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 Global Bikes in Arizona. This month, we spoke with Jim Carveth at The Bike Rack in Lincoln and Omaha, NE about how bicycling is growing in Nebraska and what they’re doing to get more kids on bikes.
Tell us about the history of The Bike Rack
Initially, I opened ?Blues Cycling? in Lincoln, NE in 1991. After a successful six years of growth, we purchased The Bike Rack in Omaha and rebranded under the latter’s name. The original Bike Rack had been operating since 1971 in Omaha and had a loyal following. Our staff has been proud to keep those loyal to the original Bike Rack after all these years!
What do the shops look like today? How’re they different?
As of today, our stores have changed quite dramatically in comparison to their beginnings. They?re much more open, well-lit and user-friendly. Despite being the largest bicycle store in Nebraska, we humbly stress the fact that we’re locally owned and operated and all our employees are bike nuts. Everyone who works here lives and breathes bicycling. It’s refreshing to keep that atmosphere alive and it helps us give our customers the outstanding customer service that they deserve. From the moment you walk into our stores, you?re a respected guest. No pushy salespeople. No gimmicks to get people here. We are all bicyclists and want nothing more than to make sure that you?re happy on your bike for many miles to come.
Exterior of the Lincoln location
In what ways is The Bike Rack involved in the local community?
The Bike Rack is a long-time advocate for bicycling on the local, state and federal levels. We attend, host and participate in many meetings and conferences while also encouraging our customers to become educated about issues pertaining to bicycling. At the local level, we are proud to offer SAG vehicles for many of the larger group rides in the area. Bicyclists who do these longer rides have a great sense of security knowing The Bike Rack’s renowned mechanics are there if they have any problems. In the Omaha area, we have partnered with a local cycling group and the Omaha Police Department to outfit more bike patrol officers in the metro. Also, The Bike Rack partners with Omaha Fire & Rescue to restore used bikes and then, in turn, give them (and a helmet) to children in the inner city. Over 150 bikes were given away at the last event!
Some of the Bike Rack team, volunteers and Omaha Fire & Rescue after their yearly event
Over the past few years, Lincoln and Omaha have expanded their bike infrastructure. How has this affected business?
The cities of Omaha and Lincoln both have really stepped up in recent years as bicycling friendly communities. Fortunately, both cities have had the vision to create an environment that is safe and accommodating for both bicyclists and pedestrians. We applaud the private and public sector partnerships that are making these places even better for bicyclists. While they have a ways to go, elected officials and interested organizations have opened the dialog that the car is no longer the only way to get around. Thanks to that, business has been booming and we can relate much of this to the new infrastructure as well as a resurgence of bicycling.
Do you have one day in the shop that stands out as the most memorable?
I would say the day that will always be the best day is when a young person comes in for their first bike and seeing that glow of excitement on their face. Another great day for me is when an adult has shared with us what the bike has done for their physical fitness or outlook on life. It really helps remind us why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Just some of the bikes given away at their yearly event with Omaha’s Fire and Rescue crew
What do the coming years look like for The Bike Rack?
We will continue to be very involved in bike advocacy in both Omaha and Lincoln. As in the past years, The Bike Rack will continue to make sure all state senators and our elected officials in Washington, D.C. know the importance of bicycling in our cities and in the state of Nebraska. Bicycling infrastructure will be a key in the future of new growth for the state.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We are proud be voted ?Best of Omaha? by the readers of Omaha Magazine. We?re thrilled to receive this award and appreciate the love we get from our loyal customers. At the national level, in 2014 we were honored by the NBDA as one of the best bicycle retailers in the country. If you?re ever in Omaha or Lincoln, be sure to stop in and say hello!
A big thanks to Jim, Kurt, Taylor and the rest of the crew over at the Bike Rack for their continued support!