Local Bike Shops Roll through Tough Economy
Webster Grove's Hub Bicycle had a record-breaking December and is expanding its shop by 40 percent. Other area shops are also doing well.
In spite of the recession, which has certainly affected St. Louis County, at least one area of business is holding steady, if not growing—bike shops.
Devon Clark, an employee at The Hub Bicycle Company in Webster Groves, said the shop had its best December ever in terms of sales.
In fact, business is doing so well, the company is tearing down a wall and expanding by 40 percent into the space next door. Work is expected to be complete in February or March.
“We’ll have a dressing room, a fitting area and the displays will be much more appealing,” said Ron Clipp, the shop's owner.
(Keep up with Webster Groves business news on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WebsterGrovesPatch)
Calls to other St. Louis bike shops indicate the Webster Groves shop isn’t the only one doing well. Earlier this month, Maplewood Bicycle used Facebook last week to dig up sales candidates.
"Maplewood Bicycle is now accepting resumes for up to 5 full, part-time, or seasonal positions for the 2012 season," the company's Facebook page stated. "2011 was the record breaking year in our 38-year history."
Two factors could be responsible. One is that St. Louis is becoming more bike-friendly, and the other is that St. Louis County’s economy is looking up.
“We’ve seen some pretty encouraging numbers the last few months," said Kathryn Jamboretz, with the St. Louis County Economic Council. "It’s certainly trending in the right direction.”
In addition to a decreasing unemployment rate for the county, now at 7.5 percent, St. Louis County has consistently remained below the national average, which is now at 8.2 percent, Jamboretz said. According to the United States Department of Labor, unemployment was 9.5 percent for the area in November 2011, just over a year ago.
Then there’s the aspect that St. Louis is becoming more welcoming to biking. Last year, Trailnet, a St. Louis bicycle advocacy group, opened its Downtown Bicycle Station with 120 bike racks, showers and locker rooms for bike commuters.
“We’re becoming a more bike-friendly city,” said Tom Iannarelli, manager of REI in Brentwood. “With all these bike organizations and advocates, all your bicycle riders are really trying to live the life on a bike.”
Iannarelli moved to St. Louis four years ago, and feared for his life when he rode. He said he's seen a big improvement in bike awareness, as well as more bike lanes.
Dirk Sprogoe, general manager at Big Shark in University City said last year was good and business is slightly on the rise.
“You watch the news and fear the worst,” Sprogoe said. “We’re trying to do the same things we’ve done in the past. We grew last year, and the year before that, we prefer slow and steady.”