Kent Schmidt’s success in bike shop management essentially boils down to two things. The first is a genuine love of cycling. The second is family.
These are values that resonate naturally in a city like Montrose, Colorado, where tight-knit communities and a penchant for active lifestyles are the norm. Situated just south of Black Canyon National Park, it’s here that Kent took the entrepreneurial leap of faith back in 2012, remodeling the interior of a 1,000 sq. ft. space that would become the original home of his Papa Wheelie’s bike shop.
“I was thinking about what to name the shop,” he recalls. “My grandpa’s name is Willard, and we’ve always called him Papa Willy. So I thought, ‘Why on earth wouldn’t I call it that?’”
Of course, his shop’s commitment to family goes significantly farther than the lettering on its storefront. For starters, there’s the buy-back program on children’s bikes that allows young riders to upgrade at a sizeable discount. Then there’s the equipment itself, covering every riding style from balance bikes to pedal assists to full-throttle MTBs. For Kent, however, the relational bond he shares with his customers starts with something even more fundamental.
“It’s about going above and beyond,” he says. “As soon as they walk in the door, they’re greeted and welcomed. We want them to feel completely at home and relaxed. Our goal is to increase their cycling enjoyment and comfort, so even if we don’t have something here, we’ll point them in the right direction. It all comes back around eventually.”
As much as this principled approach is to be commended, it’s the authenticity of the man behind it that may be the most surprising of all. As Kent will be the first to admit, while he loves to ride he’s neither a professional road racer nor a world class mountain biker. When construction work slowed in the wake of the 2008 recession, he channeled his childhood passion for cycles first into a UBI mechanic’s certificate, and then into his own business.
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“I remember telling my dad, ‘You know, it seems like there’s a need in Montrose for a good, honest bike shop. So I decided to try and find a solution for them.”
And if business is any indication, he’s succeeded. In July of 2016, Papa Wheelie’s opened the doors to their new 3,000 sq. ft. location on Main Street, directly across from their former store. With the extra space, Kent has been able to expand his shop’s offering beyond repair and retail, partnering up with Spinlister to provide a wide-ranging fleet of rentals for the city’s proliferating cycling populous.
“We have a very fast-growing mountain bike scene,” he explains. “Our local trail system has expanded tremendously both within our immediate area and about 30 minutes away.” One of the area’s most well known trails, Buzzard Gulch, is a favorite for both Montrose residents as well as visitors to southwest Colorado. “That’s where I usually head in the evening,” says Kent. “It’s just a fun, flowy trail system, good for kids all the way up to advanced riders.”
In other words, perfect for the family that loves to cycle. And yes, right up Papa Wheelie’s alley.