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Roundabout

Roller skating makes a comeback.

Look out! Look out for that kid on . . . roller skates? Despite the fact that in-line skates appeared to all but run over their popularity not so long ago, roller skates are back in vogue. They're pulling a Travolta, if you will.

"I think 1998 is going to be a very strong year for conventional skating," says Jim Ball, 44, president and owner of the South Gate, California, roller-skate manufacturer Sure-Grip International. "It's kind of becoming a cool thing to do."

Ball has plenty of reasons to be optimistic: Sales of conventional skates at Sure-Grip were up 20 percent last year and are expected to increase 25 percent this year. What's more, attendance at roller rinks throughout the country is reportedly up. Throw in a disco ball and a few Donna Summer tunes, and it's the 1970s all over again.

But Ball, who recently supplied skates for a fashion show, says retro appeal isn't the only force propelling roller-skate sales. There's a comfort level and a safety level that in-line skates can't match. Surmises Ball, "Conventional skating is something kids from 1 to 92 can do." And, hey--it's fun.

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This article was originally published in the March 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Roundabout.

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