaters, including members of the Steel City Roller Derby and the Pittsburgh Roller Derby Undead, who wage battles at Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena and the Neville Roller Drome.
Dancisin says Wicked Skatewear will be a meeting place for players and will host recruitment events so people can see what derby is all about. She’s also a volunteer for Roller SK8 Connection of Pittsburgh, which gives young people in grades 4 to 12 STEM-related tools through the power of four wheels.
And she has formed a partnership with the local chapter of CIB, which has more than 300 affiliates around the world. Originally, the organization was called Chicks in Bowls and was started to spread the love of quad skating. It has since evolved into a global movement that works to build inclusive and safe communities that educate skaters.
Roller skating is experiencing a pandemic-born boom in popularity as all kinds of people are looking for a fun, physical activity they can do alone or with friends. Folks can get started for between $100 to $400.
Dancisin hopes to offer lessons and, during warm weather months, set up ramps and obstacle courses along Liberty Avenue and Clement Freeway, the free, public graffiti alley next to Trace Brewing.
She’s excited to be back in Pittsburgh, championing the roller derby culture.
“There’s not a lot of full-contact, action sports for women,” she says. “It’s like a disgruntled sorority.”