Word hasn’t really gotten around about what’s going on in the old, whitewashed warehouse on Congress Street, just off Broadway.
Set back from a busy Dunkin’ Donuts shop, the building tends to blend into the background.
“It looks like Fort Knox but it’s actually a bike dealership,” said Matt Hutchinson, branch manager for New York Bicycle Co., which opened its doors last summer.
This morning, the parking lot at New York Bicycle Co. was just about empty, unless you count the line of used bikes sitting out for sale.
Despite the lack of community awareness, the shop has gained the attention of the National Bicycle Dealers Association, which has put the store on its recently released list of America’s Best Bike Shops for 2015.
The nonprofit NBDA promotes the interests of specialty bicycle retailers in the United States.
New York Bicycle Co. is one of four Capital Region bike shops run by Plaine and Son, all of which made the NBDA’s 2015 list.
To qualify as one of the NBDA’s best bike shops, businesses must have a physical storefront and generate at least half of their business from bicycle sales or the sale of cycling-related accessory sales.
Mike Baker, communications director for the NBDA, said it’s not easy to make the list, which this year contains 266 bike shops across the country.
“They fill out an application and it’s measured on some specific criteria, whether it’s community involvement or the in-store processes, how they handle their point-of-sale system, to customer service, customer feedback, advocacy efforts, things like that,” he explained.
Mystery shoppers visit each business to confirm it’s worthy of being called one of America’s best.
New York Bicycle Co. stands out from other shops because of its wide selection, Hutchinson said. Bicycle brands carried there include Cannondale, Giant, Liv, GT, Cooker, Schwinn Signature and Momentum.
There are bikes for riders of every age and ability level, including mountain bikes, road bikes and fat-tire bikes.
Prices for new rides range from $350 up to around $14,000.
“Our main goal is to push women’s cycling,” said Hutchinson, showing off a wide selection of Liv bicycles in the 7,000-square-foot showroom. The brand designs bikes specifically for female riders.
Plenty of men’s bicycles are also in stock, including what Hutchinson said are hard-to-find 2015 models, such as the Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0 road bike, which features electronic shifting.
“That was traded in from a customer’s attic,” said Hutchinson, pointing to a vintage 1965 Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat and chopper-style handlebars.
Hanging on a hook above it was a fat-tired unicycle.
“We have everything here,” he said. “If you ask for it, there’s a bike here.”
The shop gives customers a chance to be part of the bicycle assembly process. It also has a community repair stand, where cyclists can work on their own bikes, with staff on hand to answer repair questions and provide complimentary water and juice.
Community members can borrow certain cycles from the shop at no charge to use in charity rides.
The store is situated on more than five acres of land, and Hutchinson said the goal is to make a series of bike trails on the property, where people could test out bikes before they decide to buy.
Hutchinson said he understands that walking into a warehouse full of bicycles can be intimidating. It was just a few years ago that he started riding a road bike.
“I hear comments like, ‘I’m not a Lance Armstrong,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, you don’t need to be,’ ” he said. “I try to make it as positive and uplifting as I can make it.”
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