Kevin Wallace compares a good bike salesperson to a good tailor.
The founder and co-owner of Gears Bike Shop says the key to his shop’s success is simple: Don’t try and reinvent the wheel, just provide the right set of wheels to the right person.
“You want to make sure they’re on the right bike, that they’re not oversold or undersold,” said Wallace who has been in the bicycle business for 23 years. “We want to fulfil their wants and needs, but we don’t push anything.”
Gears, which recently opened a location in Leaside, offers all types of bikes including family, road, mountain and hybrid bikes.
“It’s a bit of a golden age for bikes,” Wallace explains. “There’s a category of bikes for every experience.”
Wallace and his business partner, Ira Kargel-Kennedy, decided to open in Leaside because many of their customers already commuted from Toronto to their Mississauga location.
Kargel-Kennedy said Leaside was an ideal neighbourhood because they saw a lot of young families moving into the area.
“We felt there was an opportunity in an area that was regenerating so beautifully,” she said. “We wanted to be a part of that growth.”
Wallace said building links with the community is a vital ingredient in his business’s success.
To date, Gears has raised nearly $5 million through community fundraisers, which have helped to sponsor the Betty Wallace Women’s Health Centre at the Trillium Health Centre, named after Kevin’s mother who died of breast cancer.
More recently Gears held its annual Bike for Betty event, which attracted 1,500 participants and raised money for a variety of causes.
“We’ve been able to do a lot of good,” Wallace said.
But beyond contributing to the greater community, Wallace said Gears tries to build strong relationships with their customers.
“We’re not in it for retail, we’re in it for building relationships,” he said. “We’re very close to our customers.”
So close, in fact, that some of those relationships have blossomed into something much more.
“We have both in fact married customers,” Kargel-Kennedy said. “The bike world brings in a lot of cool people, so we got our pick.”
The two owners have now partnered with Mario and Susan Kovacevic, who will manage the Leaside location. They hope their business will go into high gear in the near future.
“We really want to have a kind of national brand,” Kargel-Kennedy said. “We definitely plan on expanding into the greater market.”