How long has the shop been in business?
Since 1992. We've moved 3 times… first we were on one side of Newbury Street, then the other side. And this location actually used to be a Laundromat.
How many people work here?
Anywhere between 4 and 19. In the winter it's a pretty bare bones staff, but in the summer it can be up to 9 people working at once during the day. Winter is a great time for interns and people who want to learn. In order to work in a bike shop, you usually have to have had experience… so it can be hard to get into.
Do you have a specialty?
It's being able to deal with just about anything. We're in a location where we have a lot of colleges kids, but we need to be able to cater to commuters and folks in the neighborhood, too. We sponsor 5 bike race teams as well, so we need to be very versatile.
What's the most difficult request you receive?
We don't turn away a whole lot. We've worked on everything from elliptical bikes to adult tricycles to folding and recumbent bikes to shock and suspension overhauls. We do a lot fo complicated stuff, but it's mostly very mundane. Like "I found the bike at the bottom of a trash pile… can you make it work again?" or "I bought this on Craigslist… what can you do?"
What makes the shop unique?
We do things a little differently because we're a small shop. There's something like 25 bike shops within 1.5 miles from here, so we have to be competitive and differentiate ourselves. We follow everything through from beginning to end. Some people want race bikes but the next person might be a 75 year old lady who just wants to ride up and down the esplanade. We have to have everybody who's working here be able to meet the needs of anyone who walks in, and to be just as attentive to those different needs. We do free tune-ups for life on all our bikes. People are buying a shop, not just a bike.
Do you have a favorite customer?
We get a lot of calls with people saying "Uhhh… ummm…" and they really don't know what they want. It's great for us when people are able to tell us what they want. That said, it's fun to help people figure out solutions too. There are a lot of neighborhood folks who've been coming here for a long time and they're very pleasant to deal with. We sponsor a lot of teams so we get some wacky racer folks, too.
What's the most difficult request you've received?
There's difficult and then there's unrealistic. We can handle just about anything, but a lot of times people come in and say "I need a new bike and I don't want to spend more than $100." You can go to a big retailer and maybe do that, but it's going to fall apart. We have to explain the difference to everyone and tell them "This is not the same thing. This is an aluminum frame that's well made and has a warranty and it was assembled by an actual bike mechanic and there's a shop to stand behind it. It's not just a mass market product." We have to consistently educate people on the value of what they're getting, and we don't always know what level of knowledge they have. Sometimes you have to say "Look, I don't make any more money if you buy this one or the fancy one. I just want to get you on the right bike for YOU."
What makes you proud of the shop?
Our ability to handle basically anything with pretty minimal staff. We take a lot of time to train employees to enable them to deal with the widest variety of people. We have such a disparate customer base… we're all over the place… so we all need to be able to handle anything. People keep coming back, and that means we're doing out job properly.
What are your aspirations for the shop?
We want to keep growing and keep people coming back, but we also want to continue to be more supportive to the large biking community here. We want to give collegiate racers and juniors a window into a sport which can be prohibitively expensive. You can spend vast amounts of money on this stuff, but we want to be a vehicle by which these people can get involved.
What's the best part about being a Cannondale retailer?
Their customer service is fantastic. When something happens, they deal with it promptly. As far as warranties and things like that, they're pretty attentive. That translates to us being able to really help the customers. We can say "Give me the bike, let me take a look at it, let's get the rep in here, let's take some photos, we'll send it in, etc." The customer feels like they've been taken care of by the shop, but they've actually been taken care of by the company. Cannondale takes care of us, and we can pass that confidence along to the customers.
We're personable and we'll do our best to help people out. Our job is to help people figure out what's best for them. I want people to feel like they're getting what they need, and not what we want them to get. We want to provide them with the best possible experience.