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Owner Isn’t Participating in Recession

Published November 14, 2008

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA (BRAIN)—Jim Curwood isn’t participating in the current recession. That’s the line the owner of South County Cyclery, better known by its marketing catchphrase “Buy My Bikes,” used in recently recorded TV ad spots that he showed visitors Friday on the final stop of BRAIN’s Dealer Tour of Southern California.

Curwood said the store had its best June, July and August ever, all helped by the spike in the cost of fuel. “We were only off four grand last month,” Curwood added. “There are still people with plenty of money; we just have to figure out what they want to buy.”

He said even though fuel prices have receded, he thinks the issue of global warming will remain front of mind for consumers. “I think Obama will be good for that,” he said.

But he said the industry needs to do its part to get people off the couch and onto bikes. Curwood said companies need to stop promoting their own brands and cooperate to promote bicycles. “That’s where we’re flawed,” he said. “We have to stop bickering. We need to be on the same page.”

With shoulder-length, sun-bleached hair, Curwood looks like he’s spent the better part of the past 30 years surfing. And he has. The lifelong surfer still gets out in the water five to six times a week.

Shortly after moving to this beachside community when he was 20, he was asked to run a bike shop in 1978 as a front for Laguna Distributors, selling BMX bikes. He quickly added road bikes and later expanded the mix to include mountain bikes and beach cruisers. He currently carries brands including Giant, Kona and Electra.

Over the years he has taken on additional space twice, spreading across three retail spaces. He said the building’s owner promised him for years that he would have the opportunity to buy the building. But instead he sold it to the mayor’s son, Curwood said.

Curwood said he still believes there’s greater potential for the store, but he likes his low-key lifestyle. “I haven’t worked super hard since 1992,” he said. He said at one point he planned to relocate and open a larger store, but figured he would spend $1 million to make $4 million and simply have a bigger ego. “I just went surfing instead,” he said.

Instead of ambitious remodels or relocations, he sticks to the basics. His rules to recognize and reward staff are simple. “Tell your employees thank you at the end of the day,” he said. “Buy lunch for your employees each day.”

—Megan Tompkins

Topics associated with this article: Events

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