GREENCASTLE, IN (BRAIN)—It’s been a real crawl out of the cellar for Covered Bridge Cyclery since owner Larry Shinn opened up two years ago.
After getting laid off as a bike shop manager, Shinn launched his business in November 2009 in a 1,000-square-foot basement space in Greencastle, Indiana. Six months later, he upgraded to 2,200 square feet on a downtown side street, next to a bar. And last month, Shinn relocated again to a former J.C. Penney building on Greencastle’s downtown square, across from the German Buzz Bomb cruise missile that serves as a World War II memorial and draws tourists to the town outside Indianapolis.
The 2,700-square-foot building nets Shinn much more usable floor space—his last location was a former suntan studio with a number of small back rooms—and allows him to better spread out his sizable inventory. “It’s still got the homey feel that everybody liked at the old place, but it doesn’t have the claustrophobic feel that freaked some people out coming in,” he said.
Shinn says customers from his previous location are surprised by the range of product on display. “People are saying, ‘Wow, you’ve got a lot more stuff.’ No, I just had it all hidden [at the old location]. I had stuff in boxes in the shop upstairs, I had it in storerooms in the back. Now it’s all actually out on the floor,” he said.
“I don’t like it when people come in and I say, ‘I can order that.’ Because of course they can say, ‘So can I.’ I’m the only bike shop in the center of a four- or five-county radius, so I need to have a little of everything,” said Shinn. With the move, he has added DeBernardi, Basso and Ciocc to a bike lineup that already included Cyfac, Raleigh, Jamis, De Rosa and Scott.
Shinn also got the repair shop he wanted: At Covered Bridge’s previous home, he had to lug bikes upstairs to his service area. No more. The new store also has a loft space that houses Shinn’s office, and he plans to convert the remaining 400 square feet up there into a customer lounge outfitted with well-stocked bookcases, a television and cycling DVDs.
With his new home in the heart of Greencastle’s resurgent downtown, Shinn believes he’s well positioned to grow his business. “There’s been more and more traffic downtown again. It kind of died there for a while. It was half vacant. Now it’s getting much busier. DePauw [University] is opening a book shop on the square, and they’re making a corridor to campus that is a block away. Downtown’s going to be getting kind of cool.”