Programme Looks Back on 5 Years of Nurturing Fullerton's Music and Skate Scene
Efram Schulz (left) and Chris Gronowski (right)
The amalgamation of skateboarding and punk rock shows have undoubtedly shaped the culture and legendary of Southern California, and this tradition is kept alive nearly every night of the week at Programme Skate and Sound in Fullerton. Now in its 5th year of business, Programme has become a hotspot for North County skaters and music fans alike, cultivating and supporting the local scene, featuring touring acts like Bane and Real Friends, providing a unique blend of skate gear and lifestyle wear, and even sponsoring local skaters. While they have already accomplished a lot for a quaint store wedged in the corner of a suburban shopping center, owner Chris Gronowski has the humble yet driving energy of a man on the ground floor of something bigger than himself, and it seems like he’s just getting started.
Gronowski first fell in love with skateboarding as a kid after receiving a California Free Former as a gift in the first grade, and like many OC kids, he spent the majority of his adolescence either on a board or a BMX bike. It wasn’t until he was a teen that Gronowski was drawn to the rebellious and infectious energy of punk and hip-hop, which would shape the trajectory of his life. “I heard X, the Ramones, Adam Ant and the Dead Kennedys and I was hooked,” Gronowski says. "[After discovering] Run-DMC, Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul, I knew I had to do something with [music].” He goofed around on instruments but never quite found his footing, “At the end of the day I’m just a fan, I was mediocre at best but loved it.” From then on, fandom became a driving force in Gronowski’s life.
Because of his love of both music and skateboarding, he worked in both fields, a connection that feels natural for him. He DJ’d for a while and opened his own skate shop, but after a while of managing a “core skate shop” Gronowski dreamed of pushing the boundaries “of what a skate shop is supposed to be.” Despite the recession, he, along with business partner Efrem Schulz (better known as vocalist of Death By Stereo) hustled and opened the doors to their dream store in 2011. DIY spirit is integral to Programme. “From the floors, to fixtures, to walls, to funding it, we literally did it all ourselves. We knew no other way,” Gronowski says.
Programme’s location is not by chance. Gronowski and Schulz came of age skating and going to shows Orange, Buena Park and Anaheim, so bringing a spot that bridged their passions home was central to their mission. They chose their spot because of Fullerton’s rich punk history and as a tribute to the now defunct Fullerton location of Bionic Records, which was Gronowski’s favorite shop that once stood directly across the street from where Programme stands today. They embrace their North County roots so much that they started making locally themed merch such as their Cal Skate Fullerton longsleeve. “Every current or former CSUF student loves it especially if they skate. Not to mention the skaters who have gotten kicked off campus numerous times for shredding all over the quad, like our team rider Ducky Kovacs who's a current CSUF student who 5-0’d the hubba at the bookstore before anyone else.”
Gronowski believes having shows at Programme is necessary and a way to build community. “Its all part of the experience, you grow up skating, listening to records and going to shows, ultimately you meet someone at a skate spot that becomes your friend, your comrade. Same thing at a show, you make an acquaintance, that’s a pal for life.” His vision has made Programme a staple in the local DIY scene, drawing headlining touring acts like Rusko, Turnstile, Real Friends, Angel Du$t, and Bane, and providing a space for locals to play without pay-to-play, label support, or age restrictions. “Watching up and comers like Fury, Floorboards, Crow Baby, Line Brawl, Warfare, Dog Party or Fugue grow and develop is special,” Gronowski says, “you need a place to nurture art.”
The skate and lifestyle side of their business is just as important and integral to what they do as music. From sponsoring locals to having pro appearances in the shop like multiple pro teams, Chris Cole, Ray Barbee, or Tony Alva, Gronowski loves to cultivate passion for skating in the next generation of OC shredders. In addition to walls and glass cases packed with skate gear, they carry shoes and unique accessories like a wide variety of limited edition enamel pins by local artists, and tees like Gronowski’s favorite, “The Smith Grind tee by Everybody Skates, featuring Morrissey doing a Smith Grind on a ledge.”
Programme has been a success since opening its doors 5 years ago, and Gronowski has his sights set on the future with dreams of expanding and possibly creating a label. For now, Programme has a bunch of upcoming events including a benefit for victims of domestic abuse put on by a new Long Beach based collective called Making a Change, a benefit for the family of Nathan Alfaro featuring Death Hymn Number Nine, record store day, and a meet and greet with hip hop legend Masta Ace.
It’s a lot of work, but Gronowski couldn’t be happier. “We get so hyped seeing fresh decks or crisp vinyl records come right out of the boxes, Jason our shop dude says its Christmas Day every day. Ultimately Efrem and I just wanted a place that we would’ve have gone to growing up.”