The craziness in the economy is an academic curiosity for some, and a middling worry for others, but today I wanted to hand the blog over to commenter Kevin Coggins, who just had to close his entire business: the best indie bicycle store in the Triangle. Kevin’s sister is the wonderful Lee, whom I’ve gushed about on these very pages. Without ado, here’s Kevin:
Okay… I am inspired by Seth’s guest appearance on these pages. BTW, I registered and signed up for Seth’s easy auto pilot program. Since I am recently unemployed after closing my bicycle store in Cary, NC, maybe I can win Seth’s drawing and travel the world by his side. [ed. note: alas, Seth barely lost the top spot to some doofus, but is humbled by everyone’s participation]
I know many of you are hoops aficionados. FWIW, I am a NC State graduate and long for the years when we and UNC ruled the ACC in hoops and Dook was a mere afterthought. We’ve been so pitiful for so many years that I suspect that many of you roll your eyes at that comment… look it up.
Ian asked me to write an article back in February about closing The Spin Cycle after 16 years of business. I needed a little time to get my head around it, while adjusting to my new life. Just what this new life is going to be is a journey I now undertake. A friend told me recently that it’ll be interesting to see what happens next for me. I hope I can live up to it.
When you close a business, you must be very smart. You must have a closing strategy in order to minimize the amount of money you’ll lose. It’s a lot of cash either way, but one extreme is very different from the other. I also wanted to make sure my employees landed on their feet. I am pleased to say they have. This has given me the greatest relief. Today, I just await the lawsuits.
As a kid, bicycles gave me freedom. I rode everywhere. Even as a 5-year-old I remember riding as many as 4-5 miles from my house. No one ever thought anything of it. It’s a tragedy our children have been robbed of this possibility. Later, I worked in bicycle stores all through high school and college. I rode lots of miles and even raced a few seasons. I eschewed the bike business coming out of school and went into banking. I learned a lot there, particularly about how businesses fail, and I also learned a lot about customer service.
The inspiration to open The Spin Cycle came 20 years ago when I bought a bike for Phoebe (my lovely bride of now 22 years). My shopping experience went like this: I walked into every store locally and my opening was “I have $1000 in my wallet and I want to buy a bike for my wife”. I was absolutely astounded at what they said next. Not anything like “Wow, you’re really going get something nice with that. I bet she will be very happy” or “That’s really cool you want to do that for your wife”. No, what I got was “well, if that’s all you have you need go save your money”.
I know in 1989 you could spend $3 to $4K on a road bike (LeMond had just won his second tour, ushering in a new wave of technological advancement that forever changed the sport) but honestly – 20 years ago, a thousand bucks was nothing to sneeze at. I knew there had to be a better way. My parents had taught me how to treat people.
The Spin Cycle was one of the best bicycle stores anywhere. The staff loved to ride, and they knew bikes inside and out. Old stuff, new stuff – we knew it all. We had the best mechanics in the area, no attitude, and the friendliest staff around. The store reflected the NC State motto: Esse Quam Videri. To Be, Rather Than to Seem.
I believe the store was also a full encompassing picture of me. You don’t have to believe me. Read the store’s obituary published in the N and O and the comments. It was something special; something that does not exist often in today’s world of bigger, faster, better, cheaper.
Its funny, looking back on it, if I had it to do all over again I would do it the same way. Maybe that does not make me a good businessperson. Yes, I got screwed twice… and I also made a mistake that perhaps I could have prevented. But my $250,000 business lesson to you is this: never do anything where everything has to go right for you to be a success. My business suffered a fatal blow 12 years ago and it took it that long to bleed to death. I kept that thing alive for 12 years; maybe I am a better businessperson than I give myself credit for.
The outpouring of support for me and Phoebe has been nothing short of overwhelming. I never knew what experiencing a miracle was until we closed. All the hard work, and being heavily involved in the community for 2 decades… it came back to us in a way I could have never imagined. Everyone wanted to tell us something; tell us how we had changed their lives – it was as if they needed to say it more than we needed to hear it. At our liquidation sale, the line went on all weekend. There was at times a 2 hour wait to get into the store.
It was a validation rope thrown to me when I was adrift. Shockingly, a local group held a dinner in our honor after we closed. How many times is a dinner held in the honor of a business that has gone out of business?
I will always be thankful for being able to work at something I love for 16 years. I love all the people that worked with me through the years. But the interesting thing? I don’t miss it. I miss seeing the people, the staff and all the relationships, but I have not had this huge void in my life since closing. I am not sure what to think of this right now.
One of my volunteer interests is the Greater Raleigh Merchants Assoc and we have just launched a new movement called Shop Local Raleigh, which is all about supporting local business. It has been fun launching this idea from the ground up. We have done everything from researching content to editing TV commercials – it’s almost been like starting another business.
So what is going to happen? There has to be someone out there that needs someone like me. For now, like the first time, I am focusing on something I also love. I am taking culinary classes at Wake Tech. I am not sure where this will lead. I do not have many career changes ahead of me.