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The Rise & Fall of a Bike Shop That Never Was

By Scott Spitz

I probably had no business trying to open a bike shop. The perception I have of business owners are people who have studied business as a major, took years to amass knowledge and resources for their idea, and are generally wealthy enough to open shop at the drop of a hat. I, on the other hand, am a dreamer. An idealist as some people say. So instead of business classes and a trust fund, I simply had lots of free time to ride my bike around the city and observe the world around me, which ultimately led me to the following conclusion.

This city needs a bike shop.

Now, it couldn’t just be any old bike shop. No, that wouldn’t work. This had to be a creative, well thought out, niche-specific bike shop for commuters and utilitarian riders, not any of that high-gloss, rainbow-bright kinda crap. Zeus knows we have an excess of that in these parts. No, this had to be a shop for the rest of us. Why? Cause I said so, that’s why. This shop was going to be commuter specific, with showers and bike storage, a network of communication for commuters, themed group rides, movie nights, winter riding culture, a touch of activism, and a general air of coolness never before seen in this Midwest cultural void. It was gonna be awesome.

So began the mental process. I’d be riding around the city, going about my daily business, and trying to figure out just why I don’t have the ability to open my own shop, so I’m generally told. I knew the culture well enough, so the not understanding the needs of cyclists wasn’t the issue. I had experience with filling out numerous and lengthy legal forms, so that wouldn’t be a deterrent. I was flat broke, but I had some ideas about financial assistance. Each time I mentally overcame my apprehensions about what I was told I couldn’t do, my resolve to open the shop grew and grew. The rest was a whirlwind.

I researched the process, figuring out what forms I needed to fill out and where to mail them. I learned about how to register my business and what this meant in terms of liability. I learned about the different processes to become a private enterprise or non-profit. I learned about applying for loans. I learned about business plans and just how much work it takes to finish one. Simply jumping headfirst into this process was like getting an associates degree in business, and my confidence grew and grew as each task was completed.

I, admittedly, am an egotist, so it didn’t take long for me to get the word out to others about what I was trying to do, and with that came more support than I ever expected. I networked with friends, strangers, business owners, lawyers, and the city for chrissakes. And again, my confidence continued to build.

There were obstacles though…namely money.

If you want to play by the rules of capitalism, you gotta have capital, and if you don’t have capital, you gotta find it. Plain and simple. But not that simple actually. The first attempt I made at opening this shop was going to be as a private enterprise, which meant I needed to apply for a loan. A $35,000 dollar loan to be more precise. My naievity bit me in the ass on this one, as I innocently assumed that my strength of character, convincing business plan, unique approach, and fiscal responsibility would translate into a done deal. Not so. Banks want money, and lots of it. They want to know, despite how upstanding of a person you are, that you have lots of assets to back up your loan in case the business falls through. This means a house, which (continued)

Illustration by Mike Pfaltzgraff -