By Joanna McBride
Hands up if your business was only open for less than two weeks before a global pandemic shut it down?
Not many hands would go up, well one – Independent Cycles.
A bike shop that caters to mountain bikes and mountain biking enthusiasts is the new addition to our downtown core. Unfortunately, we hardly had time to celebrate their success.
This is a story of three young men that came together with a shared vision of embracing a strong cycling community and culture.
“We’re in this to cultivate a cycling culture, one customer experience at a time,” says Rocky Blondin, one of the three owners.
Each owner himself realized that there were, metaphorically, three legs of their chair that had to be addressed in the developing process.
The first was ridership. Taking in to consideration the considerable amount of mountain bikers in our community, they endeavoured to operate with a service first mentality in order to get your current bike from where it is today to its best self.
The second was community support, with emphasis on supporting local and developing and maintaining ‘give and take’ relationships. This is seen in their support and volunteering for groups like Mission Community Cycling Coalition (M3C) and the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association (FVMBA).
The third was to successfully establish a thriving and fully engaged bike store. This meant creating a store with a sense of place.
“We really wanted this place to feel like the cycling community’s home,” Rocky explained.
Their clubhouse vibe is intended to make it comfortable to come in, have a coffee and talk trails, bikes and life in general.
The dream started for each of them many years ago, but really came together in 2019 when each of them found themselves at professional crossroads.
Rocky Blondin spent the majority of his career programming industrial equipment such as amusement rides and robots. Unfortunately this profession took him away from his family and community too regularly, and he has always been keeping an eye out for the next phase and a more local opportunity.
Dan Schubert had recently sold his business, Schubert Plumbing & Heating Ltd. and was also looking for something new that peaked his interest. His passion since his youth had always been mountain biking, and after getting back into riding in the past 5 years and more recently volunteering with the Fraser Valley Mountain Biking Association (FVMBA), contributing to the opening of a local mountain bike shop seemed ideal.
Chris Friesen was working for Nobl Wheels and met Dan and Rocky while building trails and the youth skills park at Mill Pond with the FVMBA. It had always been in the back of his mind, a desire to open a bike shop, so when faced with the opportunity, he jumped at it.
The three of them ultimately came together; same dream, different flavours, and it worked.
Spending a lot of time looking at the potential of their future shop in various facades, they all knew that centering their idea around location was the wrong way to start a business. The perfect location showed up on Main Street.
Ensuring everything was done cost-effectively, each of them took on a different aspect of setting up, according to their own expertise, so that they could remain financially viable in order to see their doors open.
“From the very beginning, there was an outpouring of support from the community,” Rocky tells us. “Strangers and friends were approaching us and asking what they could do to help. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
With this overwhelming support, they opened their doors to the public on March 5, 2020.
With the intention of establishing high level partnerships, the boys put a lot of time and effort in to developing an elaborate business plan for Independent Cycles.
“We had three estimates; conservative, ideal and optimal,” Rocky admits. “Not one of them did we mention the possibility of a global pandemic.”
On March 18, Independent Cycles closed their doors – temporarily.
“It’s hit more than just the small businesses,” Rocky explains. “We just got a motion passed through council to create a staff report for locations for a bike skills park and pump track. Even recreation has become a casualty.”
Independent is now taking individual appointments, only allowing one person in to the store at a time and taking all necessary precautions to keep equipment sanitized and safe. They are working very hard to keep the shop virus-free in order to be able to keep serving the cycling community.
“We are concentrating on keeping our customers active and rolling,” Rocky tells us. “A lot of flat tires and shifting repairs, and some bigger stuff too.”
Their advice to the community right now is simple.
“Shop local. It’s always been important, but now it’s crucial.”
Looking at what you can do to help our small businesses?
Rocky’s suggestion is to write a positive review online.
“If you’re coming in and you’re happy, give your feedback online – Google, Facebook, etc – in order to spread the word.”