RICHMOND, VA (BRAIN) Jan 26, 10:29 MT—Ann “Spike” Toller views Coqui Cyclery as part business, part community service project.
Seeing a need for a bike shop in Richmond’s Woodland Heights neighborhood, she selected a location across from the mountain biking trails of Forest Hills Park and the Crossroads coffee shop, a popular post-ride gathering spot for cyclists.
Also wanting to beautify the neighborhood, Toller chose its biggest eyesore to set up shop—a dilapidated former appliance store that had been vacant ever since a car crashed through the front of the building in 2005. It hadn’t even had working electricity since that time.
Though Toller, who has raced mountain bikes for more than 25 years, had the funds to refurbish the space, she didn’t have the technical expertise to run a bike shop. Enter Clint Kronenberger, practically born with a wrench in his hand as the son of a Florida bike shop owner.
Said Toller: “For many years I’ve had a desire to learn more about bike mechanics because it’s very tough if you take your bike in when you have a race to know if the mechanic is going to fix the problem. So I started learning about it and took some classes. Then I met Clint when he moved here from Florida and was working at another shop. I was just amazed. Him fixing a bike is like tying our shoes. He was building wheels at the age of 9. It’s just second nature to him.”
Toller asked to apprentice under Kronenberger, learning many tricks of the bike trade over seven months. When Toller mentioned that for about 10 years she had toyed with the idea of opening a shop, Kronenberger said he wanted to have his own business too. A partnership was born.
Refurbishing the 1,500-square-foot space has been like opening a time capsule, Toller said. Signs layered on the front of the building hark back all the way to its original incarnation: a service station in the 1940s. That sign will be hung in the bike shop’s service area. Toller also found receipt books dating to the ’40s.
Community reaction to the renovation has been gratifying, noted Toller. “We’ve had people who don’t even ride bikes come up and say, ‘We’re so appreciative you’re here. We’re so grateful. You’ve really made this area look better,’ ” she said.
Toller and Kronenberger hope to open Coqui, named after a breed of tree frog, in February as they await permit approvals and inspections. They are targeting springtime for a grand opening celebration. The shop will carry bikes from Pivot and a second brand still to be determined. Toller will lead shop mountain bike rides, while Kronenberger will handle the road side.
The partners’ goals for Coqui remain humble. “We don’t ever want to get bigger. We want one shop, and we want it to be a neighborhood bike shop where we really give back to the community because we love this area,” Toller said.