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Out of necessity, Old Fort Bike Shop expands to new location

Published May 26, 2023

OLD FORT, N.C. (BRAIN) — Chad Schoenauer's long-range goal always was to expand the footprint of his bike repair shop beyond the walls of a back room inside the Kitsbow Cycling Apparel's Ride House visitor center. He just didn't expect to have to do it so soon.

But in April, Kitsbow, which moved from California to the Asheville, North Carolina, area at the end of 2019 to manufacture clothing locally, closed after failing to raise enough money during a community financing round.

Getting the news in mid-March meant Schoenauer, a local industry veteran for more than 30 years, had to find a new home for the Old Fort Bike Shop, originally called Schoenauer Service Course when it was established in September 2021.

"I was shocked and saddened by the news," Schoenauer said. "What are all these great people, the Kitsbow employees, going to do? What do I need to do to keep the shop in Old Fort? I'm not giving in. I'm not giving up. This town needs a bike shop."

Schoenauer opened his new space just down the street and right off an exit for Interstate 40. His new landlords, he said, had been interested in him relocating previously. Schoenauer said the building built in 1901 is in a more prominent location. The space of about 2,000 square feet features high ceilings, bay windows with display platforms, and hardwood floors.

"The other half is a freshly poured concrete slab, perfect for the service area," he said. "Parking is behind the building, and the owners put in new HVAC and LED light fixtures as well. The only thing really missing is a craft sink in the service area. Working on fixing that. The south side of the building is calling for some art. There will be a big mural in the future."

One of the building's owners has a collection of vintage motorcycles and mid-century modern furniture currently taking up some space, but Schoenauer said he will have access to that space soon. He'll need it because he will begin carrying a line of bikes. When that becomes official, Schoenauer said he'll host a re-opening event.

"I started as a service and repair shop," he said. "I'm going to ride the momentum of this pivot and expand. I'm in the process of becoming a full retail store."

While Old Fort lost a major industry player in Kitsbow, the area's growing trail network, headed by the G5 Trail Collective, is establishing Old Fort as "the next big destination for riding in WNC," Schoenauer said. "This is what will bring a major source of ongoing prosperity to the area. The work of the G5 group has been tremendous and brings me more and more business. It really is key to what I'm doing."

While excited for the future, Schoenauer won't forget Kitsbow's help in getting his business established.

"Kitsbow had a unique concept for their showroom, and it happened to include a bike shop.
They took a chance, and we set up a mutually beneficial relationship, and that allowed me to start my own business. Kitsbow helped me get this off the ground. That will be my fondest memory."

Chad Schoenauer.

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