OAKVILLE, Ontario (BRAIN) Tuesday May 1 2012 8:56 AM MT—Continuing a growth streak, Canadian retailer Gears recently held a grand opening for its third location.
Co-owner Kevin Wallace dropped out of high school during his senior year 24 years ago to open the original Gears in Mississauga, Ontario. Over the years that store has grown from 500 to more than 7,000 square feet, but Wallace and partner Ira Kargel-Kennedy didn’t open a second location until April of last year, in 10,000 square feet in Toronto.
Now, just a year later, they’re also doing business in a 30,000-square-foot former Oldsmobile dealership in Oakville, Ontario. The Ontario provincial government bought the car dealership to use its acres of parking for a nearby transit train stop, but leased the building to Gears.
With its rounded front and glass walls made to showcase new cars, “it’s not a box store,” said Kargel-Kennedy. “It’s probably one of the most unique spaces for a bike shop. It feels like the inside is outside.”
The 8,000-square-foot showroom stocks 300 bikes from GT, Felt and primary brand Cannondale, which Gears first started working with last year at the Toronto store. “They’ve provided us a lot of support, and the brand is very strong,” Kargel-Kennedy said.
Though the new store is vast, Kargel-Kennedy noted Gears has worked to maintain a cozy, high-touch feel by going less vertical with bike displays than at its other stores and building separate alcoves for such product as helmets and shoes. “There’s something unique about bikes. It’s not buying electronics and it’s not going to the grocery store,” she said.
“In Canada, there really hasn’t been any success doing big-box-style bike retail, and I think part of it is because to provide the experience the consumer wants, it’s almost impossible to replicate that on a huge scale. So even though we’re big in size, we’re still able to cater like a boutique store.”