Transition at Chez Vous: As skating culture grows, the Toney family adopts a new personality
While the owners of the Chez Vous skating rink make a living by riding, the family business is going nowhere. The smell of fried chicken, a freshly polished maple wood floor and the sound of wheels rolling on hip-hop and R&B classics define a community staple at the crossroads of Dorchester and Mattapan that is recognizable to many. in one look.
These days, the rink is getting even more attention with a fresh look as pop culture turns in favor of Chez Vous.
Founded in 1933 at the intersection of Morton Street and Blue Hill Avenue, the rink has been a black-owned family business since the 1990s, when Edward Toney Sr. purchased it from Bernard Leventhal, a long-time family friend with whom he had worked before the sale. Coming out of the pandemic, the business was passed on to Toney’s children, Derick Foster-Toney and Edward Toney, Jr. Now the two brothers are welcoming a new generation of jammers and wheel dancers.
Foster-Toney was practically born with skates on his feet; he started skating at the age of 10 months. “It’s tradition,” he said in an interview. “If you’re a skater, it’s almost against the code not to get your child on skates as soon as possible.”
Chez Vous co-owners Derick Foster-Toney, left, and Edward Toney, Jr., right, with their friend Cleon Byron, who helps promote some skating events at the rink.
In 2014, he was the first to get on board with his dad and take his own step by starting a side business called Boston Swerve to promote roller skating in the area and across the country.
“I took the first interest because I have a personal love for roller skating that goes beyond ownership of the place,” Foster-Toney said. “I was at the forefront, then my siblings came along and now we run it every day without my parents. We started together just before the pandemic, then we had to shut down for a long time, and now we have taken over and we are running it together at full speed.
Foster-Toney notes that there are many in the community and beyond who are unaware of the dynamic history of Chez Vous as it has always been known. Beyond the classic, high-quality flooring that can’t be found anywhere, there’s also the memories and community that have sprung up around this unique Dorchester/Mattapan-based company.
“Chez Vous goes back so many generations,” Foster-Toney said. “There are so many different eras of Chez Vous to talk about. It’s truly a mainstay, not just to this community, but to Greater Boston, the state, and New England – not to mention the celebrities who have passed through or played here. People consider Chez Vous to be more than your average rink.
When the Toney family took over the rink in the 1990s, it adapted to its current personality – colorful lighting, a wall of graffiti, school outings and an extensive menu including fried chicken, handmade pizzas and even full dinners.
The facility may have been taken for granted at times, but today it’s starting to gain regional recognition, said Foster-Toney, who suggests the newfound recognition has a lot to do with the sudden popularity of the roller skating in the media, where teens and adults, young and old, are hooked on the roller rink scene.
Roller skating culture was alive and well before the pandemic, he said, but during rink closures people tried different things, one of which was pulling their old skates out of the closet, putting their headphones and skate on the tennis or basketball court.
“It’s a good thing that could be a good thing,” Foster-Toney said. “Skating never went away, but it also never had this media push that kept it in front of people like it does now…It helps to have this new interest and people see celebrities rollerskating and they want to do the same… I just hope rinks like ours take advantage of this moment.
The Toney brothers said they’re doing everything they can to showcase their product in new ways, from growing the base of school groups to promoting young adult skates to hosting parties at theme. The work to keep people’s attention on the business is ongoing. Part of that challenge, Foster-Toney said, is being a black-owned business in Dorchester.
“It’s harder for a black-owned business to keep that business afloat because our neighborhood is stigmatized, and we’re underappreciated and underappreciated,” he said. “You don’t get the same praise for Dorchester as you do for Boylston Street or the town centre. They have the same problems as us, but they highlight their successes and only highlight our problems. Often foreigners don’t want to come here because of the stigma.
However, the legacy of Chez Vous allows the family to move forward with new ideas and constant reinvention. While some in the neighborhood and beyond might bristle at the thought of coming to skate on Blue Hill Avenue, more and more people these days are focusing on the near-perfect skating rink that has just enough grip and great glide to deliver the best skating in Boston. has to offer.
“I’d rather not have it easy and be in control of what I do than just be appreciated for being here,” Foster-Toney said. “We have no intention of going anywhere. It’s more important now because at the same time, we have people coming from every neighborhood and from all over Greater Boston – and states like Rhode Island and Connecticut. It’s much more diverse now than it ever was. It’s a good sign that people from all over the world want to come here and be part of this unique thing that we have in Dorchester.
Chez Vous is located at 11 Rhodes Ave. For detailed hours of operation and special events, visit chezvousrollerrink.com.