About half of my teenage years were spent in the back room of a local bike shop. Perched on a rickety old three-legged milking stool and armed with hammers and old iron implements, I learned just about everything there was to know about repairing antique bicycles from that stool. .
From servicing Sturmey Archer three-speed hubs to building my own wheels and tapping stripped bottom bracket shells, it was all part of learning to cycle. These places served everything from local club community centers to treasure troves where you could find everything from a grub screw, to a 20th anniversary Campagnolo Record rear mechanism to a pair of weathered, pre-stretched tubs. Oh, how things have changed since then!
That said, many have found these places somewhat intimidating and unwelcoming. These days, high-end concept stores in studios and cafes are de rigueur, and when it comes to servicing that old three-speed hub and finding that old screw, there’s a fair chance damn that to happen.
As for experience; shops of a new style are overall very different. Maybe more inclusive, maybe more distant? I guess it differs from store to store.
The Tales of Stan Jones
Stan Jones’ shop was originally called Gray Friars Cycle Depot when it opened in the 1950s.
One of the “almost local to home” bike shops for me was Stan Jones Cycles in Shrewsbury. This place was full of mixed display cases, dusty boxes and old gems hidden in every nook and cranny.
The store was run for many years by local racing ace Mike Jones, Stan’s grandson and heir. Mike is now in his 50s and is still out to win bike races, including the recent Age Group Masters XCO National Mountain Bike Championships.
We asked Mike, where and when did the whole Stan Jones Cycles story begin?
“Stan Jones Cycles started around 1950,” says Mike.
“My grandfather had just finished his service in the navy. He was in the submarines during the war, didn’t talk much about his time there but received quite a few medals for his bravery.
“He was working for someone else in the bike shop and had the opportunity to buy the business when the previous owner decided to retire.”
Ironically, Stan wasn’t the man when it came to riding the bikes he sold, and neither was his son and successor Tom. Mike was the first of the Joneses to grab the bars in anger.
“My grandfather didn’t ride a bike, neither did my father. I was the first in the family to ride a bike.
Mike started racing as a schoolboy and practically grew up in the family workshop.
“It was very much a family business with vacations and outings centered on quiet times, as well as weekly meetings at my grandmother’s house to discuss shopping,” adds Mike.
Stuck in a long, old, maze-like building, it really was the kind of local bike shop that many of us in those days grew up visiting, and it was a place of great stock and mystery. What exactly was under the surface and the last kit?
“Oh my god charge!” Mike said.
“Inventory control wasn’t great. My grandfather used to buy a lot of things in bulk to get the best prices.
“Things were a lot simpler back then and bikes were mainly used for commuting so things like wheels, tires, inner tubes and brake shoes were all bread and butter daily sales. .”
Crystal balls and fancy shorts
When cycling began to move in a smoother, more upscale direction, older bike shops often struggled to keep up with the changing demand. Did the Joneses follow and see this development coming?
“Definitely not my dad, he was pretty happy with the traditional bike shop,” Mike admits.
“I think because I was more integrated into the cycling scene, the change was much more obvious. Especially at the high end of the sport, and as many new sport-type riders started to enter, clubs became more inclusive.
Mike saw the logic in embracing the potential for evolution: “Bike shops have always been a meeting place, so it’s always made sense to attract the right kind of customer with a studio feel, and maybe being a cafe space would help boost business.”
Even before that there was mail order which threatened the LBS, then when the internet came online shopping was also unavoidable which dealt a blow to many older bike shops which still had to get by. adapt. Did it have an impact on Stan Jones?
“I think so, to some extent.
“Offering services like a brilliant workshop, bike fitting, group rides, demonstrations and open days has helped. The mistake some bike shops have made has been trying to compete directly with online retailers on price.
New store, new era
Many stores of yesteryear had their founding father’s name on the front. Some also recognized that retaining that history and adding a modern twist was a step forward in time, and so Stan became Stan’s and Mike moved to new premises in town and pulled out all the stops for the new approach.
“I think I was at a stage where I wanted to grow but didn’t know how. The decision to go more modern was to offer a true cycling lifestyle business. Offering all of the above plus coffee and further streamlining our brand offerings. »
Was it a comfortable leap into the modern era?
“I missed running the old company,” adds Mike.
From stacked boxes to shiny worktops and tall, skinny slats, how different was it to operate?
“It was quite different in terms of people’s roles. The staff had to step up and manage their own sections because we were much bigger. We analyzed many sales and ways to market the business.
“We have also integrated a lot more into the club scene, offering club rides and events in the shop. This attracted a more specialized clientele; our average price spent on bikes and accessories has increased a lot.“
Along with his adult family, Mike decided it was time to get out of the bike shop game and traveled to France where he and his wife ran a cycling-based hostel for several years, while Stan’s has become a Trek Concept store.
Looking back, what were the key elements of this transition from the old to the new style of bike shop?
“Streamlining, inventory control, being more specialized, offering additional services like bike fitting and having a social media presence,” says Mike.
The new chapter
World events, politics and family circumstances drew Mike and his family to the timbered streets of Shrewsbury during the pandemic, and he decided to make the most of the unforeseen micro-boom in cycling, opening the new Velo Fit store in the city.
After a life spent in bike shops, how did he approach and frame the concept this time around?
“We mainly do bike repairs, maintenance and adjustments. I still sell new bikes, but only mid to high end bikes and a few e-bikes. Our average bike sale is £2,000.
After being away from the game for a while, is the experience any different than what he left behind?
“Not too different really.
“We provide excellent service to our customers. Good quality repairs, quick turnarounds and great advice from really experienced guys who really know what they’re talking about.
“We are well known to all cycling groups and participate and engage with as many as possible.”
Does Mike still see a place for these old-school bike shops, and can independents survive the bigger chains?
“Yes, there is definitely a place for them. From my perspective, it depends on your size and how you scale your business.
“We’re small so it’s good for us. Reputation is really important, and I have built mine over the years and continue to provide excellent service. We are therefore always recommended.
On restarting a bike shop business during Covid, Mike says: “We opened at the end of the pandemic and got off to a flying start. We missed the big boom, but yeah, it was a boost.
Trading builder’s tea and oily rags for fancy coffee and rubber gloves, it’s just the story of one family and their old bike shop that evolved over time. There are, of course, many similar and also very different tales and takes on the subject. The nature of these old shops versus the glitz and glamor of the new is very contrasting, and we’re sure you have your own memories and feelings about this development.
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