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Front Page » May 30, 2002 » The Business Journal » Of boards and bikes
Published 4,478 days ago

Of boards and bikes


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By RICHARD SHAW
Focus pages Editor


Danny Decker, who began his bike shop in his garage in Emery County a few years ago, stands proudly in his new shop located on First East between Main and First North with a "bicycle built for two" he has on display.

The old saying goes "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." But does a "bike ride a day" do the same?

Danny Decker probably thinks so and would also tell you so. Being the only special purveyor of those two wheeled vehicles we all owned as kids, he sees bikes as a way of life.

These machines he sells just aren't for kids anymore.

With some bicycles prices ranging into the $1500 range, good, well built and long lasting bikes are not a casual purchase for most people.

And nor should it be.

"The truth is if kids had their way, nine out of 10 of them would buy their bikes from me," says Decker. "They know what they want and what works. Parents come in a look at my prices and go down the street to one of the discount stores."

In actuality, good quality and seemingly pricey bikes have always been around. But people look at some of the better machines today and see the same price they paid for their first car and balk at buying their kids that kind of bike.'

"I've worked on some pretty old bikes people have picked up, but they are almost always the best brands, like a Diamond Back," states Decker. "The oldest Huffy I have ever done any work on is four years. That's because they wear out and at that point is more money to fix them than it is to just throw them away and buy another one."

Bicycles serve different purposes for different people. Some use them for fun, others for transportation, and some for serious fun. With the breakout of the mountain bike craze a number of years ago, biking took off like wildfire. And it continues to roar.

Decker began in the bicycle business over 30 years ago when his uncle began importing inner tubes. Then he moved into retail and whole sale. He became involved in that business and soon he was working in his brother-in-laws shop in the Cottonwood area in Salt Lake County.

But there came a time when he decided he wanted to do something else and he moved to Emery County and went to work for a large employer there.

However, within a couple of years of moving there, friends and neighbors came to know that he could fix theirs and their kids bicycles. Soon he had a small business repairing bikes out of his garage.

"I wanted to get out, but just couldn't," he says of that time. "That first year I made only $3000 fixing bikes. The business has increased a great deal since then."

He moved to Price when he bought an existing bicycle business about six years ago on the corner of First North and Third East. It was a good location visibility wise, but the parking was impossible.

"A person could get run over getting to my store," he says.

A couple of months ago the shop moved to First East across from the CEU Prehistoric Museum. The new store is bigger, but doesn't quite have the visibility the old one did.

"So far the move has not affected the business," says Decker. "Our customers know where we are."

And they are a discerning bunch. Many are young, and many know what they want when they walk in. They want the bikes that Lance Armstong won on (Trek) or the BMX bikes that Dave Mirra tools along on (Haro).

Owning a great bicycle is much like owning a fine automobile. There is a big difference between a Corvette and a Hyundai, not only in cost, but in performance, style and features.

The bike industry has been in dramatic change in recent years, yet many of the age old formulas for success are still there. In terms of sales 60 percent of the business goes to department and discount stores, while 40 percent goes to small shops like Deckers. There are about 4700 small shops in the country (according to the Independent Bike Dealers Association), and that number remains pretty stable from year to year with some new ones opening while others are closing.

"Nationally they figure it takes a population base of about 50,000 people to operate a bike shop successfully," says Decker. "I figure we have a base of about 28,000. That means if another shop opened in the area both of us would starve instead of just one of us."

The names of many of the top machines in the bicycle business today are foreign to most baby boomers. In their younger days they knew names like Raleigh and of course, the best of all Schwinn.

Schwinn was recently purchased by Pacific Bike, a company that makes many of the bikes for discount chains.

"People talk about Schwinns like they were a long time ago," says Decker. "But they are not built in America anymore like people think. They haven't been for at least 20 years."

There are a lot of differences besides price when it comes to buying a bike. One of the things that Deckers offers is a full waranty and of course warranty work and service on all the bikes they sell.

Deckers Bike Shop sells more than just bicycles. They also offer skate boards of various kinds and snow boards as well. Accessories and parts are available for a wide range of bikes and boards as well.

"There has been a large gap between the quality of department store bikes and the kinds of bikes shop sell for a long time," says Decker. "In recent years that gap has started to shrink. The manufacturers who make the discount store bikes are beginning to build better machines, but along with that comes higher prices. What bike shops have to offer in the market is not only the very best machines, but also the knowledge, the technical expertise and the service that big stores just can't give."

As with most bike shops around the nation, Deckers cannot just survive on selling and offering service on bicycles. Accessories and parts are a big part of their business. And so are boards; skate boards and snow boards.

"Skate boards come in many forms," said Decker as he pulled one down from the wall. "This one on the floor is a long board for speed. You see a lot of these on college campus'. They are fast and are good for transportation from point A to B. The kids come in and drool over them, but usually buy the ones they can go up to the skate park and use."

Decker sells all the major brands of skate boards as well as custom models.

Spring, of course, slows down the snow board market, but Deckers does some good sales during the winter. His ship deals in K2 and Lamar snow boards.

But bikes are still the main business and Decker takes it seriously.

"When I had the business in my garage I had so many people bringing me department store bikes to fix that I began to offer $5 a piece for bikes that people didn't want for the parts," he says. "I had barrels of parts by the time I stopped doing that. At one point I had to haul 60 bike skeletons to the dump and only one of them was not a department store bike. It was a Diamond back that had been run over. I ended up throwing all the parts away that I had collected, because with the cost I decided I would only offer my customers new parts. It's not worth it to give someone a used derailer. They deserve new."


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