IF YOU GO
• What: Certified Electric Bike Specialists open house
• Where: 45 Main St., Chattanooga
• When: Noon today
Chandlee Caldwell and Archie the dog hung around Certified Electric Bike Specialist's Main Street digs on Tuesday, putting on the finishing touches here and there.
The Certified Electric bike shop is in the SOHO building now, in a space Caldwell says is 50 percent larger than its previous Frazier Avenue location.
And at noon today, the shop celebrates its grand opening with a Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting.
It hasn't been pomp and circumstance all the way since Certified Electric opened its doors in 2009.
Caldwell says at one point -- no, at several points actually -- there were doubts about the store, whether it would survive in Chattanooga.
"Early on, we were definitely like, 'What?'" he said Tuesday.
Chattanooga five years ago didn't flock to electric bikes.
Neither did Chattanooga four years ago.
Or even Chattanooga three years ago.
Then suddenly, things got better.
A lot better.
"Revenue was up 300 percent last year," he said.
Caldwell lends the surge to higher-quality offerings.
"The bikes themselves just got so much better," he said.
And Ruthie Thompson, events and marketing director at Outdoor Chattanooga, thinks the Caldwells -- Certified Electric Bike Specialists is owned by brothers Chandlee and Garnet -- were simply ahead of their time.
She thinks that American city dwellers have a lot to learn from Asian and Europeans who are forgoing traditional commuting methods and choosing electric bikes instead. And that Americans will begin doing the same.
And not to mention Chattanooga's quest to land among the top outdoor cities in the U.S.
"This just kind of goes along with what Chattanooga does," Thompson said.
The Caldwells have scores of bikes available, some for sale and some for rent.
There are traditional, masculine-looking mountain bike options.
And bikes that, frankly, are more appealing to women, said Thompson, because of their softer colors and lines.
Having ridden one, she's a believer.
"They are not going to feel like you'll have thought they'll feel," she said.
That's the best part, said Caldwell, and the part that does catch people by surprise when they come in for a demo ride.
The electric motor feels like a boost, like having someone push you as you ride along. Power levels vary so that riders never feel out of control.
Caldwell hitches up Archie's trailer and rides into work with the assistance of the electric motor and he barely has to break a sweat. Then he uses the motor to his advantage when it comes time to work out, making the bike harder to pedal than normal.
He thinks if folks stop by and give it a try, they'll be hooked.
It may not be possible to purchase one at first, at a couple thousand dollars a pop, but there are other options. The shop rents bikes from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for $10 an hour or $50 for the whole day.
The shop is giving demo rides during today's open house.
Caldwell, meanwhile, is optimistic about where things are going from here.
"I want to do better than last year," he said. "I want to be selling 20 bikes a month at some point."
Contact staff writer Alex Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6480.
Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...