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 Cycle Sport Concepts in Tampa, Florida. In a slightly different version from our monthly format, we interviewed past blog contributor Vanessa McCracken from Sunnyside Bicycles in Fresno, California. Vanessa recently opened a second location near her original store and gave us an inside look at the process of doing so.
Tell us about how Sunnyside Bicycles – Reedley came to be.
Sunnyside Bicycles – Reedley actually almost came to be about 6-7 years ago when the owners of the bike shop in Reedley contacted us about buying them out. We came very close to doing so then, but the timing just wasn’t right.
Flash forward all these years and we receive a call out of the blue from the same owners asking us again if we’d be interested in purchasing their store. This time around it took us all of 10 minutes to say yes. Our logic told us that when an opportunity like this presents itself to you twice you clearly need to just go for it. We received the original phone call on April 3 and were open for business on June 16!
In what ways was the process similar and different from opening the original store?
When we bought our very first store back in 2002 we did so on a whim as well and I guess you can say that the process was very similar. Back then we saw the shop for sale in the paper on August 11 and were the owners/operators and open for business on September 2. When we moved the store to Fresno in 2010 we did plan a little more thoroughly. Opening up this Reedley store was a mix of the two?we had the hindsight and experience to pack a whole lot of planning and execution into a very short timeframe.
The beginning of painting the main wall. Note the track on the floor from the former shop.
Other than being in a different town, how is the new location different from the original?
Our mission and vision are the same, and our customers are very similar. However, the new store is in a smaller, rural community and is the only bike shop in town, so I find that we have to be more things to more people since we are the only resource. For the time being, John (my husband and co-owner) and I work at the second store along with a part-time bike tech while our amazing staff runs the primary store. In time, we will bring some of our primary staff over to run the second store so that we can more easily go back and forth between the two. It was important to us to be rooted in the second store from the beginning so that we could know the community we are serving on a personal basis. Sunnyside Bicycles is our heart and it’s vital to us that our customers know this to be true and don’t see us as just a business.
What has your customers’ reaction been to the new location?
So far everything we’ve heard has been super positive. The new store is a lot bigger than our primary store so our existing customers usually walk in and “oooh” and “aaah” over all the space. We did remodel the existing bike shop quite dramatically, so Reedley customers walking in for the first time are usually a little overwhelmed by all the change (in a good way, they promise). Having more space has allowed us to carry a larger inventory so our existing customers seem to appreciate the expansion. I think the hardest part of it all right now is that John and I work in Reedley 6 days a week and our customers from the Fresno store miss us (or at least they pretend to). These are the people who believed in us, invested in us and helped us grow.
Finished painting and onto the bike display setup
If you could go back in time to the beginning of this whole process, what advice would you give yourself and what would you do differently?
Slow down! In hindsight, I really wish we had a little more notice about the sale so that we could have been just a little more dialed-in before opening. At the same time, though, I think it’s just one of those things where you’re never going to be fully prepared and maybe it was just better to dive in headfirst.
What advice would you give a fellow shop owner who is considering expanding to a second location?
I would say make sure you have a solid staff and crystal clear procedures and processes in place to make the transition as smooth as possible. There is simply no way we could have pulled this off without our exceptional team running the Fresno store while we are focused on Reedley. Also, definitely don’t switch point-of-sale systems at the same time.
The finished displays leave plenty of room for all of Sunnyside’s inventory!
What do you see the shop looking like this time next year?
I definitely see us with more staff, which will free us up to add in more social rides, clinics and all that stuff that has defined us from the start. I see ridership continuing to grow in Reedley and a more cohesive bicycling community developing for sure. There are lots of riders in the South Valley, but there are lots more who don’t even know they love bicycling yet. You can bet we’ll be finding them and showing them the way.
The first of the many clinics happening at Sunnyside – Reedley.
When can we expect a third Sunnyside location?
HA! No. Although if you had asked me about a second Sunnyside location seven months ago, I would have laughed in your face so I’ve learned not to say never.
A big thanks to Vanessa and the rest of the crew at both Sunnyside locations!