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Indiana shop marks 70th anniversary

Published June 1, 2012

EVANSVILLE, IN (BRAIN) Friday June 1 2012 9:22 AM MT—Family-owned Gilles Cycling & Fitness will celebrate its 70th anniversary this month with a full month of sales promotions and events.

The shop, now in its third generation of family ownership under Scott Gilles, was founded in 1942 when Simon Gilles bought a pair of bikes and opened as a Schwinn dealership out of his garage in Evansville, Illinois. A showroom was later added onto the front of the family home.

Over the decades, Gilles Cycling & Fitness has ridden out the highs and lows of the industry, expanding into as many as nine markets in the early 1990s with 100 employees. It was a top 50 Schwinn dealer year after year and cracked the top 10 in 1999.

But when 9/11 hit, the chain’s business selling bikes, weight equipment and fitness machines dropped by 60 percent, Scott Gilles recalls. “It came time to simplify my life,” he said.

Gilles sold all but one location, in Evansville, to his store managers. All are still in business today, he noted.

The Schwinns are gone from the 10,000-square-foot shop, replaced by Trek, which represents 90 percent of bike sales, Gilles said. “Our bread and butter is the hybrids, mountain bikes, family bikes. But we do everything,” he added.

Gilles Cycling & Fitness also boasts one of the largest service departments in the Midwest, with some 300 bikes awaiting repair at any given time, said manager Kyle Rickenbaugh. Service accounts for more than 20 percent of the shop’s overall business, he added.

Gilles’ father, Bill, 78, retired from the business in the late ’90 but still owns the building, and so can be seen around the shop doing maintenance on the property. Hopes for a fourth generation taking over the business someday remain bright, with Scott Gilles’ three children in the wings.

To mark the shop’s 70th anniversary, sales promotions will include $70 off bikes. And in a nod to the shop’s growing women’s business, Trek Women will be on hand June 12 for ladies’ night featuring clinics, demo bikes and a no-drop family ride.

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