Just biking along
Gainesville shops now come in clusters
Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 1:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 1:39 p.m.
Competition among independently owned bicycle shops in Gainesville is gearing up as a number of new shops have recently opened and relocated.
And several of the bike shops are now concentrated in two areas of town.
The intersection of Archer Road and 34th Street, for instance, is getting crowded.
Cycle Therapy opened in August 2012, Bike Works moved on April 5 from Tioga Town Center to 2300 SW 34th St., and Gator Cycle opened more than 25 years ago. The shops are less than a mile from each other. Meanwhile, a few miles away on W. University Avenue, the new shops Swift Cycle and Bike Preserve lie 528 feet apart between 6th Street and 8th Street.
Swift Cycle opened on April 5, and Bike Preserve opened on April 2. Both are less than half a mile east of Schwinn Shop Inc., at 12th Street, which opened in August of 2008, and not far from Mr. Goodbike at 425 NW 13th St.
With at least four other bike shops in the city, some owners and managers question whether there are enough local cyclists to support all of the businesses. The proprietors also have different views on whether the concentrations of shops — and the total number of shops now in the city — will affect their businesses.
“I feel like the market is very saturated,” said Fred Lintz, general manager of Gator Cycle. “Gainesville has too many bicycle shops and too many burrito restaurants.”
In 1996, the number of local bike shops dwindled after the Regional Transit System began offering free bus service to University of Florida students.
Around that time, Bike Route went from three stores to one and then was out of business by 2009, said Gerry Woods, the general manager at Cycle Therapy who worked for 12 years at Gator Cycle, around the corner from his new shop.
“Our shop has been really successful here at this location, and people think that they can do just as well,” Lintz said.
The owners of Bike Works recently purchased and moved to the old Bike Route building on 34th Street, also near the Archer Road intersection.
Bike Works owner Tony Cousins said the business moved from Tioga to the new location for the increased foot traffic and to be near the university. He said he believes the shop will help the others nearby.
“Every CVS is next to a Walgreens, and car dealerships are on the same street in every city,” Cousins said. “(Customers) will come to check out a concentrated area of shops in a specific area.”
Woods made the same comparison about the proximity of drug stores and car dealerships.
“We feel that we can stand on our own no matter how many bike shops are around,” Woods said.
Several proprietors used pie or pizza metaphors to describe the current market with the influx of new businesses.
The pizza is being cut into so many pieces that “not everybody is going to eat,” said Dave Bee, general manager of Schwinn Shop Inc.
Tim Hayes, co-owner of Swift Cycle, said the business’ goal is not to get “a bigger slice of the pie. It’s about getting more people on bikes.”
Even with the transient nature of some local cyclists affiliated with UF and Shands, Cousins and other bike shop owners said they believe customer service is key to increasing market share.
“I think the distribution of who gets how much pie will change based on customer service and your (bicycle) brands, to a certain extent,” Cousins said. “The big difference is how you’re treated in the shop.”
In addition to bicycle sales and service, many of the newer shops also have created niches.
Hayes said Swift Cycle is focused on being a cultural center for cycling with an emphasis on commuter bikes and a desire to bring something aesthetically different to the area. The shop has a sleek, modern design.
Bike Preserve’s offerings include bike share and bike buyback programs. The buyback program is for purchased bikes that are needed only for a limited time, according to the shop’s Blogspot website. The shop soon will serve coffee, other drinks and snacks, the site says.
Bike Preserve is located in the building that formerly housed Recycled Bicycles.
Cycle Therapy has a strong focus on commuter bikes and offers “medically certified (bike) fittings,” Woods said. The owner, physical therapist Dawn Falisi, is certified through the organization BikePT to perform bike fits, according to the shop’s website.
Some of the older local bike shops haven’t made many changes to their businesses.
Bee simply calls Schwinn “the friendliest shop in town.”
“We love what we’re doing, and we want to keep on doing it,” he said.
Lintz of Gator Cycle points to his shop’s longevity as evidence of its success.
“We’ve been in business for 25-plus years for good reason. Our customer service is top notch,” Lintz said. “I think some of these new places will come and go.”
Jennifer Waters is a Gainesville Sun correspondent.