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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Support Your Local Bicycle Shop

Before it's too late.

We hear the same story constantly.  Your neighbor boasts of scoring a great bargain by either scouring the Internet for the best price or by using an iPhone app to scan a barcode at a local store and either find a better price at a rival store or on the internet (where mass retailers do not have the overhead costs that small chains or sole proprietorships do).  You might like browsing at the local store and you've known the proprietor for years (and think him to be knowledgeable and helpful), but somehow you end up using his store as a show room for other vendors and buy from them.  The result is that many stores are closing because they just aren't selling enough stuff.  People browse, but they do not buy.

I like my nearby small town and its bike store.  The guys who run it are nice, accommodating, and they know their stuff.  They carry different lines, offer you ideas about what you should buy and what might not be right for you, and are there for you to fix problems, small and large.  They have a nice sign, a neat store layout, and they put about a dozen bikes on the sidewalk every day during the good weather for potential buyers to see.  More than that, they add flavor and color to a town and helps the town say "this is a neat, warm, welcoming place."  (Okay, so the major landowner might not feel that way and a local tax policy might not be so friendly, but these guys stand tall, offer good products and add considerably to the town).

On weekends, when I drive by, I just smile, as I do on summer nights when I come home from work and they're still open, the bikes outside, the sunset framing them and at times casting a glow on them.  That glow exclaims, "this is why we live here," or "come inside the store, it gets even better."

I've purchased three bikes from them within the past five years, a tire or two, some bicycling wear and had another bike refurbished.  A friend offered that he shopped around a bit more and negotiated with a store owner a few miles away; another offered that they were just too expensive and went on the internet to buy bicycles for his family.  Both would admit that the store adds color and flavor to the town and its landscape and that it would be a shame if anything would happen to the business.  Yet, they don't support it.

I have little doubt that I could have gotten a better price from another vendor on the internet.  None.  But there are times where you need to support your community, appreciate what these men's good cheer does for the neighborhood, and, at the core, how cool it is to have a bicycle shop in your town.  When you want to have a community, there are times where you need to leave a little money on the table to do so.  Sure, you can drive twenty miles to get the bargain or spend hours on the internet looking, and for certain things that's fine.  But if we want communities and think about what makes them special, we need to support our local businesses.

I know that you cannot get this store's bikes from Target and Wal-Mart, but my guess is that there is a mega-store fifty miles away that offers a better price or someone on the internet who can sell it to you for cheaper.  But if too many of us do that, Main Street will have yet another vacancy.  And others will follow.  Our reasons for walking the town will diminish, as will our reasons for having a town in the first place.  Our houses will become technological marvels that will enable us to get everything through a screen, while our loneliness will increase and potentially our civility.

So, when you think about your next bike purchase or anything else for that matter, think about the type of town you want to have and the type of society.  Look, there is a time and a place for bargains, and, also, for good shopping.   And there's a time and a place for warmth, walking, good conversation and community.   Remember that too.

Before it's too late.


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