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North County San Diego Shops Thrive

Published March 1, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA (BRAIN)—Bike shops along Coast Highway 101 have a unique advantage: ride-by traffic. Participants on the BRAIN Dealer Tour of San Diego visited four stores yesterday that benefit from proximity to this scenic coastal stretch popular with cyclists and triathletes.

Alan’s Bike Shop has been in Oceanside since 1952. Seven years ago Jim Russell decided it was time to make a change in his life. That meant buying the shop. “I was looking for something in sporting goods,” said Russell, a career entrepreneur having been in the restaurant and commercial oven steam cleaning business.

His experience outside the industry has given Alan’s new life, not only through updating its business practices, but also the shop’s look, with Electra playing a key role.

“I wanted to create a showroom for cruisers,” Russell said. And thus he did with the help of Electra. His new 8,000-square-foot location features roughly 130 Electra bikes, with prominent Electra wall displays giving the shop an added edginess.

Bicycle Warehouse opened two new locations in Encinitas and Escondido last year. Debbe Simmons calls them “her twins.” That brings Bicycle Warehouse’s greater San Diego tally of shops to seven.

“We’ve always wanted an Encinitas location,” said Debbe Simmons, co-owner of Bicycle Warehouse with her husband, Mike Simmons.

The 3,500-square-foot store features Bicycle Warehouse’s new blueprint, which makes the store more manageable from a variety of perspectives, according to Debbe Simmons. Bicycle Warehouse’s original flagship location in San Diego has a 13,000-square-foot showroom.

Nytro made a name for itself early on in the online space. That was attractive to Skip McDowell, who purchased the multisport store in April 2007. “I wanted this shop because it has panache and it has the ability to leverage the Internet,” said McDowell, who came from the tech industry.

The 3,800-square-foot retail store is in a former surf shop along Highway 101. Deep-dish carbon rim wheels hang from the ceiling and wetsuits and running shoes surround high-end road and tri bikes. While the store is 60-40 road to tri, its online sales skew closer to 80 percent triathlon.

McDowell invested in an integrated ecommerce system, and launched a new backend system in May 2009. He said it took 6 to 8 months to recapture lost search engine results, but last fall web sales began taking off. Nytro has recently doubled web business month over month from the prior year. Sales are now 50-50 online to retail, and McDowell expects online to eclipse in-store sales this year.

B & L Bikes, located along Highway 101 in Solana Beach, has seen high-end road and triathlon bike sales drop off over the past year, a result of the decline in disposable income due to the economic downturn coupled with competition from other big-ticket luxury items, said Scott Alton, the shop’s buyer.

Last year was the best year the shop has ever seen in terms of quantity, but average selling price dropped dramatically, Alton said.

“We’re selling a ton more $2,000 to $3,000 bikes. We’re just not selling the $5,000 to $7,000 bikes as routinely as we used to,” he said, adding that the shop sells on average 30 bikes a month out of the Solana Beach location. Bikes spec’d with SRAM’s Apex group have sold particularly well, he said.

B & L carries Specialized almost exclusively on the bike side with a few Haro cruisers on the sales floor. On the apparel side, Alton stocks Castelli and Zoot, along with Specialized. He also dabbles in wetsuits and running shoes to appeal to North County’s triathlon community.

The San Diego Dealer Tour will head south tomorrow to visit some of the downtown area’s colorful urban stores.
Be sure to check back here for daily online coverage. You can also follow along with the Tour on Twitter at and on Facebook at (click on above link).

Photo by Jake Orness

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