VOL. 130 | NO. 57 | Tuesday, March 24, 2015
By Andy Meek
When he’s not busy selling bikes and hooking anyone he can deep into bike culture, Victory Bicycle Studio owner Clark Butcher is thinking about the next location of his business.
Victory Bicycle Studio owner Clark Butcher in front of his existing shop on Broad Avenue. Butcher plans to open a second local bicycle shop – with a different target customer – by the end of the year.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
Butcher currently operates Victory Bicycle at 2549 Broad Ave., but his new shop will be a bit different inside. And while it will be an additional location of Butcher’s business, it won’t carry the Victory Bicycle name.
That’s because he has a fresh idea for how a new location would operate, the market it would go after and the atmosphere it would present to customers. He doesn’t want to say too much now: The bicycle business is, in some respects, a commodity business built around the same basic idea of selling a set of wheels connected to a frame that a person can ride. In other words, there’s a lot that’s easy for competition to replicate.
The differentiator, though, is in things like customer service, in the brand and the customer experience, something Butcher has cultivated at his shop since getting started in 2010.
“We don’t have any interest in selling to somebody who only wants to ride their bike on pretty days and then hang it up after that,” Butcher says. “I’m not going to dog any other shops or the bikes they carry. We all love bikes.
“The difference is Victory loves the bike business. We want to keep you fired up through exclusive customer events, nutrition clinics, maintenance. We have the complete agenda to hook you into this sport.”
And while he’s focused until now on the hard-core cyclists and more dedicated enthusiasts – those who don’t mind paying a premium for top-notch equipment – his new location will have a more affordable price point and a family atmosphere.
He wants to broaden his tent to go after a different kind of cyclist. Because of the different concept, Butcher said the new shop will carry a different name, ensuring the Victory Bicycle brand stays true to its mission.
He already has had three different locations under contract as potential homes for the second store, but all three contracts have fallen through. Butcher is not dissuaded. All he needs is the real estate, he said. Everything else is ready, and he thinks his new concept also could lend itself to franchising.
He hopes to get everything for the new store wrapped up by the end of 2015, though if he found the perfect place, he’d proceed immediately.
“I could be like every other bike shop,” said Butcher, who’s tasked Harvest Creative with developing the new shop’s brand. “I could do my entire concept and Victory all in the same space. But I’d be like every other bike shop out there.
“You can’t sell $100 kid bikes and $20,000 bikes next to one another. It’s two totally different styles. If a kid’s running around with sticky hands and candy, and you’re trying to drop a few thousand dollars, it’s not the right atmosphere. I’d be like every other store, and I’d lose my niche.”
Butcher began coaching cyclists in 2002 – something he still does – and several years later, clients were asking him to go with them to other local shops and help them choose bikes.
All of a sudden, it hit him: If he opened a small store and worked his current book of business, “I’ll break even,” he said.
The store first opened in a 550-square-foot space in Cooper-Young. In the first year, it did more than $650,000 in business. A desire to own the building in which the shop operates led the business to Broad, “back before anything was happening over here,” Butcher said.
“People who want the best service don’t mind going out of the way,” he said. “And it’s just been a home run over here.” Butcher recently launched an e-commerce site for Victory, as well as a consulting arm through which he works with other bike retailers.
Next up is the new location. Butcher said there are letters of intent on two locations right now, and he’s ready to see what happens next.