The Windsor City Bike Interview
Posted on 15 April 2014
Editors note. At Curbside and our parent company Fourth Floor we've done plenty of consulting with retailers who want to jump into the city bike market. One such store was Windor City Cyclery. In a market where more bikes are being sold while more bike stores are closing these boys in Windsor could teach everyone a lesson. With a focus on neighbourhood engagement (there is a coffee shop and bar), bikes for everyone (they do a ton of city bikes) and friendly approachable service, they are a model for success in a town that is most often known for its industrial blight. As a store that has travelled much of Europe and most of North America, this remains the nicest store we have ever seen. Yes, we're envious!
- February 2016
At Fourth Floor, we've helped a lot of new shops open their doors. Our background is retail and beneath our office is Curbside Cycle, a powerhouse in the city bike market. We're always excited to hear from new entrepreneurs who sense that somehow the bicycle industry is missing the point, and who smell opportunity - including the opportunity to create better cities and community. We were pleased as punch when we heard from Ron and Chris in Windsor, Ontario. Windsor is an industrial city across from Detroit, one of the most multicultural cities in North America, and increasingly a city full of bike lanes. Unlike Toronto, which has a phenomenal volume of city cyclists but refuses to turn it into part of its 'brand' (instead we vote in anti-cycling mayors, sigh), Windsor has seen the future, and its becoming a very interesting town indeed. We asked Chris and Ron some questions to dig a bit deeper.
Tell us about Windsor and the neighbourhood your in....
CHRIS: Windsor's on the cusp of great change, and transportation is at the vanguard of it. Like our twin city across the river Detroit, we are recognizing that to become a more attractive city we must become a better city in which to live. Cycling is shedding its lowly image here and becoming "cool" again. We feel the City Cyclery is well positioned to tap into that groundswell of desire to live the urban experience deeper.
We're located in the neighbourhood of Walkerville, which was an independent town until Windsor amalgamated it in the 1930's. it's an old company town developed by Hiram Walker for the employees of his distillery. We're lucky in that it really hasn't changed much in the 100+ years that the city has grown around it. Walkerville is a traditional walkable "new urbanism" paradise which values its local independent business people as well as its irreplaceable history. We're lucky to be here.
How does your shop feel? How does it differ from others?
CHRIS: We are a determinedly urban shop catering to the commuter/utilitarian cyclist, which is something our region has never experienced, so we're breaking new and untested ground. We are fashion-conscience and want to bring beautiful bikes and beautiful products to the city and that desire is reflected in the feel and look of the store.
And finally, yourselves! What's your background? Do your wives approve?!
RON: I have been a 'bike guy' since I first learned how to ride. I've always had more then one bike, and purchased my first, on my own, when I was 12 when I bought a Norco Monterey. I was the weird kid that kept my bikes in my bedroom (because where else do they belong!). I got into restoring vintage bikes when I started finding them in peoples trash and just couldn't let such great bikes go to waste. I absolutely love giving old bikes a new life, but also love the direction of the new bikes as cruisers are coming back capturing the old world feel. So far, my wife is okay with having our basement and garage filled with bikes, and seems fine about having one in our living room.
If you have a dream of opening a bike shop and want some guidance, give us a shout. Our best shops are run by entrepreneurs often with little retail experience, and most often no bike shop experience. You just have to 'get it' and you'll have a whole market in your pocket, as well as great fun.