The Mader Family - Starting a Bike Shop
In the spring of 2000, Todd and I began a journey that we finally completed on March 1st, 2001. This journey has realized one of our biggest shared dreams........Opening our own bike shop and starting a family. Okay, maybe we didn't plan on doing it all at once, but we sure are happy with how it turned out. Since opening our dream family bike shop, our goal has never changed. This goal being to serve all our customers cycling needs through excellent customer service and support. We now have two locations in Reston and Springfield, VA. Our Reston location serves our very own brewed beer and has a full coffee bar in our Bike Lane Brewing Cafe. The Bike Lane strives to educate the public on bicycle safety and advocate for bicycle safe communities. We want to assist our customers in experiencing the same excitement and thrill of riding a bike that we do. We love bikes (and beer) and that is why we are here. We hope we are able to make your cycling dreams come true as well.
Keep on riding,
Todd, Anne, Cameron, and Elyson
Our Mission Statement:
The Bike Lane is a family owned bike shop. Our mission and passion is to get more people on bikes more often by offering best in class customer service, superior knowledge, and by giving back to the community in which we all ride. We believe in supporting our customers no matter where they are in their journey to becoming lifetime cyclists.
Want to learn more? Keep reading on where The Bike Lane came from and where we want to go:
PeopleForBikes retailers in action: Virginia’s The Bike Lane
October 17, 2014
Mitch Marrison, PeopleForBikes retail program coordinator
In almost any town or city, bike shops are the hub of the bicycling community. They are the hub of the PeopleForBikes community, too. We have more than 1,000 retailer members spreading the word about PeopleForBikes, bringing new riders into the movement and collecting donations to help fund our Community Grants program.
Each month we showcase one of our retailer members who is going above and beyond to help improve bicycling in their own community. Last month we turned our blog over to our friends and recent retailer contest winners at Bikes & Moore in Hopkinsville, KY. This month, we spoke with The Bike Lane in Reston and Springfield, VA. Co-owner Anne Mader filled us in on how they've helped grow their local youth bicycling league and how their customers reacted when they needed to move store locations.
PFB: Tell us about the history of The Bike Lane
Anne: Todd and I opened The Bike Lane in 2001. We met three years earlier working in another local shop. Over those three years, we fell in love, got married and decided to open our own shop. Todd’s background is in accounting and mine is in social work, so by combining our expertise we were determined to open a successful, sustainable business whose mission is to give back to our community and grow cycling. Since the beginning, we have been involved in local and national advocacy. After six years of having one shop, two kids and many fabulous employees, we decided to open a second location. We opened The Bike Lane Reston in the same shopping center where the bike shop in which we met was located (it had since closed). After ten years of business, we relocated our original location from Burke to Springfield, about one and a half miles away.
The Reston and Springfield locations
What do the shops look like today?
We currently have 10 full-time employees and up to 40 staff during the busy season. Our two shops are very different from one another. One location caters more to the family riders while the other location is in a business and retail epicenter that caters to a strong bicycling community. However, both shops remain dedicated to getting more people on bikes, no matter what their ability level or their bicycling interest. We're lucky to have a 40-mile rail trail behind our Reston location that serves as a commuter route into Washington DC. There are also great mountain bike trails about a mile from each shop. We just added a new mountain bike rental fleet to each location and expanded our road rental fleet in the Reston shop. We did this to meet the needs of traveling customers who are finding out that the DC Metro area has a growing bike infrastructure and a lot of recreational cycling opportunities.
What are some unique ways that The Bike Lane has reached out to new PeopleForBikes supporters?
The Bike Lane is really excited to be a part of the Retail Round Up program! We see this as a great opportunity to not only raise funds for our local pumptracks and get more kids riding, but also to make the connection with our customers of the local effects of PeopleForBikes. We have always talked up PeopleForBikes in the shop and ran around with a clipboard signing people up at our local events. But the opportunity to really showcase a local project is very exciting, so we are in the process of making a big push for donations for the Round Up program and leveraging that to increase awareness of what PeopleForBikes does at a national level.
Employees have also always been excited about the program because advocacy is at the core of who The Bike Lane is. Naturally, our employees are also fans of better riding too. However, the Round Up Program has made it easier to talk about PeopleForBikes as a national organization that has an impact at a local level.
In what ways is The Bike Lane involved with your local community?
The Bike Lane is very involved in the bicycling community. We are very active members of MORE, the local International Mountain Bicycling Association chapter club, and we attend numerous meetings advocating for local trails. I was on the MORE board of directors for more 10 years and am still involved in fundraising for the club. I have written grants for various projects, helping win more than $350,000 for local trails.
We've been involved in creating and finalizing our county’s Bike Master Plan. We regularly attend meetings related to transportation planning and creating more bike friendly communities. The Bike Lane sponsors more than 50 rides, races and cycling events every year and is involved in planning the local Bike to Work Day pit stops and supporting Bike to School Day through marketing and donations to local schools.
Our favorite project has been our Junior Ride Program. We started doing regular mountain bike rides for kids ages 6-18 about six years ago at a local park. Over the years, the program has grown to having weekly rides at two parks, and we are now partnering with MORE to grow the program to various parks throughout the region. Many of the kids from the rides are now racing in the newly formed Virginia NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) series and other local races. We have helped create the Northern Virginia Youth Composite Team, which in its first year has about twenty team members! It’s been really exciting to watch these kids go from barely riding two wheels to now racing and going to national events.
At the Trails for Youth Mountain Bike Race, an annual kids-only race
Do you have one day that stands out as the most memorable at The Bike Lane?
The best day ever was when we relocated our first location to another shopping center down the street. We put the word out that we needed help getting the bike inventory from the old location to the new location. On moving day, we had more than 60 customers show up to ride our inventory, escorted by police, to the new location. The turnout was so great, we hardly had enough bikes for everyone! It was a pretty amazing day and it really showed us how much our customers mean to us and how supportive they are of The Bike Lane.
Customers moving bikes to the new store with a police escort (and some costumes)
The Dynamic Duo
This article originally appear in the National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) newsletter in January 2011. Written by Chris Lesser. Reprinted with permission.
Inventive web-based promotions and social media savvy bring the mom-and-pop bike shop into the 21st century.
Anne and Todd Mader decided after they got married to merge their very different professions-Anne was a social worker and Todd was an accountant.They had met while working in a bike shop in Reston, Maryland, so it was the bike business they dove into full-time and opened a shop of their own in nearby Burke, Maryland. Their initial goal was simple: to build a mom-and-pop shop that was involved in the community and that got people on bikes.
That was 10 years ago. The Bike Lane has grown steadily every year and in 2008 added a second location.Todd and Anne have multiplied their community involvement while putting an awful lot of people on bikes, and they're still having fun. Although Anne talks about how lucky they've been, clearly there's more than luck to this dynamic duo. From the minute the Maders decided to open a shop, it was off to the races-literally. The Maders were already keyed into mountain bike racing as participants, so when they started The Bike Lane the first stop was the race pits."We're really entrenched in the local community, and the local race scene is a big part of that," says Anne."We've pretty much sponsored every mountain-bike race in the area. And of course, we've also sponsored the Tour de Cure, the MS rides and local charity rides.
"We've very active in the community and that's very much a part of our shop feel.We do tons of mountain bike clinics, we have a huge calendar of shop rides, and every day of spring and summer there's always a ride, a clinic or a maintenance class." Anne says they also try to abide by their shop motto: "Ride Globally, shop locally."
"Todd and I are both riders.We love to ride anywhere and everywhere and we really believe in getting people riding their bikes. And as for ‘shopping locally,'we try to support local businesses whenever we can, and we hope that by giving back to our community, they give back to us." It seems the motto has resonated. "I get a lot of comments like, ‘I could have gone on the Internet but I wanted to support you guys.' I think that's where things like being involved in the local mountain bike club have helped. People see us at local trail-work days, working at races and handing out pizza.And then, when it comes time to make a purchase, maybe they think about us for a second."
Two years ago, The Bike Lane opened a second store 15 minutes away in nearby Reston. It's situated in the middle of a bustling office park that's located on the 40-mile Old Dominion bike path, which extends from the suburbs out to the country in one direction and 15 miles into downtown Washington, D.C., in the other. There's also a mountain bike trail just a mile down the bike path. The second shop has performed so well that the Maders already are planning a 1000-square-foot addition.
"For a while, we didn't want to open a second location," Anne says. "We thought we'd just grow our shop. But the opportunity was there. We knew the market we were going into needed a shop. "But in opening one, we really wanted to keep that mom-and-pop feel." So Mom works the Reston shop and Pop covers Burke. They discussed whether Anne should manage the second store herself, but she was already handling marketing for the whole business and they decided she was more valuable in that role. So they hired a full-time manager to oversee the day-to-day operation at Reston. "I'm here doing PR, marketing, and advocacy and playing events coordinator," says Anne. "Todd's the sales-and-numbers guy. He focuses on margins and the numbers and makes sure that inventory is right and sales goals are being met. "I think we're lucky in that way. As a married couple, both have our strengths."
Building The Brand
With Todd steering the ship straight, Anne can put her strength to the oars by promoting the business to the community. "Besides rides and races, we do everything from corporate health fairs to bike rodeos. We also do a fundraiser every year where we raise money, then go out and buy bikes for the ‘Toys for Tots' program. In four years we've donated 200 kids bikes.
"Another thing we're very well known for is simply setting up tents at races, cooking out, bringing beer and sharing with everyone. So we're having fun and bringing people into bicycling." The Superbowl of Anne's promotions calendar is the CycleFest, which was combined with a private charity ride and attended by some 500 people last year.
"Trek brought all its demos out, Gary Fisher showed up, and we had lots of vendors-all sorts of area nonprofits and bike clubs and county government, anything to do with cycling or trail safety. We even had a fashion show."
When she's not organizing events, Anne takes to the web to promote the business. A few years ago, Todd and Anne hired a web-consulting firm to give their SmartEtailing web site a custom face-lift. They wanted to better incorporate their shop blog to give the site a personalized feel that was more in-line with the experience of walking through the door of a brick-and-mortar location.
"The web company we hired took a look at what SmartEtailing was doing and did some custom CSS work to make the front-end of our web site different. "We try to use pictures that are our own, for example. We might still use SmartEtailing's content, but with our pictures. The other change allowed me to go in and change it on the Web site from the back end. I don't know HTML or anything, but now we have more flexibility in managing the site. "Anne says the $5000 cost was worth every penny. "It took a little bit of time, but it's an investment, one more step in branding ourselves.
The Maders don't spend much on traditional media. "We've done away with traditional Yellow Pages," Anne says."We're dabbling right now in radio because there are a couple new stations in the area. We thought we'd give them a shot because they're cheap." Instead, the former social worker says she's discovered a "secret weapon."
"I truly believe social media is the way to go," she says. "It's just one more way to have that connection with customers nowadays. They've all got their iPhone apps and their barcode readers and their camera phones and they're going online constantly. If you can make that connection with them, that can go a long way."
Then there's the blog. Anne says it wasn't an instant success and suffered some growing pains, but "then Facebook happened. "Now, she says, "we're tying the blog in with Twitter and Flickr and it's really taken off. If you do a little bit of research, you find that everyone's creating tools to make it easy to do all these things."
Anne tied the blog to a promotion. "We had a contest last year challenging people to give up 80 percent of their transportation in a car, and in return we'd give the winner a Trek Ride+ bike." In return, the winner blogs about her experience using a bike for transportation, providing in the process a gold mine of original content for the shop's blog. Customer Rewards: Next Big Thing?
One of the Maders'more successful in-store promotions has been a customer-rewards program they enacted this year. "It's been really key," says Anne. "It's just like any of the larger chains. We've copied what they're doing.When people make a purchase they accumulate points, just like people do using credit card programs. They then can use them on things in the shop. "It's easy to participate-all we need from the person is an e-mail address. That way, if there's a snowstorm coming, for example, we'll e-mail a quick promotion: ‘Come in before the storm and get double points.' And people respond. "A company we're using called Client Rocket set the whole system up, and they keep track of points. It's definitely worth hiring someone to do that," says Anne. "It's just another way to quickly and easily reach our customers. I think that's going to be the next big thing for retailers."
A Woman's Touch
"When a lot of people find out The Bike Lane has a woman owner, they're interested in coming here," says Anne."And they support us in a very realistic way. "I don't bring in a bunch of pink bikes and tout the girlie market thing.While I'll bring in some unique product, I try to keep a balance. More important, I make sure everyone here knows how to fit properly and understands the differences between a man and a woman. But above all, you have to be respectful," says Anne.
I think the key to selling to women is for a woman to be able to walk into a shop and not be intimidated. Women really want to feel welcome and not feel they're in way over their heads. "One of the things to stress to employees is to talk at the customer's level. Don't try to be a gearhead. Let them tell you where they are, and then go from there. I think it's important to remember because as cyclists we all tend to tout and share our knowledge and know-how, and sometimes that can come across as arrogant."
The Bottom Line
Even with all the highfalutin' technology, the rewards points program and the social media outreach, the Maders have been able to retain their brand's mom-and-pop feel without losing sight of the bottom line and their founding philosophy: getting and keeping people on bikes.
"We've turned a few people from recreational cyclists into commuters, and in general we're trying to create and support a cycling lifestyle. "There's a guy who runs a mattress business two stores down. He's about 300 pounds, and came in and bought a bike from us. He has already lost 50 pounds, and now he's in here all the time," says Anne. "Knowing you influenced someone like that, and helped put some spring in their step, that's what it's all about."