I admit it’s a personal bias but I tend to measure community retail success by how many bike shops are in town — and things are looking great now that we have 2 bike shops that serve the Kent market.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a bike rider and I spend (too much) money on bikes and bike paraphenalia so I’m a big fan of local bike shops and they tend to be big fans of mine too. It’s a relationship based on mutual satisfaction.
Until about a year ago, buying bike stuff mean’t driving to another community and spending my local dollars to support their economy rather than ours. I’m a believer in supporting our region but I’d still to prefer to support Kent first — and now that I have two local bike shops I feel much less guilt over indulging my bike spending habits.
The local bike shops have opened up a whole new line of rationale for me — “yes honey, it was expensive, but I’m supporting a Kent business — isn’t that a cause worthy of my support?”
The first shop to open in our market, The Portage Cyclery, is technically about 1 mile outside the Kent border in the Franklin Township (but I still manage to argue that the retail market could care less about whether that’s in the incorporated boundaries of Kent or not, it’s a part of greater Kent).
Plus, the owners of the Portage Cyclery searched long and hard for a downtown Kent location to open their business but with all the new stuff going in downtown they couldn’t find a spot that would work so they ended up in a location along SR59 that really turned out to be perfect. They get an A for effort and I feel a civic duty to reward them with my business.
The other more recent shop, Kent Cycle, opened at the end of Lake Street (near the trail head to the hike and bike path at Crain Avenue) but they’ve also announced their plans to be a part of the old hotel retail mix on Main Street across from the Kent Stage as soon as that space is fully renovated (likely by the end of this year).
Are two shops redundant? Heck no, you can never have enough bike shops. Each shop tends to cater to the part of the bike market that is most in their wheelhouse.
Kent Cycles has a retro, almost hippy vibe going on, with lots of bikes at prices that any good environmental steward can afford and would be proud to ride. Portage Cyclery has a little more retail space to work with and that means they have room to carry more bikes, not only at the modest end of the price spectrum but also more high end stuff.
The bike shop business runs on paper thin margins so both bike shops know they have to have something for everyone but each shop still manages to have its own style and feel.
I’ve always said that one of the best parts about Kent is all the choices it offers, and now the same can be said for retail bike shops.
But don’t take my word for it, check out the shops for yourself.