banana seat comes standard

6/14/09

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:

FirstBicycles(bl).jpg

***

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”.

ParachutingBikes(bl).jpg

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.

***

7 thoughts on “banana seat comes standard

  1. Lee

    Kevin’s bike shop has been sorely missed in the area. Even the other local bike shop owners are talking about. He even worked out a deal with another bike shop to take care of all his former customers and to honor their warranties.
    Kevin, you did a great job. Somebody’s gonna be lucky to get you and your many talents. And I’m gonna be lucky enough to have you cook for me at family beach week!
    Maybe your next incarnation will have all the fun of a bike shop without that albatross around the neck feeling. If it’s possible, I know you’ll find it!

    Reply
  2. Anne

    While this story is bittersweet, I loved reading about an independent merchant whose interests and business become woven so thoroughly into his community. The testimonial comments attached to the linked article are incredibly touching and speak volumes about what kind of person Kevin is.
    The “Shop Local Raleigh” campaign sounds marvelous and very appropriate given Kevin’s background. Rhode Island (pretty much a city-state, we’re so small) has been promoting local farm products during the last 5-10 years, and the notion has taken off big-time. Most of us now purchase Rhody Fresh Milk (from a local cooperative) at even the biggest super-dupermarkets; buy local brown eggs; and shop at dozens of farmers’ markets. Local cheesemakers, shellfishermen, wineries are all doing well. This campaign has been a huge success. I wish the same for your “shop local” effort. It can work!
    Good luck, Kevin, as you explore career change. Not sure how old you are — in the pic you appear roughly in my age bracket — but it’s never too late to try something new. Kudos for making a difference to so many.

    Reply
  3. Charlie

    I’ve known Kevin for 6 years and I own a bike store in NYC. We served on the board of a bike co-op we were trying to get rolling for most of those years. Kevin is one of the people I most respect and admire in or out of the bike industry. His concern for his employees absolutely defines the person I have always believed Kevin to be.
    Kevin I miss you, and if you do not end up back in the bike industry, it will be our loss.
    I certainly hope you and Phoebe the best.
    Charlie

    Reply
  4. Bud

    I remember The Spin Cycle and must agree with all the positive comments and sadness at its closing. Fantastic shop, and you, Kevin, sound like a great person. I wish you the best in your future ventures.

    Reply
  5. jje

    Finally had the chance to read this today. Was so moved by your story and wish you the best as you figure out Act II.
    Hey if you’re checking back in with the comments, any advice for finding the right first bike for a four year old? Connor’s bday is Tuesday and we’re going to surprise him by taking him to one of the local bike shops (think the name is Bike Source at Park Road Shopping Center – other option is Bike Gallery, not too far away) to pick out a bike. I’m hoping to have the kind of experience you described providing at your shop.

    Reply
  6. shelly

    Hey Big K – I’m not surprised you don’t miss the pressure – just the wonderful people and daily connections. I wore my Spin Cycle jersey on my last two rides out of respect for what was a special community place. It was a place that I still hold in my heart. Now, on another note…I have been CRAVING that white NC shredded pork bbq!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *