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Retail comes full circle for two Massachusetts bike stores

Published February 11, 2020

SALEM, Mass. (BRAIN) — When Dan Shuman started working for owner Chris Finn as an apprentice at Marblehead Cycle in 1989, he was a sophomore in high school with no plans to make a career in bike retail. Circumstances dictated otherwise.

Through a convoluted sequence of events, Shuman ended up owning both Marblehead Cycle and Salem Cycle, which Finn opened in 1994 and Shuman bought in 2000.

Shuman had been planning to buy or start a shop after 10 years off and on at Marblehead. "I went on a cross-country trip with a friend checking out shops," Shuman remembered. "We went to Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico. When I got back, Chris asked me if I wanted to buy the Salem store. I grew up here, I love it here, so I said yes."

Shuman and Finn remained friends and competitors — the stores are five miles apart — until mid-2019. "I stopped by Marblehead, one of my kids needed to use the bathroom," Shuman said. "Chris told me he was thinking about doing something else in a few years. I told him to let me know when he was ready to sell."

That call came just a couple months later, and Shuman now owns both stores. It was far from a fire sale. "Marblehead is actually more profitable than Salem, so buying Chris' shop and integrating the two will be beneficial to both stores," Shuman said.

As is typical of small-town East Coast shops, neither is even of average size. Salem is a Giant dealer with 2,000 square feet. Marblehead, which opened as a Schwinn shop in the 1920s, is a bit smaller (1,200 feet) and does more dollars as primarily a Trek shop.

So what makes Marblehead more profitable? "Chris has done a better job of managing his inventory than I have at Salem," Shuman said. "I try to have a bit of everything, so now I buy from 25 or 30 vendors. Chris has like five. He relies heavily on Trek and QBP, takes his rebates, skips preseasons, keeps things streamlined and has better cash flow."

Shuman also sees synergy in bringing Salem's practices to Marblehead. "The obvious thing is to get our POS system installed at Marblehead and integrated with Salem," Shuman said. "Chris keeps everything in his head; it's pretty amazing, but we definitely need to keep better track.

"We're also planning to start doing rentals in Marblehead. Salem is a huge tourist town, so that's been really successful. Also being able to market both stores together will be great. I'm pretty active that way. Chris' marketing push consists of logo water bottles and not a lot else."

It's rare to see ownership changes benefit both parties and strengthen two shops, rather than sales made out of desperation. "Chris told me I was the only one he wanted to sell his store to," Shuman said. "I'm glad to carry the Marblehead legacy forward in my hometown and look forward to many more years of serving our customers."

Dan Shuman has owned Salem Cycle since 2000.

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