Large Scale Shops, Small Scale Shops

Guest poster Don Blount wonders which one you prefer?

On a recent Sunday I took my bike to a local store of Performance Bike, the national bicycle company, for a derailleur adjustment.

It is one of two bike shops in my area that I use.

The other, the Bicycle Café, is a small mom and pop shop in nearby Lodi, Calif. I actually prefer this shop, although I use Performance nearly as much.

It’s the difference between a large scale national brand and a small scale local retailer.

It is fair to say Performance serves a general market. The staff there is friendly and helpful. The bike mechanics regularly share knowledge and since my bike is a Performance-brand Scattante CFR Comp I get priority when I come in. (Free adjustments for life!)

The products I purchase are warrantied so that if I do not like them or they do not perform as advertised, they are returnable – no questions asked.

But the staff turns over quickly and sometimes I have to hunt to find a familiar face.

The three-year-old Bicycle Café serves a more specialized market. When I first walked in, the bikes there had names that were totally foreign to me like Campagnolo, Orbea, Time and Guru. That is not too surprising because I was still relatively new to biking.

But this is a place where they make you feel at home. I know the owners, met their kids and see them at a variety of cycling-related functions.

The staff, which has also had some turnover, is helpful and friendly and has never let me know how little I know about biking and how much they do. They too aid me in my search for products and knowledge. Service is impeccable including pickup and drop off of my bike for service. They set up group rides and are actively involved in the cycling community. And the owner is knowledgeable, an encyclopedia of biking information and skills – he builds frames among other things. And I trust him without question when it comes to handling my bike. And I can go there and hang out to talk biking just for the sake of talking about biking.

One of the few things that can be offsetting here is price. Some of their prices are out of my price range. But there aren’t many places I can go where they would allow me to hold a $7,000 bike frame. And it is located a bit out of my usual circle of travel, so it has to be a destination trip.

But I enjoy going to the Bicycle Café when I can, what I thought was a chichi place is quite warm and comfortable. Performance can’t be the same thing — too big, too much volume. But I am still tied to both places by service and bikes. And I will continue to use both as it works for me.

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2 thoughts on “Large Scale Shops, Small Scale Shops

  1. Were pretty close, my main LBS is the Colorado Springs Bike Shop, a “family” shop with a neat “Island Theme”, (think Jimmy Buffet), they’ve been GREAT and have worked with me thru several bike purchases and “changes” in bike types, I’d HIGHLY recommend them to anyone! Now, I to shop my local Performance Bike Shop, mainly for their “classic” line of bike clothes and little accessiory items but I’m a member of their “members club” and get 10% off of my next purchase with the “members card”.

    I do try to throw a little money around at different shops for “small things”, some of the shops are to, “hotsy, totsy” for me and my limited budget but are in great locations along ride routes so I try to spend a bit to keep them going along. :)

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