My old skates are just that–old. Twenty years old, to be exact, with many miles on them thanks to New York City’s Wollman rinks and a large lake in New Hampshire. And though they continue to be quite serviceable indoors at South Mountain Arena, Floyd Hall or the Clary Anderson rink, they no longer provide the warmth my toes need outside. And outside skating beats inside skating any day of the week.
So I went on a search for new skates, and being as price conscious as anybody these days, I headed to the big-box stores. The Sports Authority near Willowbrook didn’t have my size on its picked-over shelves. The nearby Modell’s on 46 had my size, but not in the insulated kind of skate I now need. And so I headed home, to the corner of Bloomfield and Lakeside, to Ben’s Verona Sports Center.
Ben’s has been a Verona fixture since 1972, and a newbie to town could be forgiven for thinking owner Ben Leuzzi only does men’s hockey. That sport dominates the store at this time of year, but there’s a lot more here than what’s on display.
“I have everything for everybody,” says Leuzzi. “I’ve got girls and ladies figure skates and kid’s hockey skates. I’ve got adjustables and clip-ons. I’ve got recreational skates and competitive. We do every type of skating that people need in this area.”
Be prepared for a non-big-box experience. If you are buying skates for your kids, you better have your kids along, because Leuzzi takes proper fitting quite seriously. When I tried on the skates he had measured for me, I told him the left skate was tighter in the toe box than the right. “That’s because your left foot is a quarter-inch longer,” he informed me. But despite Leuzzi’s insistence on getting things measured and laced right, I was out the door in under 30 minutes, which left me plenty of time on the quarter I put in the parking meter.
Had the big-box stores had my size and model, I might have saved a few bucks, but not much, and the same is true for kids’ skates. The clip-ons make toddler skating a no-brainer and the adjustables will get you through two winters and rink skating in-between. Plus, Leuzzi has a skate-sharpening card that gives you every fifth sharpening free.
Ben’s is open 10-7 Monday to Friday, Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 10-3, and the address is 553 Bloomfield Avenue.