Whitefish-based Recycled Skateboards International creates jewelry, home goods from busted boards

The roots of Devin and Lisa Kelley’s Whitefish-based business, Recycled Skateboards International, lie in a kindergarten classroom in Phoenix, Ariz.

A few years ago, Lisa volunteered for a project in their son Caden’s class, which involved making a birdhouse without spending any money in the process. Devin and Lisa scoured the local box stores for excess or cheap wood, but couldn’t find any.

Inspiration struck when Devin scanned their backyard.

“I got home and I was looking around the yard and had a stack of old skateboards,” Devin, a skateboarder for 25 years, said.

The resulting birdhouse made from skateboard pieces was a hit in Caden’s class; it was eventually auctioned off and garnered the highest price. People started approaching the Kelleys, telling them they would buy skateboard birdhouses if there were more.

“People wanted them,” Devin said. “And it was like, ‘Whoa, what else can we do?’”

The answer to that question is now stocking the shelves in skateboard shops and boutiques from the Flathead to Arizona. RSI, which makes jewelry, home wares and belt buckles out of broken or old skateboards, took off exponentially almost immediately after the Kelleys established it in March 2012.

“It’s really amazing how easy it’s happened and how organic,” he said. “Within the first week, we were in five shops.”

Devin used his connections to the skateboarding world to get more broken pieces to work with; many of the distributors, manufacturers and skateboard shops would simply donate their broken or blemished boards to the Kelleys instead of throwing them away.

Roughly 2 million skateboards end up in landfills across America each year, Devin noted, and there are plenty of people who want to find effective ways to recycle them.

For the Kelleys, it meant having plenty to work with to create earrings, rings, necklaces, belt buckles, picture frames, tissue boxes, drink coasters and more. RSI also recently launched a clothing line.

Locally, these products can be found at Sappari and the Chill Clothing Co. in Whitefish, as well as Spirit Skate Shop in Kalispell. RSI designs are also found in three Missoula shops, including Rockin’ Rudy’s, and in another 20 stores across Colorado and Arizona.

About seven months ago, the family moved to Whitefish from Arizona, having fallen in love with the area during a vacation three years earlier. Now, with a workshop on U.S. Highway 2 between Columbia Falls and Kalispell and products in local shops, the Kelleys have become Flathead entrepreneurs.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” Devin said.

For more information on Recycled Skateboards International, visit www.recycledskateboardsinternational.com.