PALOS VERDES, CA (BRAIN)—Steve Bowen posed the question to his fiancée almost on a whim, he recalled. Should they buy a beaten-down shop better known for blowing out Schwinns than serving an affluent customer base?
Five years later Bowen’s PV Bicycle Center is in an extensively renovated storefront, and is firmly in the Specialized family as a concept store. Bowen, his partner, Vickie Wallace, and staff celebrated its grand opening over the weekend. Mike Sinyard, Specialized’s CEO and founder, along with mountain biking legend Ned Overend, joined Bowen to help give the store a publicity boost.
“We’ve known Steve for years, so it made sense to partner with what we already knew about Steve and his business,” said Sinyard.
A bevy of local officials, including the city’s mayor and members of the city council, cut the ribbon to the 4,400-square-foot shop Friday, officially opening it. Diva Night, a women’s tech clinic, followed. And Saturday morning Overend led a mountain bike ride for customers and staff.
If ever there were an unlikely retailer, it’s the 53-year-old Bowen. A former conductor and arranger for Broadway musicals, Bowen also has worked as an archivist at the Gershwin Trust, searching for lost scraps of music and information about Ira and George Gershwin. He later joined Southern California’s Interscope Records, a major recording company.
But it was the purchase of a Specialized Crossroads in 1991 that turned him into a cyclist. He began riding it to get fit and relieve stress. His move to Southern California, however, enticed him to join the L.A. Wheelmen and later become its vice-president.
It was an email from the owner of PV Bicycles to club members saying the shop was for sale that brought Bowen full circle into retail. “We didn’t know what we were doing when we bought the store,” he said, “but I was ready for a change.”
Since then he’s been working almost seven days a week building his reputation in this enclave of Southern California wealth, a mix of old money and affluent young professionals. Palos Verdes is also a community rich with cyclists. Packs of cyclists frequently ride through the city’s twisting, hillside roads.
Like other dealers nationwide, Bowen was swamped with business this summer. “It was amazing. We couldn’t keep up with the repairs. Once we were almost two weeks behind. Everything that looked like a bicycle came in,” he said.