David Bridges heard the cautionary tales about opening a bicycle shop in the internet era, and he knows some brick-and-mortar bike shoppers may be drawn to cheaper models at Wal-Mart.
But with a bicycle mechanic extraordinaire in the family and an ideal spot available in a tourist hot spot lacking a bike shop, Bridges decided Battlefield Bikes deserved a shot.
As temperatures warm and the days get longer in Fort Oglethorpe, he and cousin Patrick Bridges hope to create a cycling community around their family business while also tapping into the steady stream of visitors to Chickamauga Battlefield just down the street.
"We believe that it's not about selling a bicycle," David Bridges said. "It's about selling the experience of the bicycle and what that thing will do for you."
The shop opened in December by design, giving the cousins a few months to work out the kinks of renting, selling and servicing a fleet of road, mountain, hybrid and electric bikes from their storefront at 2862 LaFayette Road before demand hikes up in the spring.
David Bridges is a Chattanooga-based entrepreneur specializing in e-commerce. He's opening the bicycle shop as a second business, meaning he won't be depending on the shop to pay his family's bills. He recruited Patrick Bridges, a bicycle mechanic who had been working in Shelby, N.C., to be the bike expert. Both are from North Carolina originally.
Patrick took courses at the Barnett Institute for Bicycle Mechanics in Colorado Springs, Colo., before returning to work at a bicycle shop in North Carolina. He started offering community rides out of that store and plans to do the same from Battlefield Bikes.
"People don't want to get off work, go home and just vegetate," Patrick Bridges said. "It's not healthy."
The store's launch comes as Georgia Department of Transportation officials plan a $3 million traffic- calming project for LaFayette Road that is expected to begin in 2018 and bring bicycle lanes to a eight-tenths of a mile portion of the street leading toward the battlefield. The shop is along the stretch set for renovation.
Customer Ronnie Harwood, from Chickamauga, stopped in Thursday morning after noticing the store recently while coming out of the battlefield. He said the store is "much-needed" in the community.
"They couldn't have picked a better location," Harwood said.
Still, even bike shops with a loyal following can struggle to survive as cycling enthusiasts look online for the cheapest deals, instead of turning to their local stores.
The Bridges cousins paid a visit to Dalton's Bear Creek Bicycle Co. in December during the shop's last week in business and heard the shop's owner explain how the store could no longer compete with the internet after nine years in business.
"That's the way of the world, unfortunately," David said. "We need to pay the bills for the shop. But we're not worried about pulling money out of this."
The duo said their goal is to support the local cycling community, encourage others to ride and offer a healthy way to explore the history that's just down the street.
"Everybody tells us there used to be a bicycle shop here when they were kids," David Bridges said. "But in all that time, nobody has put a bicycle store right here? Wow."
Contact staff writer David Cobb at email@example.com or 423-757-6249.