Max Kuker remembers sitting in his dad’s pool in California as the old man encouraged him to open his own skateboard shop.
Start with a website and a small stock of small things like trucks and bushings, he’d said to the then-14-year-old Max. Someday, he could have a “forum” – his dad’s word and his dream – for skateboarders to hang out, customize their boards, exchange ideas.
Max’s father, John Kuker, was a recording legend who owned Seedy Underbelly in Minneapolis and Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, paving the way for local musicians like Semisonic and Jonny Lang to launch their stars. He was also an avid skateboarder, placing Max on his own baby penny cruiser when he was just six years old.
Last February, John died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was 40 years old.
“That store, I was always just being like, ‘I could never do that, I could never swing that,’” Max says. “Then after he died, I just kinda realized, I need to do it. He recorded a lot of new Minneapolis bands that were just broke and looking for some way to get their music on CDs. His studio kind of became a haven for creatives. I’m want to make that for skaters.”
Born to skate, Max had also inherited his father’s knack for collecting. Instead of vintage guitars, Max started out as a fixer for other skaters, charging $20 a pop to find rare gear quickly. When that gear piled up, he learned how to maintain it, build boards, and fix anything that could break or bend or shimmy loose.
At 16, Max started with a website, spending long nights trying to figure out how to code it. Then he heard that the storefront next door to his south Minneapolis home and across from Roosevelt High School was available for rent. He turned to his grandparents, who own their own insurance company, to invest.
Grandpa was skeptical that the kid could successfully run a business, Max recalls, but Grandma was excited. She thought it was cute.
Max roped in friends to help clean up the store. One flew in from California just to work for him. They’re all aged 16 to 19 years old – the lost boys, some call them. Sponsors from all over the country invested in their cause.
MXK Skate was born.
But Max’s schooling had to take a back seat. In prioritizing the store, Max would sit in class at South High talking to sales reps on the phone. The teachers let him do his thing. They just needed him to get all his work done, which wasn’t always possible. As a high school sophomore, Max dropped out and enrolled in Cyber Village Academy, an online school, for a couple months before realizing it wasn’t a good fit either.
“For Max, I wish that there would have been some way for the school to support him more in what he wanted to learn,” says mom Amy Buchanan. “School has just been a struggle with him his whole life. He didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to get up. It was boring. He’s not stupid. He’s really smart.”
Max is a passionate learner, Buchanan says. He just wanted to dive deeper into his real interests – business, philosophy, photography. He’s studying for his GED now and applying to college. Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Normandale are possibilities.
MXK’s grand opening is Thursday. The website, MXKskate.com, will be live by then too.
“I’m feeling pretty confident that it’s gonna get at least some business,” Max says.
“Well, you’re right across the street from a school. There are kids checking out the front. Go tell them you open on Thursday,” Buchanan urges him.
“Yeah, I hope we do okay.”