I am working on a story on Bike Culture in Calgary and one of the topics that has grabbed my interest is the number and diversity of bike shops in the city. I have visited lots of other cities and I don’t recall seeing the number of independent bike shops that there are in Calgary.
The one that most intrigues me is Bow Cycle in Calgary’s west side working class community of Bowness (for more history and pics you can go to My Beautiful Bowness blog). On their vintage main street is the largest bike shop I’ve ever seen. A quick email to Bow Cycle got a quick response saying that their shop was 24,000 square feet with another 16,000 square foot warehouse
This was my benchmark. Let the googling begin!
Lots of sites claimed to be the largest in the state or largest in online sales and selection but nothing about size of building.
R&A Cycle in Brooklyn indicates on their website that they are the “World’s Largest Bike Shop” but when I emailed them their response are “the largest Professional bike shop in the world. Not in square feet as there are shops who are larger but they carry mostly bikes under $2,000 in value. As the world’s largest Professional bike shop, we have on display we have over 50 bikes with an average price tag over $4,000, with 800 frames and over 500 bikes in stock” says Philip Cabbad, Sales Representative
So I decided to contact Bow Cycle again to see how they compared as a professional bike shop. Darrell Elliot quickly responded that “we have easily over 75 mountain bikes over $4,000 and easily over 50 road bikes over $5,000 on display. In fact, at a quick glance, we have over 10 bikes over $15,000.”
Darrell went on say “I think when you are looking for the world's largest bike shop, world's best bike shop, etc., you need to have some parameters or guidelines as to what qualifies the shop as the largest or the best. Is it square footage? Overall sales figures? Bike sales? Parts sales? Accessory sales? Internal labor sales? External labor sales? Clothing sales? Bike fitting sales? Service school sales? Event sales (our shop hosts over 10 bicycle races each year)? Number of employees? Community involvement? Industry involvement? What does it take to be the world's largest/best bike store? Without blowing our horn too loud, we are probably the largest single location bicycle retail shop in Canada - perhaps even in North America - we haven't done the research on single location bicycle shops to see who in fact is the largest. It is not that important to us, we just want to meet the needs of our community.”
Yikes…I thought this would be simple - do a bit of research and write a story…I think the chain just fell off this project. Today I spend some time at Calgary Cycle and Road sister bike shops on Centre Street North. R&A Cycle came up again as one of the biggest and best bike shops in USA. I was also directed to check out Colorado bike shops at is it where the USA Olympic bike teams play and major bike manufacturers are located there.
So I need your help. Does anyone know of a single bike shop with over 24,000 square feet of space (not including warehouse space).
About Bow Cycle:
Bow Cycle has a long history dating back to 1957 when the shop opened as a general sporting goods store by Jim Sibthorpe Sr. By 1980, the business morphed into two businesses a bicycle shop and a motorcycle shop in separate buildings on Bowness Road aka Main Street Bowness. The two businesses were successfully run by the two sons of Jim Sibthorpe (Brian and Jimi) until both were sold independently. Bow Cycle (bike shop) is now owned by five long-term employees (Kevin Senior, David Leung, John Franzky, Darrell Elliott and Kurt Christensen) who all work full time operating the business.
The retail bike store was designed by Brian and Jimi Sibthorpe the original owners. Completed in 2004, it was designed as a purpose-built bike shop, with an open design to display thousands of bikes with lots of natural light.
Going into the season, Bow Cycle stocks about 6,000 bicycles, which indeed gives them one of the largest selections of bicycles in Canada, North American and maybe worldwide. Bow Cycle, is a family bicycle shop that caters to all types and abilities of cycling enthusiasts has a staff of 125 people, 4 shops and 30 workstations.