MINNEAPOLIS, MN (BRAIN)—Successful retail models come in many different forms in the competitive Minneapolis-St. Paul market as evidenced by the five shops visited on the last day of BRAIN’s Twin Cities Dealer Tour yesterday.
“The Twin Cities is respected as being in the top 10 retail areas in the country,” said Penn Cycle owner Pat Sorensen, whose father started the first of seven stores in the Minneapolis area in 1957.
From Penn Cycle’s family-oriented stores to Flanders Brothers’ high-end road shop to Freewheel’s commuter station, retailers in Minneapolis have carved out specific niches to distinguish themselves and cater to the city’s large and diverse group of cyclists.
Flanders Brothers, started by local road racing heroes Jim and Scott Flanders in 1973, is primarily a road racing shop. “Whatever the brothers are riding, people ride,” said store manager Adrian Contreras. The shop sponsors a racing team and a club, which spreads awareness. “There are a lot of jerseys out there. People see our name a lot,” he said.
Freewheel, which a year ago opened its second location on the Midtown Greenway, caters to commuters with a 24-hour bike lockers, showers and amenities. “Our shop has always been core to the commuter,” said owner Kevin Ishaug. He added that many store owners would be envious of his new store model, which focuses on high margin parts and accessories for cyclists coming in off the bike path. “Bike sales aren’t our goal. You rode in on a bike, so you already have a bike,” he said.
The Hub Bike Co-op, an eclectic urban shop, channels the bike messenger culture and offers a do-it-yourself wrench area. “We try to differentiate ourselves as much as possible,” said Christopher Cross, one of nine worker-owners of The Hub Bike Co-op.
Downtown store One on One Bicycle Studio exudes bike culture through art openings, events and a mix of eclectic bikes. A coffee shop in the front of the store accounts for about a third of its business. “We didn’t want to be a traditional bike shop,” said owner Gene Oberpriller.
Oberpriller, a former employee of Quality Bicycle Products who employs many former Quality employees, said despite a really competitive market the feeling is one of working toward the same goals. “One of the great things is everyone is really civil. We know we’re in this together,” Oberpriller said.
Cross agreed that despite an incredible saturation of bike shops in the area, the retail environment is cooperative. “Because the cycling community is really tight-knit—we’ve all worked together somewhere—there isn’t a great deal of vicious competition,” Cross said.