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Fort Worth Stores Create Community

Published November 3, 2010

FORT WORTH, TX (BRAIN)—Storeowners in sprawling Tarrant County are striving to create a sense of community for their customers, as participants on the BRAIN Dealer Tour of Dallas-Ft. Worth saw yesterday.

Trinity Bicycles is so new it doesn’t yet have a sign on the door. But the neighborhood shop has grown its clientele through world of mouth. Owner Bernie Scheffler took a career detour from working in a local bike shop to handle campaign communications for a city councilwoman. But he saw the need for a transportation-oriented shop in Ft. Worth. “The bike industry has been home for a long time; politics I never saw as a permanent move,” said Scheffler. Open since May 1, the shop is three blocks from downtown Ft. Worth and close to mass transit. The small urban shop is in a raw industrial space with custom murals and artwork on the walls. Though it serves a small and vibrant fixie community, it is focused more on loaded longhaul touring-style bikes. It carries mainly utilitarian bikes from Kona, as well as some used and consignment bikes. Trade-in bikes it takes on a case-by-case basis. “We try not to have policies—they kind of hold you back,” said Scheffler.

With four stores in the Ft. Worth area, Bicycles Inc. has trained a lot of employees. “We’ve pretty much trained everyone who works in a bike shop around here,” said Rodney Bailey, director of marketing and training. Owner Lee Ericson opened the first location 30 years ago and has since added doors, purchasing a Schwinn store at one point and opening new locations. Its Hurst store moved to its current expansive location in a former Winn-Dixie grocery store two years ago. The store sports 26,000 square feet of retail and warehouse space and serves as the main receiving dock for shipments for all its stores. It has multiple store rigs for support at events like the Hotter ’N Hell Hundred, the largest ride in Texas. The store, which carries Trek and Specialized, offers a lifetime free adjustment policy with new bike purchases. “From the beginning, that’s been our policy,” Bailey said.

Knobbies and Slicks has been open for all of just 10 weeks. But owners Bud and Debbie Zarsk both have strong sales backgrounds that they hope will breed success. Bud, a lifelong cyclist, said cycling kept him sane during 24 years in the Telecom industry. “This is long hours, but it’s not stressful,” said Zarsk, who met his wife as customers at another local shop, Mad Duck Cyclery. In addition to a boutique retail space, with silver walls and bikes from the likes of Fuji, Kestrel and Quintana Roo displayed on risers instead of racks, the Zarsks have brought some new elements to bike retailing. The back area of the shop includes an indoor cycling studio, a Retul dynamic fit studio, a massage therapy room and a testing room to measure fitness such as power and VO2 max. The Zarsks are also partnering with local clubs and coaches to build business. “The key to success in business is to create alliances and partnerships,” said Zarsk.

Mad Duck Cyclery has for the past five years occupied a former Wienerschnitzel building (tiles marked with “W” still grace the front of the building). Owners Clarence Muller and Terry Musar dropped out of the hi-tech telecom industry after two successful startups to open the shop with a third partner, Gary Clinkingbeard, eight years ago. Muller said he wanted to stand out from the “megastores” in the market but initially had trouble getting any supplier to sell it bikes. Now it focuses mainly on custom builds from Orbea, Moots and Yeti. Muller said the duck logo has been a boon for them. Ducks of every kind, many of them variations on the classic rubber duck, are sprinkled throughout the store. The shop designs three custom jerseys each year, and sells as many as 400 a year. “The regulars have to have the change. They can’t show up on a group ride without the new jersey,” said Muller. Mad Duck hosts Sunday rides that draw upwards of 100 people and multiple Saturday and weekday rides. It also supports local rides and events throughout the year with a fully customized, plush shop vehicle.

For photos of the shops visited and of the riding—and shuttling—around the sprawling Ft. Worth area, visit the BRAIN blog.

PHOTO: The wall of fame at Mad Duck Cyclery displaying T-shirts and jerseys from many local rides and events it supports. (Photo credit: Jake Orness)

Topics associated with this article: BRAIN News

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