Cycles of Life: Building it Out
Editor’s Note: This is the third article from Siren Cycles’ founder Brendan Collier. While it’ll touch on his bike brand, the focus is on the romantic notion most of us have of one day opening a little bike shop to call our own. He’s done it, and now he’s chronicling the experience for us. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we do! Read the full series here.
We opened our shop in 2011 with more ideas than capital. We had to make the best of the resources we had (or could get) and it broke down something like this:
At the lead up to opening day, we focused heavily on triage repairs for weekend visitors, and selling the small bits & pieces one might need during a weekend of riding. We didn’t need much space to make that happen, and I didn’t have much to spend anyhow. So a small shop would work to get us off the ground.
In early spring of 2011 we found a small space, something on the order of 250 sq/ft in a quiet complex just off the beaten path. Hidden in plain sight, as I like to be. We signed a lease and set out to make something fun & profitable of it. A notable advantage of being in a multiunit complex came to light when we outgrew our first space and needed to move into a larger space – a problem easier to solve in-house and beneficial to the owner as well.
Space has been a tricky figure to get right, and keep right. Our startup plan was built on organic growth- slowly building the demand for cycling in our town, starting with word of mouth. We were very limited for overhead in terms of inventory & rent. As time has passed and the business has grown, we’re outgrowing our second space, albeit at a slower rate. The need for space is a riddle, and solving takes some looking at a number of factors, from proportion of retail sales to service revenue… to the value of exposure in a certain area of town.
Fixtures & displays
We decided to build our own fixtures in the Siren frame shop. Cost and space efficiency were paramount.
First priority went to a workbench/bar top that held a single workstation’s load of tools while positioning a couple customers up on bar stools- we needed a way to pack folks in like sardines, but maintain a level of comfort conducive to business.
We chose bar stools for their space efficiency compared to chairs (think up, not out) and tucked them away out of direct line of sight from the door so as to put folks in a comfortable position to socialize. We built that first workbench in such a way that it’d be useful further down the line for other uses. It’s now our register counter… and it could take on a third life in our next shop.
We’ve aimed to use as many aesthetically complimentary fixtures as possible. For starters, we repurposed a set of drawers out of a beaten hardwood desk- a little bit of metalwork turned them into a fine tee shirt display. Welded steel tubing and some bolts made for frame racks up and out of the way. These home made fixtures add charm and character to the shop, no doubt.
Looking forward, we will once again build out custom fixtures, this time with the help of a local wood worker. The requirements this time around will have to do with holding more items without clutter, or presenting a product in the best possible light, economical in space. We’ll use more pedestals too- a bike presented closer to eye level looks better.
But the new space won’t be all custom work- there’s still no substitute for grid wall & slat wall for rows & columns of small parts and accessories. This stuff has a way of eating up vertical space, so I strive to keep bulky items on the floor (or pedestals) and smaller items on shelves.
We made the best sign we could from the start. Figuring we would always keep it, even through shop moves, I collaborated with a local metal sculptor with a CNC plasma cutting machine and set to work. The sign took 5 layers of steel and some 60 steel studs welded in place to come together. By doing it right the first time, we won’t have to change our sign for some years to come.
Like most everything else I’ve found in our small business, the shop’s space is a moving target. As seasons change, so too does our inventory, and the number of feet coming through the door. We’re constantly changing display racks, or bulging at the seams in the repair area. Keeping things flexible is key.