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Hawthorn Vans opening brings skatboarding legends

Brian Teresi 16 VernHills gets autographs from pro skateboarders John Cardiel Tony Alvnew Vans store Westfield Hawthorn Mall Sunday April

Brian Teresi, 16, of Vernon Hills gets autographs from pro skateboarders John Cardiel and Tony Alva at the new Vans store in Westfield Hawthorn Mall on Sunday, April 14. | Natasha Wasinski~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 21, 2013 6:03AM

Megan Kiram’s heart raced when she stopped by a coffee shop in Westfield Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills before work Sunday afternoon, April 14, then spotted a dreadlocked man inside the store nonchalantly ordering a tea.

Instantly, the 19-year-old realized it was skateboarding legend Tony Alva, flanked by fellow pro-athlete John Cardiel.

“I was freaking out,” said Kiram, of Vernon Hills.

Alva and Cardiel were in town to promote skate-shoe retailer Vans’ newest store at Hawthorn Mall, where Kiram works.

A crowd of roughly 50, mostly-male fans didn’t hide their excitement at the chance to kick it with the California skateboarders.

“I think it’s really tight,” Brian Teresi, 16, said of the meet-and-greet, especially since his black sneakers now sport the skateboarders’ autographs.

A near-speechless Joseph Brignon traveled two hours from Normal to meet Cardiel.

“He’s the man,” the 21-year-old said.

It was dumb luck for Long Grove resident Richie Cellura to be at the mall the same day as his idol, 55-year-old Alva, who is considered by many fans to be one of most influential skateboarders of all time.

“This is awesome,” Cellura said. “He started it all.”

But a hard spill caused Cellura to give up on the dream to follow in the skateboarder’s shoes. He now opts to travel by longboard.

Cardiel himself was almost permanently sidelined a decade ago while filming the movie “Tent City” in Australia. After sustaining a spinal cord injury unrelated to skateboarding, doctors told him he might not walk again, let alone ride.

Cardiel said he and his skateboarding friends did things their own way growing up.

“We didn’t want to be told what to do,” he said.

That attitude got him through his paralysis and today he walks with a limp.

Alva said skateboarding, in a sense, demands a tough ego. He learned over time to keep his pride in check, and now mostly looks forward to mentoring up-and-coming athletes.

“It’s all about the kids,” Alva said.

Trevor Moore prepped for his time with Alva and Cardiel by watching a movie featuring the two skaters the night before.

Moore has been skateboarding for nine of his 12 young years. It’s not unusual for him to spend nine hours at a skate park in Lake Bluff on both Saturday and Sundays, said his mom, Carol Bleck.

Practice has paid off since the tween can now land a tre flip. Nevermind that it took two years to perfect the 360-degree kick flip maneuver.

“It’s something fun to keep me active,” Moore said of skateboarding.

The autograph signing and the April 5 arrival of Vans — which sells sports shoes in addition to skating accessories and apparel — is in line with Westfield’s goal to give shoppers an experience they can’t get online.

To make this happen, the mall is opening a slate of new niche stores that provide special services and merchandise offered only in person.

The experiences Westfield wants to sell span across demographics, officials said. After new fashion and beauty retailers added this winter settle in, such as Sephora and Aveda, new venues targeted at primarily male and teenage demographics are next.

— Pioneer Press staff writer Rick Kambic contributed to this report.

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