Mitch Marrison, retail program coordinator
In almost any town or city, bike shops are the hubs of the bicycling community. They are important to PeopleForBikes too: we have more than 1,000 retailer members 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 community. Last month we turned our blog over to our friends at Touright Bike Shop in Little Falls, MN. This month, we spoke with Frank Morelli, general manager of Cycle Sport Concepts – Tampa about what bicycling looks like in the Tampa Bay area and how a new causeway is helping riders of all kinds stay on two wheels.
Tell us about the history of Cycle Sport Concepts – Tampa
CSC – Tampa opened to the public a little over three years ago when the owner, Stan, retired. Stan’s brother-in-law owns a Specialized Concept Store in Athens, GA and that’s where initial inklings of opening a shop started. Meetings were had, cigars were smoked, BBQ was eaten, and voila, Cycle Sport Concepts – Tampa was born. We opened in April of 2012 as the first Specialized Concept Store in Florida and retain that title today.
Frank Morelli, second from left, and some of the crew at Cycle Sport Concepts – Tampa.
Give us an idea of what bicycling looks like in Tampa and the surrounding area
The area surrounding the shop is fairly road specific. Some of your readers are probably thinking “of course! there are no mountains in Florida!” but we have a pretty pronounced mountain bike scene as well. The Alafia and Balm Boyette trail heads were nationally ranked a few years back and they’re located about 30 minutes from the shop. That being said, our customers are more group ride warriors than commuters. Our shop is in the middle of the Tampa Bay peninsula, so we are about five minutes from water either way you ride, which makes for a beautiful view.
Just one of the many great views in the Tampa Bay area.
What are some challenges you face as a bicycle retailer in southern Florida?
We have two seasons: hot and a little less hot, with humidity over 80% almost year round. One simply can not drink enough on rides down here and dehydration is a huge problem. Bicycle infrastructure is also still developing. The opening of the Courtney Campbell Causeway was a huge stride in getting more respect for bicyclists in an otherwise auto-driven city. Lastly, the city of Tampa has started certifying “Bicycle Friendly Businesses” and Tampa was recently ranked number one for bike-friendly businesses in Florida.
The recent completion of the Courtney Campbell Causeway has helped bicycle riders of all kinds in the Tampa area. How has the creation of this trail (and others) helped CSC?
The Courtney Campbell Causeway has been a great addition to the infrastructure in the area! Besides allowing employees to get an easy 20-mile ride in before and after work, it has pulled bicycle traffic westward from downtown towards the shop. The CCC trailhead is about 3.5 miles from our shop and it attracts ALL cyclists from the beach cruiser riders to the highest level. More than anything else, we have many first-time bike buyers coming in asking about the logistics of getting to and riding the trail. The CCC trail has gotten non-cyclists to consider riding a bike for fitness because it is safe, lit, and easy to access.
CSC’s pop-up shop, located next door to Buddy Brew Coffee
How is CSC involved in the local community?
The League of American Bicyclists has begun a business certification program in Florida, of merchants that demonstrate commitment to promoting and supporting cycling. This program kicked off in Tampa and while bike shops are not eligible, many businesses reached out to shops for support in completing their certification. We partnered with Buddy Brew Coffee, our favorite local coffee roaster, and have hosted some events in their space including flat tire repair clinics, bicycle maintenance clinics, and even a pop-up shop, where we sold small goods to keep their customers riding rather than driving. We have donated a bicycle to Hillsborough High School to auction off to raise money for their student government. CSC also annually sponsors the area’s premier kids triathlon by donating a bicycle and offering a week of free tune-ups to all triathlon participants.
The CSC tent at the Tampa Bay Kid’s Triathlon where they helped provide mechanical support for everyone
Do you have one day in the shop that stands out at as the most memorable?
The most striking day in recent memory at the shop started like any other weekend day, but shortly after opening bikes with flat tires started rolling in at a curious rate. We soon found out that on a busy street close to the shop a box of carpet tacks was spilled along a half-mile stretch of the bike lane. These tacks were so small they were almost undetectable to the eye while riding. We lost count of how many bikes we repaired flats on. The bikes rolled in for so long with so many discouraged cyclists that we started extending a “bad day on the road” discount.
What does the future look like for CSC?
The future at CSC looks bright. We are finding new ways to support our existing riders and spread the good word to soon-to-be-riders. It is becoming clear that to remain competitive in the bicycle retail environment simply selling bikes isn’t enough. In my three years at CSC I have come to realize that customers don’t become riders because they like what you sell, they become your riders because they like what you believe in. Every purchase a customer makes is not just for the tangible good, but also for the experience they receive at your store. Great customer service, a product you stand behind, a passion for what you do, and pride in how you do it are required; thankfully we have a checkmark next to each of those.
A big thanks to Frank and the rest of the crew at Cycle Sport Concepts – Tampa for their continued support of PeopleForBikes!