Well, I’m a month into this experiment in bicycle retail, and I thought I’d give an update of my experience so far. I’m settling into the rhythms of it fairly well. The slightly later mornings, into which I always try to cram too many things- emails, cooking, cleaning, appointments. The morning settling in, tidying up, chatting with the UPS or Fedex drivers, generally broken around noon by a couple of people coming by on their lunch hours. The early afternoon lull in which I follow up on orders or emails and sometimes assemble a bike. Finally the late afternoon when people start to trickle in between 3 and 6. Followed by closing up and heading home to make dinner.
The first couple of weeks were largely marked by the incredible heat, and lack of AC. I came home every day feeling lightly roasted, especially on sunny days where the western windows drove the temperatures up dramatically. After a comedy of errors involving an illegal 220v outlet masquerading as a 110 outlet, Home Depot’s incredible return policy and a long hot wait for an installer to put in the new 220 unit, we have nice cold AC, which is a huge relief.
People who come in randomly off the street not knowing anything about the shop seem fairly divided.
About half are very interested and excited that such a shop exists. They gush about how pretty the bikes are or talk nostalgically about the bikes they used to own and the simpler life of three speeds. Several of these people have bought bikes, and it’s a real kick to see them riding by weeks later through the shop windows.
Another 25% are just window shopping, not really interested in buying a bike, not having a bike that needs accessories, they’re just checking out what’s in this funny triangular space. They like to tell me about the businesses that have failed in this spot. Cheerful!
The final 25% are not really interested in this kind of bike and some of them are not afraid to tell me about it. Like the woman who did a quick lap and then asked me for directions to Wheelworks because she wanted a bike with shocks (!) Or the guy with stereotypical piercings, tats and facial hair who wanted a fixie because he had a friend with a fixie. Or most disconcertingly the guy who told me he’d thought about buying a dutch bike, but got a mountain bike instead because dutch bikes were too heavy and impractical. Those people are better served elsewhere, and fortunately there are a lot of other local shops which can really help them out.
Beyond the people coming in randomly, I’ve had a ton of bike-friends, bike acquaintances, and friends of bike friends who had heard about the shop through the blog or through others’ blogs or tweets. Many of these people already own a bike, but it’s still great to see them, and meet some in person after only knowing them through the blogosphere.
And finally I’m starting to get people coming in who are specifically looking for the products I sell, and have found me through the website. They call asking if I have the Bobbin birdie in Mint (no, as far as I can tell, it’s been discontinued) or to ask about when the Edgerunners will arrive (mid September). I am trying to figure out how to boost the signal out to those people. I’ve joined up with the Boston Family Bicycling group, and a lot of people from that group have contacted me. But I need to reach further out, to people who don’t necessarily think of themselves as cyclists, but whose lives would be made easier with a comfortable, attractive city bicycle. I’m still trying to figure out the best ways to do that. I’ve gotten a lot of calls from “marketers” who have all kinds of ways that they promise to increase my profile, for a fee. But I still need to do some thinking about how to reach the people I’m trying to reach, and I don’t think that a yelp ad that pops up when anyone searches for “Bicycle” is really the right tool.
Working 6 days a week has been an adjustment, and I pack my Mondays off with lots of errands and to-do’s. I definitely don’t know everything there is to know about bikes, and I am never going to be someone who has all the details of gear ratios and frame geometry at the tip of their tongue. But I do feel like I know these bikes enough to confidently explain their advantages. I don’t need technical specs to enjoy a giant smile on the face of someone who has just come back from a test ride on a bike they love. There have been hassles, and I’m sure there will be lots more, but sometimes I just have to stop and giggle that I get to spend my days talking to people about bikes all day!