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What old cycles and parts should I stock in a small retail space?

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What old cycles and parts should I stock in a small retail space?

Old 03-19-08, 02:58 PM
  #1  
oldroads
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What old cycles and parts should I stock in a small retail space?

We just rented a small (very small) retail space in Cambridge, MA near a subway stop and are trying to figure out what to stock.
I come across many great used bikes when searching for vintage stuff and can probably move a lot of them as good, cheap commuter cycles.
I have space for maybe 8 cycles at a time, max, plus parts.
Any thoughts on what I should keep in stock at this location?
Maybe:
1 men's english 3-speed.
1 women's english 3-speed.
1 mtb
1 cruiser
1 hybrid
a few true vintage cycles
?
Also, what parts?
I'm thinking NOS and good used Sturmey-Archer parts, a few 26" wheels, front and rear, coaster and 3-speed, a few 27" wheels, monkey handlebars, sissy bars banana seats...

Your thoughts?
Thanks
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Old 03-19-08, 03:09 PM
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If the market there is anything like it is in the big north american cities I would stock a fixed gear/SS or two.
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Old 03-19-08, 03:12 PM
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Mixte bikes always appeal to women. You need to stock freewheels...cones/cups,nuts,axles of all sorts odds and ends. Friction shifters are always nice to have for somebody who has broken shifter parts.

8 bikes is a pretty small inventory. I have dreams of owning my own repair shop. I wish you luck. I think the Serfas Seca tires are a good item to stock. They offer an affordable tire that works very good.

If you can afford to stock a few Brooks saddles that would be nice. How about having a tool rental service...I mean somebody who can DIY could be charged 10$ to use your supplies and you could help out for a few bucks more.

We have one shop that has lots of odd ball stuff. They are very smart to charge a flat rate of 20$ an hour. Most basic jobs will likely only be one hour. If it is a one man show then 20$ an hour is very competitive for most shops.

Here in Northern California we have shops that think they should charge what an ASE Certified mechanic gets paid. Good luck...Post some pics of your shop.
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Old 03-19-08, 03:27 PM
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Good luck on your venture.

I think your cross section of bikes sounds good. Along with the typical repair parts, I would suggest maybe a few different styles of handlebars for those that might want to switch... I don't know about your access to QBP or other wholesale channels, but for example some mustache bars, and aluminum Northroads as upgrades for the English bikes. A few common consumables obviously.

Have you decided on a name and/or logo?

EDIT: I just noticed your signature line and username... SO I guess name is decided.
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Old 03-19-08, 04:04 PM
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Unfortunately the space is too small for repairs. If things work out, we'll expand into that for sure.
We wanted to be as close to public transportation (subway) as possible without being commited to huge lease costs as we try this out. And Boston is pretty seasonal. Did I mention the place is small?
We do a lot of Single Speed conversions so we'll stock one of those, too. Good idea.
We've got some used Brooks saddles there right now.
Yes, we're hooked into the wholesalers.
We've carved out a little niche on the web the past 13 years and I'm thinking there's enough local demand for used bikes/parts/oddball stuff to make it work.
Please, keep the ideas coming!
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Old 03-19-08, 04:06 PM
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spares! tubes of various sizes (even if you don't have the tires they fit, people may need to pop in for a tube), chains, bar wrap. litte stuff.

put a GORGEOUS vintage road bike in the window.

stock 1 or 2 new SS/Fixed gear bikes. nothing fancy, maybe a fuji or KHS.

maybe do 1 or 2 SS/FG conversions a month to resell. you're in a college town, and in a decent spot it would seem. i bet you could move them fairly easily. obviously don't concentrat on SS/FG bikes, but have the options there, alongside a couple of hybrids, vintage road bikes, mixte's, and a cheap refurb'ed bike you could let go for cheap.

obviously you want to focus on vintage, so make that the main selling point of your shop. just keep the other stuff around to move.

at least that's how i'd do it if i ran a small shop.
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Old 03-19-08, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by SoreFeet View Post
Mixte bikes always appeal to women. You need to stock freewheels...cones/cups,nuts,axles of all sorts odds and ends. Friction shifters are always nice to have for somebody who has broken shifter parts.

8 bikes is a pretty small inventory. I have dreams of owning my own repair shop. I wish you luck. I think the Serfas Seca tires are a good item to stock. They offer an affordable tire that works very good.

If you can afford to stock a few Brooks saddles that would be nice. How about having a tool rental service...I mean somebody who can DIY could be charged 10$ to use your supplies and you could help out for a few bucks more.

We have one shop that has lots of odd ball stuff. They are very smart to charge a flat rate of 20$ an hour. Most basic jobs will likely only be one hour. If it is a one man show then 20$ an hour is very competitive for most shops.

Here in Northern California we have shops that think they should charge what an ASE Certified mechanic gets paid. Good luck...Post some pics of your shop.
I guess that is competitive if you don't have overhead and don't plan to eat much.

FWIW I had considered a small repair shop in the town where my wife and I own a bridal shop. A small store front rents for a minimum of $400 a month and that doesn't include utilities like electricity and heat., or things that might come in handy like general liability insurance. At that rate you could forget about health insurance...

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Old 03-19-08, 04:15 PM
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Mixte and/or step through frame road bikes. I'm always surprized by how popular these are.
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Old 03-19-08, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclotoine View Post
If the market there is anything like it is in the big north american cities I would stock a fixed gear/SS or two.
At the very least a track frame or two that you can build up for the promising poseur.

Here in Huntsville, the SS/FG bikes get a lot of looks and test rides but no buyers.



A small space dictates a niche market. The singlespeed/fixed gear market is hot, so is the retro commuter/downtown cruiser bike. In your market, you can do niche. College kids with lots of daddy's money may not have the common sense to buy a comfortable bike unless it is also cool. Track bikes are not comfortable so frames that can be set up fixed or singlespeed will give them something cool and comfortable.

Or you can service the Luddites with friction shifters and 7-speed freewheels. Check out rivbikes.com or velo-orange.com for examples.

For heaven's sake, no hybrid bikes.


Oh, I vote for mixtes. Only mixtes. A shop full of mixtes set up as singlespeed, fixte, traditional cassette gearing or nexus hub. Brooks saddles, saddlebags, bells, North Road handlebars, centerpull brakes, etc.


edit: Cool, I voted for mixtes before I even saw all the other posts calling for the same.

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Old 03-19-08, 05:02 PM
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Your list seems like a good cross-section. I think with a little creativity, though, you could easily fit 16 bikes in an 8-bike space.

Let me know if you need any photography or graphic design work.
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Old 03-19-08, 05:11 PM
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I vote for fenders and baskets and all of the p-clips and hardware that people will need to install them.
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Old 03-19-08, 05:14 PM
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I think it depends on what stop you're at. If it's Central or Harvard Sq. I would focus on single-speed conversions. Like it or not, lugged, steel frames are the new black and college kids don't want to mess with pesky gears. Stock up on Raleigh Grand Prixs. I think including 3-speeds (w/fenders) is not a bad idea. Put a Tourist in your window, but when they can't afford it sell them a Fuji S-10.

Edit: Given your size, you might consider becoming a coffee shop that happens to sell bikes. I didn't know how bad I wanted a bike until that Super Course showed up at my local coffee shop/LBS.
https://www.crccoffeebar.blogspot.com/

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Old 03-19-08, 06:20 PM
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Jumping right into the fire?!

Specialize. Be the niche store. To make a sale with your mix would be a small miracle, you would be better off to have 8 black IRO frames in 3 sizes and build up 2 as demos and let people know that you are THE place to come and buy an IRO.

Good luck!
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Old 03-20-08, 06:52 PM
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Depends on teh college kid. College kids fill a very large demographic, in both age and culture. There are ome college kids that ride nicer vintage bikes and know more about them then alot of adults who grew up with it all. I will tell you, as a 24.5 yr old, ex college student turned bike enthussiast and who works at a bike shop, fixed gear is the new BMX. Folks on teh tail end of gen X, and most Gen Yers grew up to be very adept at tricks, then growing out of their bikes are being spurred back into it. Fixed gears give them a chance to look hip, practice tricks, and especially GET AROUND. a bmx is not made to go distances, and my generation is also very a) englightened on environmental issues, and b) mostly broke. The spike in fixed gear culture has also caused a spinoff revolution of single speeders and 29ers, both for the simplicity, sleak looks, and practicality of distance traveling without the worries. Our generation grew up on entry level mountian bikes, adn we know the woes of not being able to utilize some gears or brake well. We find all that is easier with fixies and SS's along with the (again) cost savings of less frequent tune-ups. Get a 52 and a 56 true track bike, but NOT from a major distributor because people are snobs. Get 2 good LOOKING conversions, that have budget parts. keep a small array of cogs, especially the surly dingle cog. 2-3 solid brands of commuter bags (timbuk2, freight, baileys, ortlieb, sealline). A GOOD SELECTION OF BIKE LOCKS. U lock, cable lock, chain lock. Have lots of free stickers, put them up liberally. Always put a store ticker on every bike, people can always take them off later. do not under estimate the power of heavy marketing and fleecing. its liek graffiti, make people learn to recognize [your shop] as a brand.

sorry for the long winded rant. i have been planning my own culture shop for a couple years now and just need the capital to start it, so ive done my market research. best of luck to you, let LBSs thrive!
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Old 03-20-08, 06:53 PM
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look at fixed gear gallery, and see all the conversions. simple, fairly cheap, effective, and to some extent, disposable. America loves disposability
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Old 03-20-08, 07:08 PM
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Encourage walk-in business with tires, brake pads, innertubes, cables, patch kits, handlebar bags, multitools, tire levers, pumps, plus maybe helmets, gloves, and bright yellow cycling windbreakers. Do you have an offsite warehouse from which you can bring parts or bikes on a one- or two-day notice?

If your local crowd actually buys and rides single speeds or fixed gear, cater to them until the fad dies its belated but well-deserved death. I predict multispeed hubs, perhaps with coaster brakes, will be the next big re-discovery by the college age crowd as its tastes gradually recapitulate the phylogeny of bicycle transmission development from fixed gear to freewheel to internal and external multispeeds.
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Old 03-20-08, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Otto Rax View Post
America loves disposability
True, but very regrettable.
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Old 03-21-08, 04:18 AM
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Thanks for the great ideas, please keep 'em coming!
Yes, we have a warehouse 30 miles west of this tiny retail location (and a small pickup that gets good mileage).
Yes, Single Speeds are very popular around here. We usually convert chromo 10 and 12-speed cycles and cannot keep them in stock.

Last edited by oldroads; 03-21-08 at 05:46 AM.
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Old 03-21-08, 07:31 AM
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Where is your location? I will be riding around Cambridge tomorrow and would like
to take a look.

I think another criteria is low thief potential. I may be wrong about this, but I think
a step through frame Mixte or otherwise is not as much a target. I also wonder about
the potential for spare wheels. I have put my business card on bikes that have had
the front or rear wheel run over. No one has ever called, although I got a frame that
way once. Lack of proper bike racks in both Somerville and
Boston make it happen more often then it should. I don't know how easy it to find
27" rims in the downtown shops. (Harris obviously has them, but it is a hike for
someone without a car or a bike to get there. Haven't ever asked at Broadway Bicycle
School.)

I am a competitor although right now I have trouble getting time to do 6 a year.
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Old 03-21-08, 08:34 AM
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I know nothing about repair. But I work in marketing, and I think the key is to create some type of identity for your shop. That said, and thinking about your OP re. bike selection, I would narrow the focus instead of carrying one or two of each. Become a specialist in SS/fixies, or the place to check out for vintage road bikes or mountain bikes (I obviously am biased towards road bikes).

As for parts, stick with the basic things I guess. Items where you'll get a lot of turns - tires, saddles, cables, etc. Maybe one or two unique, hard to find pieces to help build your reputation, but I think it's the turns that help make your business profitable. Good luck!
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Old 03-21-08, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by oldroads View Post
We just rented a small (very small) retail space in Cambridge, MA near a subway stop and are trying to figure out what to stock.
I come across many great used bikes when searching for vintage stuff and can probably move a lot of them as good, cheap commuter cycles.
I have space for maybe 8 cycles at a time, max, plus parts.
Any thoughts on what I should keep in stock at this location?
Thanks to nlerner I figured out where your space is. No big secret. Just right on the front
page of your web site. https://oldroads.com/. I'm just thinking that is kind of an odd location to be
looking at moving commuter bikes out. Sure it is two blocks from a subway station, but it is an
unpleasant 2 blocks to travel by foot or bike. Do you have a feel for who goes into this part shop?
I suppose you might get people who are just setting up an apartment or house and are looking for
a way to get around at the same time. My guess is you have to go with bikes that have some visual
appeal, not your basic Japanese type frame. Also, I think you would have a tough time catching on
with the Fixed/SS crowd there.
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Old 03-21-08, 10:48 AM
  #22  
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You noted you don't have space for repairs.......I am not sure how well it will work if you are selling vintage, but not able to do basic repairs and work. I would reconsider this. Other postings with suggestions of focusing on a niche are right on. I would guess you either need to be a destination...ie this is the place to go for the best selection of Brooks saddles, high end panniers, etc. or you have enough foot traffic that you can sell the basic commuter and the basic accessories to your customer base once you sell the bike.

Good luck
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Old 03-21-08, 11:17 AM
  #23  
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On repairs:
If you're quick and good at doing repairs, you can make a fair bit of money on them. I don't assume that profitability is your main goal, but doing repairs will help you keep your doors open during slow time. If you don't have room in the shop, you could look at setting up a stand and rolling toolbox on the sidewalk in the summer. And unless the bikes/parts you sell are in perfect shape, and are sold to folks capable of maintaining a bike (not bloody likely!), repairs are unavaoidable.

On bikes:
My ideal hole-in-the-wall bike shop would have a range of solid commuters:

-cromo frames... not expecting Hetchins, but please no Sears bikes from 1973

-wheels - a range of double sided fixed, working SA 3 speeds, and geared wheels. All them kool kids will be wanting matching fixed wheels, and willing to pay for em. Assuming you don't have a stock of nice wheels in good repair, and if you can't or won't build wheels yourself, there are plenty of online resources for cheap decent wheelsets. A friendly LBS may even order them for you and sell at near shop cost... bring beer.

Parts...
-square taper cranks, cartridge BB without exception... well, maybe Nuovo record or TA bbs, but do away with cotterpins and steel cranks
-decent brakes with new shoes. If someone isn't willing to shell out for a pair of Tektros, I don't want to deal with them. I certainly don't want the responsibility.
-a range of bars...people decide what bike they want based on color and type of bar. They also don't realize that bars can be changed. I leave the Pope's gold colnago in an alleyway with a "FREE BIKE" sign, and I guarantee you that a bike nerd would get it because it's got drops.
-decent tires
-baskets, racks, bags, panniers
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Old 03-22-08, 10:19 AM
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I drove over (sorry, long story on why I didn't bike.). For those who are suggesting wrenching - this
is a antique group shop. The ladies fawning over the pocket book dog at the front counter aren't going
to be doing any wrenching soon. Despite the location (the neighbor to the north is an abandoned
candy factory, O'Brien highway is six lanes wide) the interior is pretty pleasant. Vin had 11 bikes
on display (not counting the young child's bike) and there is room for 4 more. Bikes are mainly upright
commuters from 60's and 70's with a 50's Raleigh and some other pre 60's bikes. Some of the bikes
are priced very competitively for a generic commuter. 2 out of the 11 bikes are step through. I would
think more step through would work. Nice selection of new tubes and tires. Plenty of other vintage
parts. I don't know if there is any market for more wheels, that may or may be a reasonable addition.

As I said before the location will be really slow to catch on with the Fixie/SS crowd. I would stay away
from that. I think the focus Vin is using is appropriate for what surrounds it.

As I said before the location is pretty unfriendly to bikes and pedestrians, but I did see a guy on a
mountain bike going up O'Brien dragging a full shopping cart.
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Old 03-24-08, 08:11 AM
  #25  
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Thanks for checking it out, Bikemore.
We looked at retail space for about 6 months in Arlington, Cambridge and Somerville.
We were hoping to get something in Davis Square (Redbones for lunch every day..) but rents are way too high. That antique coop was the only space near the T that didn't cost thousands/month and require a minimum 2 year lease. Plus they staff the place 6 days a week and we don't have to be there.
You're right about the traffic the coop gets. Not a lot of cyclists to be sure. We're going to have to rely on word-of-mouth.
Thanks for the comments about step-throughs. I'm guessing we have at least 50 women's English 3-speeds right now in inventory. I'll bring in a couple more this week.

Thanks.
(And we still eat lunch at Redbones every time we go into the shop. The crazy hot Jamaica Jerk sandwich with beans and coleslaw for $4.99 will stay with ya a day or two...)
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