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Cambridge Dealers Cater to College Kids

Published October 13, 2009

CAMBRIDGE, MA (BRAIN)—September is a make-or-break sales month among Cambridge bike shops in this university town anchored by Harvard and surrounded by MIT and Tufts. New bike sales and service are steady from mid-August through early October as college students return to school, said retailers visited on Day Two of the Boston Dealer Tour.

ATA Cycle sells high-end, esoteric European brands like Wilier and Fondriest out of two locations. Started in 1997 and in the same Cambridge location—a quick spin from Harvard Square—since 2000, it also sells a lot of entry-level Giant bikes, which line its basement, to college students. Store manager Anil Gürcan said the Cambridge location builds about 100 bikes before September, historically its busiest month.

In nearby Somerville, home to many Harvard and Tufts grad students, Open Bicycle has created a sparse, art gallery feel in a basement that was the original home of Merlin. Founder Josh Kampa, a transplant from Minneapolis, opened the store in April after seeing a need to better serve the Boston cycling community. He said he doesn’t want to pigeonhole the store, but it has become a hot spot for fixies. “Boston has a pretty solid messenger culture, but this fall with students coming back into town it really exploded,” said Kampa.

Broadway Bicycle Shop in Cambridge has been run as a collective in a tiny, eclectic shop since 1972. It still has a little hippie flavor, said Suzanne Hunt, one of seven current partners. It offers self-help and teaching on bicycle repairs along with sales of new and used bikes and parts. It also teaches night classes on bicycle repair, which are popular with students. “When people are starting to slow down, we jump up—the month of September is a real push for us to get through the winter,” Hunt said.

Cambridge Bicycle is a commuter and student based store that does a lot of business with single-speed and fixed-gear bikes, a category that has blossomed over the past 10 years, said owner Kip Chinian. Chinian, who studied fine arts at the Museum School, said he relishes the growing connection between art and bikes as customers bring more color and customization to bikes. “They’re getting more artful than they’ve ever been,” he said.

Visit the BRAIN Blog for shots of the soggy riders braving a wet fall day in Cambridge. And check back here tomorrow for more coverage of Boston Dealer Tour as we visit market leaders in downtown Boston.

—Megan Tompkins

Photo by Jake Orness/Giant: A mechanic in the workshop at Open Bicycle in Somerville, Mass.

Topics associated with this article: Events

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