In business, as in life, it’s all about how you plan.
Take Hunter Dickerson and Anthony Turner, for example. Behind a dark concrete storefront and a pair of even darker beards, the co-owners of Bayou City Cycles in Houston have staked the success of their enterprise on a familiar 21st-century refrain: urban renewal.
“The neighborhood that we’re in is changing,” says Hunter. He motions to the surrounding East End, where the price per square foot has more than doubled since the late 90’s. Where once you might find an older demographic not particularly keen on cycling, now a wave of young professionals has begun settling in, disillusioned by the skyrocketing real estate values in places like Montrose and Houston Heights.
It’s a contemporary spin on Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams logic, except the mantra has evolved into a much less catchy, but no less prophetic, you should probably build it, because they’re coming anyway.
Explore Houston’s East End with Hunter and Anthony:
As Anthony is quick to point out, however, despite this gradual gentrification the community hasn’t lost it’s multicultural edge.
“It’s still a very eclectic area,” he says. “We have a lot of graffiti-covered walls and cool places to check out. I think that’s what draws a lot of people here as well.”
It was this blend of cost, character, and potential that first attracted the duo to Eastwood back in 2015. Given the right surroundings, they surmised, a small, customer service-oriented bike shop located just outside of downtown could have a big impact on the Houston cycling scene. And so far, their intuition hasn’t led them astray.
“I think we have a pretty strong foothold in this neighborhood to accomplish what we’re trying to do,” says Hunter. “For a lot of people here, the bicycle is still their main form of transportation. We’re really well situated to service them, as well as the avid cyclists that are moving in. We’re here to help everybody.”
And by everybody, they mean everybody. New bikes? Yep. Used bikes? Yep. Bike repair? Obviously. Single speeds? Plenty (although, as Anthony will emphatically remind you, they’re not a “hipster shop”). There are even strong outreach efforts being made to engage with the cycling community well beyond Eastwood’s modest borders.
“We do a lot of stuff with Bike Houston,” says Hunter, referencing the city’s major cycling nonprofit. “We had a big event with them last night here at the shop, doing a 10 mile tour of the East End.”
To accommodate the full spectrum of riders, Bayou City Cycles even has a fleet of new Retrospec Charters available for rent through Spinlister. They’ll be the first to admit that the city’s rental market can be pretty competitive, but with direct bike lane access from their shop to both downtown and the nearby University of Houston campus, well, again – it all comes down to planning.
“It’s a pretty difficult task to get off the ground by yourself,” says Hunter, providing what some might call an understated description of small business ownership. “We didn’t take out any loans when we set up shop here. Everything was done on personal finance. Everything in the shop we own.”
That’s a pretty big commitment for a couple of bike builders embarking on their first entrepreneurial adventure together. But then again, when you’ve done your homework and your mission blends seamlessly with your surroundings, sometimes those are the risks well worth taking.
“We want to be the local, friendly neighborhood bike shop, so it doesn’t matter if you have a $5,000 bike or a $50 bike,” says Anthony. Ask around Eastwood and it won’t take long to discover, that’s a business philosophy that suits this neighborhood just fine.
Photo Credit: Creative Cycle