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State of Retail: Introducing our 2024 panelists and their shops

Published January 31, 2024

A version of this feature ran in the January issue of BRAIN.

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — For our January magazine edition, we introduce our 2024 State of Retail panelists and their shops, representing a variety of bicycle businesses in nine U.S. states.

CARSON CITY, Nev: Win Allen, owner Win’s Wheels

Win Allen

I spent 10 years racing road, mountain, and track bikes starting in 1984 when I was 11-years-old, but I’ve always been more interested in the bike than I was in racing or riding. At the age of 12, I landed my first bike shop job, assembling scooters, BMX, and mountain bikes. For the next 20 years, I worked my way up the ranks to service manager at two shops in Southern California’s Conejo Valley. In 2005, I left shop life briefly to become a field sales and tech rep for Cannondale, but it wasn’t for me. I opened Win's Wheels in Westlake Village, California. In 2007, and relocated the shop to Carson City in 2022. I’m also a USAC Category 1 race mechanic, and I served on the board of directors for the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association and as the vice president of the SoCal High School Mountain Bike League. Win's Wheels is owner operated and focused solely on service of road, mountain, gravel, tri-, and e-bikes. We don’t sell bikes or frames new or used — never have, and never plan to.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Matthew Crawford, manager The Spoke Easy

Matthew Crawford

I began biking for fitness and commuting in college in 2011, and I fell in love with cycling. In 2015 when I was looking for work in Pittsburgh, I found my way into the bike industry. My relationship to cycling has evolved over the years, bouncing down to Charlotte and working both sales and repairs. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, I started working at The Spoke Easy. I've loved being a part of the evolution of our little shop since then.

The Spoke Easy opened in 2011, and our focus is to be a hub for our community. We do that with an emphasis on commuters, urban cycling, custom builds, and cycling infrastructure in Charlotte. Our tight-knit team includes six employees and three owners: Dread Fiyah, Kevin Kennedy, and Chris Scorsone. Part of our unique charm is the beer bar and patio we have in addition to our repair shop.

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio: Jacob English, owner Mountain Road Cycles

Jacob English

I grew up competing in freestyle/BMX, and mountain bike racing in its heyday. I started in the bicycle industry in 1989 as an assembler for our local bike shop and continued on for other companies. I also have experience in construction, real estate, and, since I’m from Cleveland, the music industry; yet, the one thing I was great at and loved most was the bike industry, the relationships built, and all of its nuances.

I opened Mountain Road Cycles in 2004, and I have two locations: Chagrin Falls and Chardon, and between 10-20 employees. We are a mid-sized shop that caters to everyone, from high-end custom and everything in between, to kids bikes, to every family and generation. Business coming out of the pandemic is challenging; yet, at the same time, we have great resolve and history and look forward to seeing everyone enjoying what we enjoy. We believe in our longtime industry partners.

CHICAGO: Gillian Forsyth, owner BFF Bikes

Gillian Forsyth

I spent most of my career as an accountant preparing financial statements for large companies. Three years ago, I was downsized due to a merger, and I bought BFF BIKES. Had it been any other store, I probably wouldn’t be here right now, but BFF was founded on getting more women into biking, and I still make this a priority as part of our mission. I have always been a huge cyclist, so the timing and the fit seemed serendipitous. I now get to sunset my career doing something I love. 

BFF BIKES was founded nearly 10 years ago by two women who wanted a shop that was friendly and non-intimidating. It also started to fill a gap in women's competitive cycling where teams were practically non-existent. We have seven employees, and we offer fair pay as well as health benefits. Business this year has been average; it’s frustrating to lose a lot of margin as a result of all the vendor sales online.

NEWINGTON, N.H.: Steve Gerhartz, owner Seacoast E-Bikes

Steve Gerhartz

In 2017, I had the opportunity to ride an e-bike, and I knew right away they would change not only the bicycle industry, but the transportation industry, too. I purchased a Pedego, and in June of 2020, I opened an e-bike-only store as there were no other viable sources for people to experience them. Area bike shops dismissed them as a fad or had none in stock. My background is in the automotive retail/wholesale business, and I thought, "How hard could this be?" If I knew then what I know now, I probably would not have done it. We represent Specialized, Gazelle, Urban Arrow, Riese & Muller, Yuba, Aventon, Blaupunkt, GoCycle, and Van Raam Special Needs E-bikes. We started with one location and are currently looking for an additional site. Our gross dollar sales are 2-3% higher than 2022; however, net profit is down 8% due to heavy discounting by overstocked manufacturers pricing below our cost.

WINTHROP, Wash.: Julie Muyllaert, co-owner Methow Cycle & Sport

Julie Muyllaert

I came to co-own a bike shop after a career in higher education and co-owning a small native plant business. My partner, Joe, and I wanted to live in a small, rural community, and we believed that the Methow was ready for a year-round, full-service bike shop. I brought years of experience as a bike commuter and advocate, and Joe brought industry connections from decades of racing. We launched in 2005. Demand was greater than we imagined, and we made two moves in our first five years of business. Spring through fall, we sell, service, and rent bikes and stand-up paddleboards. During the snowy months, we rent, service, and sell skis, snowshoes and fat bikes. Our staff of 12 aims to meet every customer where they are and help them achieve their dreams and goals. Together, we’ve been able to build the business from a one-pop shop to its current scale, and mostly have had a lot of fun making a life of it all.

AUSTIN, Texas: Audrey and Mark Sze-To, owners Electric Avenue

Audrey and Mark Sze-To

We are bicycle commuters who eventually adopted e-bikes because they allow us to go farther, faster, and more often, which better supports career advancements and lifestyle improvements. Mark has an MBA and engineering background, and Audrey has a legal and art history background. We are cycling enthusiasts and opened a shop to provide alternative transportation to people while becoming more strongly connected to the communities in which we live.

Electric Avenue has been in business for 15 years. The company's focus has always been on developing and promoting non-automotive, practical forms of transportation. Its product and service focus began with electric scooters and then rather early on segued into electric bikes almost exclusively. Our focus is primarily Bosch-powered e-bikes. In addition to our Austin location, we opened stores in Dallas and Houston. We are very thankful that commuters have continued to allow us to grow.

LITTLE FALLS, Minn.: David Sperstad, owner Touright Bicycle Shop

David Sperstad

We are sort of the Cheers of bike shops, where everyone knows your name, and you're treated like family. We’ve been in business for nine years, or 10 seasons — I count seasons rather than years as it slows down tremendously in winter. We sell Electra, Bianchi, a wide variety of BMX bikes, Marin, KHS, Reid, Batch, Sun, and other brands now and then. Susan, my wife, is a public-school teacher and therefore carries the health insurance for a few more years. She works here most days in the summer on and off, and I'm the only full-time, all-the-time employee, mechanic, business manager, owner, bathroom duty, and all other duties necessary. We’re located 25-30 miles from the next closest shop in a community of about 9,000 residents, and we draw customers from 50-70 miles away. Most of them have only ever ridden bicycles from a big-box store or one that has been handed down to them.

ALAMEDA, Calif.: Larry Tetone, event coordinator Alameda Bicycle

Larry Tetone

I started in the bike business after leaving a graduate program in STEM. I had a love of bicycles, I fell into a part time sales position here, and over the course of the last six years, worked my way up to general manager. My favorite part of the job is organizing events and classes with our community. Alameda Bicycle is a single-location shop that's been serving the Bay Area for 55 years and owned by the same family for over 35 years. We focus on kids, family, e-cargo, and adventure/gravel, and carry Specialized, Giant/Liv, Surly/Salsa/All City, and Tern. We have five full-time employees and two part-timers, down about three full-timers from this time last year. We strive to pay our full-time staff a living wage for the Bay Area and provide careers, and tenure currently averages over eight years. This helps us build long-term relationships with our community through personal interactions, outreach, and events.

Win Allen.
Topics associated with this article: State of Retail, From the Magazine

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