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Merchant Cycles comes home to Emporia, Kansas

Published May 19, 2023
The Mid South's Bobby Wintle and GU's Yuri Hauswald join Tim and Kristi Mohn in ownership of the rebranded bike shop.

By Betsy Welch

EMPORIA, Kan. (VELONEWS) — Just as Beyonce instructed, Yuri Hauswald and Bobby Wintle are putting a figurative "ring on it."

The ring being Merchant Cycles, a rebranded and reimagined bike shop in downtown Emporia, Kansas. Hauswald and Wintle, both well-known in the U.S. gravel scene, have joined Tim and Kristi Mohn in ownership of the shop formerly known as Gravel City Adventure & Supply Co.

Merchant Cycles launched May 18, with Hauswald, Wintle, and the Mohns celebrating among longtime Emporia locals, friends, and visitors.

The store will continue to serve as a hub during the days leading up to and during Unbound Gravel, but the new owners, along with the shop team led by Matt Fowler, hope that it becomes a gathering space for local and visiting cyclists all year long.

All roads lead to Emporia

Although neither Wintle and Hauswald live there, Emporia holds special significance for both.

Wintle, born and raised in Parsons, Kansas, lived in the Flint Hills town for five years. It's where he and his wife Crystal spent the first years of their marriage before moving to Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 2011. There, Wintle opened a bike shop, District Bicycles, and founded the Land Run 100, now called the Mid South, in 2013.

The Mid South was largely influenced by Wintle's many years riding the then-DK, now-Unbound Gravel race in Emporia.

"The Midwestern hospitality. I felt wrapped in a warm embrace from that (Emporia) community." — Yuri Hauswald

In fact, it was at the 2013 DK that Wintle met Hauswald; although, the two had no idea then how their lives would intersect some 10 years later.

Hauswald, a Californian who'd never been to Kansas, was sent to Emporia in 2013 on a work trip as GU's athlete services manager.

What stuck out about that first trip was "the Midwestern hospitality," Hauswald said. "I felt wrapped in a warm embrace from that community."

That weekend, he happened to be sleeping in DK co-founder Lelan Dains' attic, while Bobby and Crystal Wintle camped out in the living room downstairs. They all would compete in the race that year — the Wintles on their tandem — and continue to cross paths as both gravel, and their involvement in it, grew. 

For Hauswald, this meant becoming a dedicated gravel racer for a few years.

"That event had me evolve as a racer. I became a gravel racer because of it," he said. "After '13, for four years, I was really serious, following a plan, chasing the podium."

 In 2015, he won the event.

Merchant Cycles' new ownership is a living embodiment of relationships forged in the gravel community.

Both Hauswald and Wintle are good friends with Tim and Kristi Mohn, who have both lived in Emporia for decades. Tim Mohn raced the first edition of DK in 2006, and Kristi joined the event staff a few years later.

In 2015, Gravel City Adventure & Supply Co. was born in the storeroom of the DK office, "mostly to help sell sponsor product," Tim Mohn said. In 2016, Mohn, Dains, and another DK co-founder, Jim Cummins, expanded the operation into a full bike shop. After four years, Mohn and Dains bought Cummins out.

Now, Hauswald and Wintle have taken over Dains' share in the company; the Mohns retain the other half.

New name, new vibe, same great service

The new ownership will help breathe new life into Merchant Cycles, with Hauswald and Wintle's industry connections adding to an already well-connected shop.

However, it's Fowler, lead mechanic Isaac Cushenberry, and the other full-time staff who will interface with customers, continuing to shape its culture.

Both Fowler and Cushenberry were born and raised in Emporia and have watched gravel blossom on the roads they call home. Cushenberry, said Fowler, started at Gravel City as an intern, "the high school kid that wouldn't go away. Now he's wrenching on the top pro's bikes."

For Fowler, the rebrand represents a synchronicity. Although he became shop manager just a year ago, he's been running the Gravel Guru website and podcast for eight years. He's known the Mohns for decades, has raced every edition of the Mid South, and remembers reading about Hauswald's victory in 2015 when he was working for the Emporia Gazette.

"It really brings things full circle," he said. "It's cool to have a former champion, and the fact that three of them are in the gravel hall of fame. At the end of day we want to have a top caliber shop here in Emporia."

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