June 28, 2014

by Mitch Marrison, PeopleForBikes retail program coordinator

The gang at Athens Bicycle is ready to help you find your new two-wheeled companion.

As any rider knows, bike shops are the hub of the bicycling community. They are the hub of the PeopleForBikes community, too. We have more than 1,000 retailer members spreading the word about PeopleForBikes, bringing new riders into the movement and collecting donations to help fund our Community Grants program.

Each month we showcase one of our retailer members who is going above and beyond to help improve bicycling in their own communities. Last month we turned our blog over to Craig Kundig from Cyclery USA in CA. This month we chatted with Pete Kostes of Athens Bicycle in Athens, OH  about the history of the shop, how they are helping build a community and their sweet poetry skills.

Tell us about the history of Athens Bicycle.

After growing up in a bicycling family in Athens, OH, opening a bike shop in my hometown was a way for me to contribute to my community by encouraging a lifestyle that I found important. The expansion of the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway from three to seventeen miles in the mid-1990s made cycling accessible to anyone. I’ve since read research that shows that when communities invest in bicycle infrastructure, the bicycle retail market grows. In hindsight we opened our doors in the spring of 1998 at just the right time. For the first six months it was a one man operation and then we slowly brought in staff as traffic increased in our 600-square-foot shop.

What does Athens Bicycle look like today?

Between 1998 and 2009, we expanded three times as our business grew, bringing us to the really cool part of our story. In 2009, we purchased a few houses down the street from our original location. The houses were poorly kept and had been an eyesore for years. One was uninhabitable and destined to be torn down, but we chose to rehab it and turn it into the shop. The houses were originally built by the Athens Brick Company for employee housing so we decided to retain the look and feel of the house from the street and preserve a little history. We also installed a brick parking lot with historic pavers made in brick ovens from all around our county so we would have a permeable surface lot that tied to the roots of the property. It’s a good looking place and I have received many compliments from long-time Athens residents who are truly happy that we cleaned up this historic corner lot, right in the middle of town. Every day at 4 W. Stimson you’ll find an awesome team of bike experts reporting for work so we can keep our town running on two wheels. 

Athens Bicycle before and after.

What are some unique ways that Athens Bicycle has reached out to new PeopleForBikes supporters?

In the shop, we spend a lot of time talking about the good you guys do. It’s a break from the sales stuff and it’s important for people to know what’s being done at the national level for bike advocacy. We also are involved with a lot of local events so we take the signup pads on the road in hopes of meeting new people who will be interested in learning about bike advocacy.

How do you keep your employees and customers excited about PeopleForBikes?

Two words: buttons and stickers. No, really, it’s a no brainer. We all want safer places to ride. Why would you not sign up? Providing easy access to news about initiatives at the national level gives our customers context for the cycling initiatives they see every day at the local level. We are a small town where it’s really easy to commute, run errands or get out of town on a bike. Local government is progressive enough to include bikes in most transportation discussions. Having easy access to information and resources from a national organization is another arrow in the bike advocacy quiver.

Some Athens Bicycle staffers volunteering at a local bike rodeo.

Do you have any big plans for your store in 2014?

At this point in the season it’s unlock the doors and hold on. We have a few projects that we are tackling this summer but the big thing is to keep the stress down and the fun up. Tim will continue to wow us with his knowledge of vintage BMX. Daniel will deliver stories of his twins and the local hammer ride (and talk baseball with Tim). Corey will talk about his impending wedding or maybe his diesel Ford. Kevin will continue to rip it up on the regional enduro circuit. Bryant will speak softly of fishing and rock climbing. Eric is on permanent vacation (ahhh the life of a college student) and Ryan seems to be swallowed up by his studies. 

Beyond that, we plan to help every customer who walks in our door! Since we have such a nice space we have been and are planning more after-hours events. We plan to host some get-togethers, cookouts and rock shows to get people out and enjoying the community we have here. It’s all about having fun. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

You mentioned the notes/poems that we usually send in with our collected signatures. I’m sorry to report that our staff poet left for graduate school at the end of May. We will try to fill his shoes but the remaining team seems to be better at dirty limericks.

One of the poems Athens Bicycle has submitted to us.

A big thanks again to Pete and his crew over at Athens Bicycle! You can find PeopleForBikes Retailers near you over at our Get Local map. If your local bike shop isn’t a member but should be, you can encourage them to sign up here.

Current retailers: We’re running a contest now through the end of August for name collection. Every shop that collects a signature gets entered into a contest to win a $200 party on us! But that’s not all! Our trip to the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA in April inspired us to do something that no one has ever done before. We’re also giving the winning shop a sea otter! That’s not a typo, there’s a sea otter involved. While we can’t give away a live one (we’re pretty sure it’s illegal), the winning shop will also receive a symbolically adopted otter from the World Wildlife Foundation. Make sure to include your shop’s name and location of the bottom right hand corner of every page of signatures in order to get credit!

Need more materials for your POP kits? Email retailers@peopleforbikes.org and we’ll send you any materials you need!


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