Retailing on Two Wheels

With gas pumps out front, automotive supplies inside and the occasional adjacent lube shop, c-stores are geared toward the driving public. But as more commuters take to bikes for exercise, to save on gas or to support a greener environment, one c-store owner is making bicycles his business.

A bike commuter and bike mechanic, Edwin Skaug noticed a theme at retail while riding. “Since convenience stores primarily carry automotive products and daily need items, I thought if a c-store had more bike shop items designed to appeal to bike traffic, it might bring in cyclists that wanted to shop while they waited for a bike tune-up or to get a tire patched,” he said.

What’s more, his hometown of Portland, Ore. was named America’s top cycling city by Bicycling magazine in 2001 and 2006. The last Census report in 2004 showed about 4% of the Portland population used bicycles as their primary mode of transportation. And, the city’s Office of Transportation’s Bicycle Master Plan calls for increasing bicycle mode share in the inner city to 15% and citywide to 10% by 2011.

In other words, cycling is booming in Portland.

A Store is Born
Using the trend and his background to his advantage, Skaug opened a bike shop/c-store, called A Convenient Cycle, in Portland in August, renting a location near a major bike path and doing all the renovations on the 350-square-foot store himself. From start to finish, the first time c-store owner got his business up and running quickly, seeking out a location in June, preparing the site in July and opening by the end of August.

A Convenient Cycle not only offers bike parking, but features bike accessories from tires and lights to locks and helmets, as well as c-store items such as toiletries, protein and energy bars, chips, an array of hot and cold beverages and, of course, first aid items, such as painkillers and bandages. The store also services bikes, repairing break pads, cables and other bike-related issues.

So far, customer response has been positive. “They like being able to come in, and if they have time to hang around for a tune up, they can get an energy bar or a soda or look around at accessories. I have a bunch of folks swinging by to schedule tune-ups and grab snacks,” Skaug said.

Positioning his store near a major bike path has been instrumental in alerting customers to his presence. “Salmon (Street) is a bike boulevard and it goes right by my shop, so they can see me. I have some signs out along the bike path to let them know that I’m here,” Skaug noted.

With his store already open and attracting riders, Skaug has set his eye on expansion. Already he has a front-loading Dutch cargo tricycle to bring his convenience store business directly to those on the bike path. “I will be out on the bike routes riding around. I am working with the city to set up a permit spot for the morning to promote the shop location. I’ll carry break pads, patch kits, batteries, cables, other bike accessories, painkillers, bandages and power bars,” Skaug said, adding he still needs to work out a cooler system for the cargo trike, so he can also supply cold water.

His next goal is to acquire cargo bikes to rent to people who need to run errands or rent a bike for the weekend.

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