SAN DIEGO – She’s got working toe stops on her well-worn pair of roller skates, but outside the skating rink, there seems to be no stopping business owner Nili “Ringer” Goldfarb.
A longtime roller derby skater known as Isabelle Ringer, Goldfarb is the founder and owner of Encanto-headquartered Ringer’s Roller Rink, an outdoor skating venue. Initially opened as Derby United in 2020, Ringer’s runs along a 2-acre stretch of Federal Boulevard in San Diego, parallel to state Route 94.
The venue sports a banked track for roller derby participants, and a large, dedicated rink that draws skaters every day and night of the week (weather permitting). Over the roar of cars on the freeway, DJs spin music out of a painted “boom box” that overlooks the rink, while Ringer’s brightly colored murals, hundreds of thriving succulents, and spots around the rink are stacked with roller-skating shwag that offer Instagram-able photo ops, with bright lights keeping the venue shining at night.
While there are dedicated “adults only” nights, Ringer’s hosts kids’ birthday parties and other events in its three private rental areas. Especially popular with women and also families with young children, the venue also holds fundraisers for community groups, offers youth roller derby training and is the home track for adult roller derby bouts featuring Derby United teams.
While there has been a steady decline in roller rinks across the United States as the popularity of skating has dwindled, with the number of roller skaters in the U.S. decreasing from 19.8 million in 2006 to 11.5 million by 2017 and 11.3 million in 2021, according to Statista, Goldfarb is unfazed.
Tourists an Untapped Market
Goldfarb, who traveled around the globe playing and coaching roller derby for two decades, has a loyal following on social media with the tight-knit local skating community. In working to draw both more locals as well as out-of-towners, she reached out to the San Diego Tourism Authority for help with what has been an untapped market for the venue – people visiting San Diego.
Ringer’s was chosen by the SDTA along with nine other local businesses — from more than 50 applicants — to be part of a cohort that will be guided through the private nonprofit’s 2024-25 Tourism Accelerator. The initiative provides a year of mentorship and more to businesses that the SDTA says is valued at more than $15,000 per participant.
“A woman-owned business, (Goldfarb) is passionate about the sport and bringing it to the community,” said Theresa Cunningham, director of DEI and community engagement at the SDTA. “For her, it’s about creating a space to connect and share passion with women don’t know about the sport. We look across a number of types of businesses and we are being intentional about touching different parts of our sector with our program.”
Sponsored by SDGE, The Shipyard and MyPoint Credit Union, SDTA’s accelerator will offer those in the cohort a suite of services including free SDTA membership, free admission to select events and special access to SDTA senior staff, board members and program investors; business services and coaching from the top providers in San Diego in finance, risk management, commercial real estate, operations and marketing.
It also includes a $500 voucher for a course through UC San Diego Extension; free advertising in brochure racks at over 450 locations in San Diego from Certified Folder; a $1,000 credit to use on SDTA’s digital advertising platforms and a free quarter-page ad in the San Diego Business Journal.
The accelerator promotes diversity, equity and inclusion in the local tourism industry by providing free membership, mentoring, education and networking opportunities to businesses owned by women, veterans, people of color, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Goldfarb, a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston who left her job as a freelance video editor when she became general manager of the San Diego Derby Dolls in 2005, says she hopes that being part of the accelerator will help pave the way for Ringer’s to gain a larger and largely untapped audience.
She said while most people come to the venue once and love it, they don’t necessarily return for a future visit.
“We’ve had great marketing through word of mouth,” Goldfarb said. “The amount of people who book birthday parties here who have never been here is unbelievable. I would say that 50% of the people that throw a birthday party here have never come before, but they just heard about it and they were looking for somewhere to throw a party that met their price point in their dates they thought it would be cute.”
Goldfarb hopes that the accelerator will help her plan appropriately to get Ringer’s more squarely into the public eye both for San Diego locals as well as for people who are coming through San Diego as a visitor, those who are looking for things to do around the county.
“I would like someone to take a look at what we’re doing with our branding and marketing and say, ‘What you’re doing is perfect,’ but I would actually prefer that they tell me that what we’re doing is not perfect and give us a bunch of suggestions of how we could improve,” she said. “And also I would like someone to look at what our sales opportunities are how can we be reaching the people that are coming to San Diego.”
Ringer’s Roller Rink
FOUNDER: Nili “Ringer” Goldfarb
REVENUE: $500,000 in 2023
SOCIAL IMPACT: Highly engaged in the local community. Holds regular events supporting local organizations. Participates in social outreach with various community groups. Provides an attraction to an underserved neighborhood of San Diego.