LAGUNA BEACH, CA (BRAIN)—Patrick Fetzer came to Southern California because of bikes and stayed because of a girl.
A native of San Antonio, Texas, Fetzer came with his buddy who owned a bike shop there to Anaheim to attend Interbike in 1995. His buddy’s sister took him to a beach party, where she wanted to introduce him to an Australian girl.
Fetzer said from the moment he saw Mango he was smitten. Surrounded by admirers he wasn’t sure how he could attract her attention. But she picked him out of the crowd and the rest is history. Fetzer and Mango are now married with two kids, and Fetzer owns Laguna Beach Cyclery.
Established in 1971 in a building styled after a red barn, the shop exudes character with wood floors, jerseys hanging from the rafters and a range of boutique bike brands including Time, Cervelo, Pinarello, Yeti and Turner. “People appreciate the charm,” said Fetzer, who took over the shop 10 years ago from an older couple.
“They maybe had one bike over $400. To them it was more of a hobby. I would drop by to help out on the side or after a ride on the weekend,” Fetzer said. His interest resulted in an offer to buy the store. “They gave me the better part of a year to get a SBA loan,” he said.
Fetzer said buying into an existing store was helpful because the locals knew about it, but converting roadies into customers took some time.
“There wasn’t a single road bike in here when I bought it. Within two to three years the entire top row was road bikes,” Fetzer said.
With his long goatee, Fetzer looks more the part of a backpacker than a clean-shaven roadie. But his small frame and his racing pedigree, which includes a year in Italy, give him street cred. “It assures I can speak confidently and truthfully when giving people advice,” he said.
The shop, located on Thalia St., made famous for its surf break, does a steady rental business of high-end road and mountain bikes. Fetzer hired a woman to promote his bike rentals to local hotel concierges. He said the insurance to cover rentals eats up his rental income, but pulling in customers makes it worthwhile. “When you factor in the premium we’re not making much money, but it brings people into the shop and gets them spending,” he said.
Fetzer said the store has seen sales growth every year, but this year might end its streak. “We were moving in the right direction, but October ruined any sort of growth this year. It was like somebody turned the spigot off,” he said. He added that November sales have been better, which he said might be due to greater consumer optimism since the presidential election.
He said for next year he has been aggressive with softgoods buying but has held back on bike purchasing. And he’s dedicated his dollars to brands that have historically shown some flexibility with payment terms.
“I’ve gone aggressive with a few vendors we have good relations with,” Fetzer said. “Those who are really firm money collectors, I’ve held off from them.”
Photo: Laguna Beach Cyclery owner Patrick Fetzer and longtime shop regular Mik Donoff hang out in Fetzer's eclectic bike shop