Green Gear Guru has been producing bags, wallets and accessories out of upcycled materials for years. Need a backpack made out of bike inner tubes for your mountain biking buddy who’s going back to school? They’ve got you covered.
The company outgrew the workshop in the back of their retail store. Special Ed teacher, Ryan Balciar, adopted this space and has created a niche bike shop for cruiser and cargo bike aficionados. Basically, if its heavy and fun, the Cruiser Boutique carries it.
Ryan has been very successful getting his start-up bike shop off the ground. Hosting weekly cruiser rides gets new people on bikes, and builds a community with existing customers. He also has discovered that connecting with the local bike coalition and bicycle bloggers has helped spread the word about his niche shop.
You opened the Cruiser Boutique inside of an established local business. What were the challenges and advantages of opening a niche bike shop this way?
For me, the advantages included opening a shop in a pre-existing retail environment alongside my best friends. When I set up shop, there was already a loyal customer base and many of the logistics (employees, accountants, insurance, etc.) were already in place. This allowed me to focus on my passion rather than many of the aspects of opening a business that I find dreadful. I still spend too much time working on computers rather than riding. There are disadvantages as well. There are days when the shop floor is full of merchandise that is being shipped around the country, our location is not ideal from a strictly retail standpoint, and we have a lot of different people working here that do not have a lot of shop experience (designers and interns) and this can be a little overwhelming for walk in customers.
Your bike shop specializes in cruisers and cargo bikes. How has focusing on such a niche market helped you to establish and grow your business?
We have a large cruiser scene here in Boulder, with multiple meeting points. We have had a large group meeting at our shop for the last couple years, so offering people the opportunity to customize their bikes before the ride starts seemed like a good plan. There are always people that need lights and other basic accessories as well. I have had various cargo bikes over the years, and carrying Yubas fits in well with our goals of a more sustainable world.
As a new bike shop, how do you recruit new customers? How do you retain your current customers? What strategies do you think would be helpful to other bike shops to learn from?
We already had a large following of local customers from the Green Guru brand. People love products and want to support our business. Hosting a large weekly social ride helps with word of mouth marketing and creates a fun interactive shopping experience. Selling someone a cruiser than taking them out on it for a night of riding really helps to build a loyal customer base.
What is your favorite use for your Yuba Mundo?
This is a tough one. By far my favorite use is hauling around the love of my life, although I know that she would rather be on her own bike and is just sitting back there looking pretty to make me happy. We also have a custom stereo system that we attach for some of the cruiser rides and this combines two of my favorite things. We have a lot of snow mixed with sunny days and cold nights, so there tends to be a lot of ice in the winter. This is one of the times that having a Yuba is advantageous, as it seems far more stable on slippery terrain.