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Dealer Tour steams through New York

Published July 19, 2012

NEW YORK, NY (BRAIN) Thursday July 19 2012 6:22 AM MT—The BRAIN New York City Dealer Tour's second day included some triple-digit temperatures, an uncontested visit to Coney Island's Nathan's Frankfurters, and a late-day cloudburst that brought a bit of adventure to our 40-mile jaunt.

Along the way, we found another diverse group of retailers — four shops that had little in common other than a desire to serve bike lovers.

R&A Cycles

It’s been a flat 2012 at R&A Cycles—and that suits the retailer’s Albert Cabbad just fine.

“This year has been kind of awkward,” said Cabbad, son of R&A founder and owner Philip Cabbad. “We took big steps back to change our way going forward. … But I’m content; I’m fine. I’m having a good year.”

The 36-year-old shop, an early adopter of e-commerce that has become a major online seller, is bringing to fruition two key projects aimed at boosting its fortunes in the long term: A revamp of its website—the initial stage of which was set to launch the day of Bicycle Retailer’s visit Wednesday--and the consolidation of its myriad storage spaces into a central warehouse as large as 20,000 square feet to, in part, streamline processing of web orders.

Meanwhile in R&A’s storefront in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, Cabbad keeps refreshing product displays every three months, and separate rooms segment product for high-end road bikes, tri gear and family bikes.

Pointing out R&A’s variety of hybrid, kids’ and flat-bar road bikes, Cabbad commented: “No one is buying a $10,000 bike without owning one of these first.”

Roy’s Sheepshead Cycle

We dropped in on this retailer at Sheepshead Bay, which separates Brooklyn from Coney Island, to catch up with owner Allen Trepel—a fool’s errand, it turned out.

The silver-haired Trepel, who has run the 81-year-old shop since 1977, was far too busy with business on the shop floor despite it being a sweltering Wednesday morning. He fielded phone call after phone call. Then a young woman looking to buy her race road bike commanded his attention. He started walking her through Roy’s Sheepshead’s myriad brands (it’d be easier to list the bike lines Trepel doesn’t carry than the ones he does).

Fortunately, Frank Barrios could spare a couple minutes to talk to us. Barrios, New York-area account manager for Cycling Sports Group, was moving about Roy’s 1,500-square-foot expansion designed as a Cannondale-exclusive store-within-a-store.

The new space still needs some finishing touches, but the open layout and new accessibility of product—many of the brand’s accessories previously were set behind counters rather than on the shop floor, for instance—have already shown dividends, according to Barrios. “Clothing and accessories have doubled over the past few months,” he said.

Keith Trepel had little more time for the BRAIN crew than his father did. “I’m on vacation starting tomorrow, and I just have to finish this order. I told my wife I already left,” he said.

Still, he said business is strong at the family concern, with sales up 10 percent or more each of the past six years.

With that, we walked outside to our bikes, and to say goodbye to our shop owner/host, who was on the sidewalk attending to a test-ride for a customer who hadn’t ridden a bike in 30 years. Trepel gave him an encouraging push on the saddle and sent him on his way. Head down, he gave a cursory wave as he passed us and headed back into his shop.

Bicycle Habitat

After years of advocacy work and pushing for more bike lanes and bike access on city bridges with local advocacy group Transportation Alterntives, Charlie McCorkell is seeing the fruits of his labor—more New Yorkers on bikes. And his one-year-old Brooklyn location is meeting this new demand. The shop’s sales have steadily grown since it opened in May 2011, and many of the customers are first-time adult riders.

A few blocks from Prospect Park, and surrounded by freshly painted bike lanes, the 3,000-square-foot Park Slope store serves the community’s growing commuter and recreational rider crowd. Libby McComb and Emily Samstag co-manage the store where one third of the 13 employees are women—something that has helped it connect with female consumers. Bicycle Habitat also sponsors two women’s road racing teams.

McComb, who worked at Bicycle Habitat’s Soho store for nine years before moving over to the new location, said from the onset, they aimed to be an all-around shop. The Brooklyn shop carries some of the same brands as Soho—Trek and Specialized are its main suppliers—but sprinkles in more utility product like Yuba cargo bikes.

Brightly lit, well-merchandised and with visible signage throughout, it’s an inviting shopping environment for the first-time shopper. Another way it feeds interest from walkers by: one of its service stands is in the front of the store where walkers by can see how a bike is repaired.

Bicycle Habitat is one of New York’s longest standing shops; McCorkell opened the Soho store in 1978.

Bespoke Bicycles

Stepping into Bespoke's tiny Fort Greene showroom feels like walking into the living room (or the walk-in closet) belonging to a connoisseur of a very particular style of bike. Think of lugged frames, leather saddles, waxed cotton bags, hammered aluminum fenders and hubs polished to a mirror's shine.

Longtime Bicycle Habitat employee Cassidy Vare opened the new store about three years ago. Bespoke carries complete bikes from Raleigh (the Clubman, a steel touring bike, is a favorite) but prefers to put together custom porteur and randonneur bikes starting with Velo Orange, Rawland and Soma frames.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, you can swing a cat in Bespoke's showroom, but not without considerable damage to the cat. Service is done in the basement. After moving in, Vare realized that the stairway was too narrow to carry a bike down, so he cut a hole in the showroom floor and installed a pulley system to lower bikes into the store's bowels.

Manager Jonathan Pastir said the store's clientele is often young professionals with an appreciation for art, design and history.

"They are people who understand bike history and appreciate classic bikes," he said. Many work in fashion or graphic arts. "They want to specify every part and they don't care if it costs $4,000," he said.

Topics associated with this article: BRAIN News, BRAIN Dealer Tour, Events

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