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Maryland retailer launches franchise mobile bike repair service

Published June 20, 2016

ARNOLD, Md (BRAIN) — Brick-and-mortar retailer Bike Doctor has operated a franchise business for 24 years. Now the Maryland retailer is looking to take the franchise model to the road with mobile bike repair, called Bike Doctor Mobile.

"We finally got our disclosure documents approved this spring for Maryland so we're able to start selling franchises," said Stephen Ruck, owner of Bike Doctor, which operates seven brick-and-mortar stores in Maryland; three are franchises and four are owned by Ruck. Bike Doctor's first store opened in 1988.

"Maryland is a difficult state to set up a franchise business in. The plan is to grow it, like some of our competitors have done. We want to grow in upstate and warmer climates," Ruck said.

Bike Doctor hasn't sold any franchise vans yet, but Ruck said he's talking to several interested parties and getting them set up.

Bike Doctor has a web portal through which customers can book service appointments, and Ruck said it's a turnkey operation. "Once we meet the franchisee and do the whole process, we turn them over trained and ready to operate on their own with a vehicle built out and inventory in place," he said.

The cost to buy into Bike Doctor's mobile repair franchise ranges from $86,000 to $130,000 depending on how the franchisee wants the van to be built out. "We have a standard build-out that gets them in on the lower end of the scale," Ruck said. "If they want to go crazy and have every bell and whistle inside, that raises the price."

As a franchise, operators can expect to get initial inventory, a built-out van, operations manual and ongoing support from Ruck and his team. "They don't have to stumble through and make the mistakes we've made," Ruck said. "They have our knowledge to pull from."

Ruck launched his own Bike Doctor van last year and has been going to events and providing service locally in the Maryland area, where he said the model has been very well received by neighborhoods and businesses.

"People like the service and the fact that we come out to them," he said. "The customer engages with us more and we engage with them more because we are at their place of business or house. They feel at ease to talk to a mechanic. It's better education for the consumer also."

Currently, his van just offers sales of parts and service, but he plans to offer basic fitting and to align with bike companies to do some bike sales.

Ruck said he hopes to open 10 franchisees between now and next March. "I want to make sure we're selecting not just anyone that comes to us, but people we feel are professional and know what they're doing and have a good shot. Over the next five years I can see us having upwards of 100 across the country," he said.

"We have an awesome brand. It speaks to the customer. Bike Doctor obviously yells service and mobile. From a branding standpoint, we're solid. And what I've learned over the years, it's hard to as a franchiser, you want to keep enough control over your brand that it's consistent and keep your reputation solid, but you do have to give franchisees enough ownership so they feel they can run it and operate it the way they want to. The way our model is set up, I want to set up their vendor accounts, but give them the ability to order inventory. We'll do our best to negotiate prices with vendors but they can do the same. We don't want to take business control away from them."

Bike Doctor has signed on with a couple of financial partners to provide financing to interested parties.

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Topics associated with this article: Mobile service

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