Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Outdoor Store - My Local Bike Shop

Established 1996

My favorite store celebrated 20 years of service in 2016.  It is hard to imagine I have been a patron for 18 years.  It is also hard to believe that a store of this nature (selling bikes, outdoor clothing, and camping gear) has survived in Athens, a town of 14,000.  The Outdoor Store is a testament to Pam and Bruce Blevins' commitment to providing quality products as well as outstanding service to its customers and the community.

With the astronomical increase in web sales over the past 5 years, it is hard for small local businesses to survive and compete in a world dominated by internet giants. I've been reflecting on my own shopping practices the past few weeks, especially when trying to get last minute Christmas gifts.

What really got me stirred up was the closing of Bear Creek Bicycles in Dalton, Georgia, after almost 10 years of providing the same quality of product and service that my "bike shop" does.  I had never stepped foot into Bear Creek until December 21.  But ... I knew from email contact, friends and social media and through events they sponsored that they were a top notch LBS.  Following Shane Adams on Instagram also allowed me to see what a devoted husband and father he is ... and is in part responsible for my plans to travel across the United States with my daughter this coming summer.

Stellar service, fine bikes, good times ... no longer.

So for Shane to do everything right and still have to shut his doors got me thinking about how we as consumers search for the best deal. Sometimes the "best" deal is not the cheapest.  I try my best to purchase most of my cycling products from The Outdoor Store.  It may not always be the cheapest, but they will go to bat for you should there be an issue with the product.

I have had many items warrantied over the years.  Most of the time it is simple enough to get a new product.  However, there have been a few times where Bruce has had to be my advocate, on his own time, and carry on a lengthy conversation with the maker of the product.  And then, he has had to take additional time to uninstall the warrantied product, ship it, and then re install the replacement product back on my bike.  All of this costs him time which equals money.  For instance, this past summer, Bruce had my SID RCT fork on and off my Niner RKT so many times I lost count.  It was not working right and he must have spent at least 6 hours of his time working with SRAM to try to fix it. He ultimately got it warrantied.  It cost me nothing, but at a rate of $50/hour labor, it cost Bruce $300.

How many of us have gone to a store to try on a product, only to purchase it online because we can save a few $$?  Shame on us!  I can somewhat understand shopping for a frame or complete bike online because you can sometimes save a lot!  Now the bike industry has gotten to a point where there are opportunities for the consumer to purchase a complete bike for less than what the local bike shop can buy it for.  Crazy!  That is just one of the reasons that Bear Creek had to close its doors.  I also found out that some of the big name bicycle companies are making it harder for the small bike shops to make small purchases without a penalty.

How many of us use Amazon to get that little thing like Stan's sealant, an inner tube, or on the bike nutrition product?  I have a handful of times. And what did we save ... a dollar or two, the cost of the sales tax?  We need to keep it local as much as we can.  For without our LBS, then we are left to travelling afar to seek products and services or left to online retailers.  I trust my LBS, but can I trust a company with whom I don't have face-to-face contact, who doesn't know me by name, but only by an order #?

I definitely don't want to see The Outdoor Store close its doors ... ever!  Fortunately for them, they are not just a bike store, and can rely on selling shoes, clothes, and outdoor gear.  I usually don't make New Year's resolutions but for 2017 I resolve to make as many purchases at my LBS.  Over the course of the year, it might cost me $50, but it will be well worth the additional expense. I want The Outdoor Store to keep opening its doors for another 20 years.

Here is to a new year and supporting out "Mom and Pop" stores!