Two key employees buy Middlebury bike shop
MIDDLEBURY — New owners who officially took the helm of Middlebury’s only bike shop, The Bike Center, say Addison County cyclists will continue to be able to choose from a full menu of bike services and get advice on riding in the area this season.
The one new thing cyclists will encounter is a new sign: They are changing the shop’s name to Frog Hollow Bikes.
Local cyclists and Bike Center employees Chas Lyons and Carl Robinson just recently bought the shop on Main Street from longtime owner David Tier.
“It’s the town’s bike shop,” Robinson said. “Our plan is to continue to have bikes for everyone.”
The Bike Center has existed under several names since April 1972, when it was founded as a retail outlet for the Student Hostelling Program, which operated bike trips for high school students, and once was headquartered in Rochester.
Tier, a Middlebury resident, first encountered the shop while he was working at Planned Parenthood in 1973 in the same building, then the Beckwith Block. Tier soon found himself spending more time downstairs in the shop than in his office.
“I’ve been riding bikes since I was six years old, so it was natural for me to gravitate down there,” he said.
In 1973, he started working at the shop, “rather than being a nuisance,” Tier recalled.
In the spring of 1974, the shop was incorporated as its own business, and Tier and his nephew bought it in 1975. Tier moved the shop to its present Main Street location in January 1984. The building, which dates back to 1810, had served as an antique shop and a series of restaurants.
Tier said he did his best to diversify the offerings of the store, especially in winter. The store stocked camping equipment and sold cross-country skis for 25 years and even tried table tennis and darts.
“We tried all these different things, but eventually what it meant was we had to go out and get second jobs,” Tier said.
The store also saw some of the biggest names in outdoor sports when they were just getting started. Joe Montgomery, founder of bike manufacturer Cannondale, brought his first courier bags and racks in 1973 for a demonstration.
Jake Carpenter, founder of Burton Snowboards, brought his first prototype into the shop in 1982 and he and Tier took the new equipment for a test ride on the slope across the street. The shop sold snowboards for about a year before most of the ski areas in the state banned them. Both Burton and Cannondale now base much of their production overseas.
Tier operated the business with Justin Crocker from 1998 until 2014. Crocker, a licensed cycling coach and category II racer, brought 20 years of experience to The Bike Center.
After Crocker died in 2014, Tier began a gradual transition of ownership to two longtime shop employees, Robinson and Lyons.
“This is not a sudden move,” Tier said. “This has been in the works for several years.”
Tier will continue to own the building and work as the chief bike assembler in the downstairs workshop. Robinson, Lyons and two other employees will work on the main floor. Tier said he’s looking forward to spending more time working on bikes than running a business.
“It’s time for me to stick to what I like to do, which is build the bikes and go out riding more,” he said. “There’s a reason why people retire at 65.”
A NEW ENERGY
Other than a new coat of paint and some reorganizing, Robinson and Lyons said the most notable change will be the new name.
Robinson said the shop would continue to support local events including the Vermont Gran Fondo gap-to-gap bike ride, scheduled for June 4, and the Vermont Safe Routes to School Program.
Working with local riders, he also hopes to rejuvenate a local mountain bike chapter and expand the amount of mountain bike trails in the area with the help of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association and the Middlebury Area Land Trust, of which Robinson serves as executive director.
The new owners also plan to launch a new website and host a grand opening party in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to let the community know what we’re doing and that we’re still here,” Robinson said. “We also want to thank David for everything he’s done in his over 40 years.”
The new shop owners are also planning a bike and gear swap and flea market on April 30. The shop is the starting point for Thursday morning road bike rides and Saturday morning mountain bike rides.
While Middlebury’s shop enters a new chapter, David Tier said cyclists will always appreciate it when their bikes run smoothly.
“It’s one of those ironic jobs where if you do a really good job, no one says anything about it because it’s well done,” he said.
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