Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Month In

Well,  I'm a month into my new routine,  and I thought I'd give an update.  I'm settling into the rhythms of it fairly well.  The slightly later mornings, into which I always try to cram too many things- emails, cooking, cleaning, appointments.   The morning settling in, tidying up, chatting with the UPS or Fedex drivers, generally broken around noon by a couple of people coming by on their lunch hours.   The early afternoon lull in which I follow up on orders or emails and sometimes assemble a bike.  Finally the late afternoon when people start to trickle in between 3 and 6.  Followed by closing up and heading home to make dinner.

The first couple of weeks were largely marked by the incredible heat, and lack of AC.  I came home every day feeling lightly roasted,  especially on sunny days where the western windows drove the temperatures up dramatically.  After a comedy of errors involving an illegal 220v outlet masquerading as a 110 outlet, Home Depot's incredible return policy and a long hot wait for an installer to put in the new 220 unit, we have nice cold AC,  which is a huge relief.

People who come in randomly off the street not knowing anything about the shop seem fairly divided.
About half are very interested and excited that such a shop exists.  They gush about how pretty the bikes are or talk nostalgically about the bikes they used to own and the simpler life of three speeds.   Several of these people have bought bikes, and it's a real kick to see them riding by weeks later through the shop windows.

Another 25% are just window shopping,  not really interested in buying a bike, not having a bike that needs accessories, they're just checking out what's in this funny triangular space.  They like to tell me about the businesses that have failed in this spot.  Cheerful!

The final 25% are not really interested in this kind of bike and some of them are not afraid to tell me about it.  Like the woman who did a quick lap and then asked me for directions to Wheelworks because she wanted a bike with shocks (!)   Or the guy with stereotypical piercings, tats and facial hair who wanted a fixie because he had a friend with a fixie.  Or most disconcertingly the guy who told me he'd thought about buying a dutch bike, but got a mountain bike instead because dutch bikes were too heavy and impractical.  Those people are better served elsewhere, and fortunately there are a lot of other local shops which can really help them out.

Beyond the people coming in randomly, I've had a ton of bike-friends, bike acquaintances, and friends of bike friends who had heard about the shop through the blog or through others' blogs or tweets.  Many of these people already own a bike,  but it's still great to see them, and meet some in person after only knowing them through the blogosphere.

Henry the Shop Dog enjoying the AC
And finally I'm starting to get people coming in who are specifically looking for the products I sell, and have found me through the website.  They call asking if I have the Bobbin birdie in Mint (no, as far as I can tell, it's been discontinued)  or to ask about when the Edgerunners will arrive (mid September).  I am trying to figure out how to boost the signal out to those people.   I've joined up with the Boston Family Bicycling group, and a lot of people from that group have contacted me.  But I need to reach further out, to people who don't necessarily think of themselves as cyclists, but whose lives would be made easier with a comfortable, attractive city bicycle.   I'm still trying to figure out the best ways to do that.  I've gotten a lot of calls from "marketers"  who have all kinds of ways that they promise to increase my profile, for a fee.   But I still need to do some thinking about how to reach the people I'm trying to reach, and I don't think that a yelp ad that pops up when anyone searches for "Bicycle" is really the right tool.

Working 6 days a week has been an adjustment, and I pack my Mondays off with lots of errands and to-do's.   I definitely don't know everything there is to know about bikes, and I am never going to be someone who has all the details of gear ratios and frame geometry at the tip of their tongue.  But I sometimes have to stop and giggle that I get to spend my days talking to people about bikes all day!

12 comments:

  1. congrats on the new gig and best of luck to you!

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  2. I'm so in awe and slightly jealous. Thinking good thoughts for positive cash flow and happy customers.

    :D

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  3. Some people's reactions are so weird. But I'm sure in the coming weeks and months more and more folks will flock to your store for all their transportation cycling needs

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  4. Good luck! I wonder if the owners of similar shops in Portland and NYC etc would be a good resource in helping figure out what worked and what didn't?

    Perhaps you could loan a few bikes to shops (Anthropologie, Newbury St stores etc) for shop displays? and also contact Boston Magazine to see if your bikes could be included in fashion shots with a credit to your shop? I think it is helpful for people to be able to envisage it as part of their lives.

    And what if you have a few gorgeous bikes that could be rented (or loaned to friends who are out and about on bikes a good deal) which would sport your shop logo?

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  5. living the dream ;)

    I've already been fielding inquiries from bike-curious friends who've been using Hubway and are getting interested in stepping up to owning their own bike for (as they put it), "faffing around the city and wandering about." So I may be bringing them by your shop sometime.

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  6. C-
    It was nice talking with you and visiting your shop this morning. You have a terrific selection of city cycles and a great shop!
    Congrats!!

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  7. Keep up the good fight. Jackie D mentioned Bicycle Belle during the Globe's "Safe or Savage" bike talk.
    Once people start bringing their kids to school in the fall I bet that business will pick up - kids always seem to grow out of what they used last year...

    Mark

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  8. I just discovered your blog, and subsequently your shop, via LovelyBicycle! You have no idea how badly I wish I lived on the East Coast right now as I'm having a hard time finding a transportation bike I really love. Seems like your shop is exactly what I need. Maybe in the near future I'll plan a trip from CA. In the meantime I'm off to read the rest of your blog. Thanks for existing!
    Katherine

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  9. Strange question, but do you stock parts for Bobbin Daytrippers? I ask this because I need to get a new seat bolt. (Not the bolt's fault, starting to round it out and it got rusty). Also, I'll mention this shop to folks I know; this is exactly my kind of shop. Have you ever worked on old Raleighs? (say, 1970s?)

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  10. You're probably aware of this general issue, but:

    Yesterday a coworker asked me about bikes. I mentioned "Bicycle Belle, in Somerville", and watched as he wrote it down: B-e-l-l. Uh oh.

    So later I googled "bicycle bell somerville". Nothing on the first page, one mention from Lovely Bicycle! on the second.

    I think most people will probably remember to say "with an e" or something (and in fact I later wrote the same coworker an email with hyperlinks to the shops I mentioned), but I do wonder if this could impede word of mouth a bit.

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  11. Hello there, just read about your opening month. Building your customer base takes time and nothing else really accelerates that. Its done one person at a time, then slowly referrals trickle in, you build a great reputation and it goes from there. Some of your customers comments are similar to what we get. We do not sell any MTBs or Hybrids or high end new road bikes. A couple people have come in looked around and asked if we sell any "regular bikes" as in a MTB so they can ride it on the street.

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