editor’s note: When I was in San Francisco November 2011 I discovered the bike shop of my dreams. As I walked in I realized that not only was this the kind of shop that I would love, but that in being very different they are addressing some of the key ways the traditional bike shop is evolving – they’re just light years ahead. The best way to understand it is to visit (say hi! they’re super nice). The shop doesn’t look like a shop at all it feels like a gallery or design studio in the best way imaginable.

What makes Huckleberry different from the average bike shop?

 Besides the original Nintendo Entertainment System and the sweet vintage HiFi System?  Our location gives us a unique opportunity to tap into a market that may not exist for the average bike shop:  ordinary people riding bikes.  So while a lot of our customers would never wear lycra (except in their jeans), performance and recreational riders can also find what they want.  Most shops don’t give their customers the opportunity to play a game of Tetris or try on jeans while their bike is repaired.
Everybody has heard stories about snobby bike shops and shitty bike shop employees.  We do our best to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.  And we follow that up with helpful, informative customer service.  Since there is no way to have every random part, we make special orders easy.

How do you connect to new bicycle commuters, who might not know about you or these products?

Market Street is the busiest bicycle route in San Francisco, which puts it in the running for busiest bikeway in America. Every day, thousands of cyclists ride past our shop.  We offer free bike repair, weekday mornings, out of an abandoned newsstand kiosk right next to our store.  This has been a great way to do community outreach, and have real face to face interactions with many of our potential customers.
Besides that we’re really relying on word of mouth, social networking, and our weblog to get the word out about our shop.

What kinds of community outreach does Huckleberry do?

In addition to the free bike repair kiosk, we’re also highly involved with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.  One of the owners, Zack Stender, holds a chair on their board.  We are also a supporting community partner for Aids LifeCycle.

Can you describe your strategy in mixing bikes, accessories, apparel and other items in the store?

We’re a full service bike shop with a commuter lifestyle focus.  Basically, we saw bike shops doing what they do, and we saw a lot of cool stuff that wasn’t being sold in shops, so we decided to go for it and offer both.  We have a great selection of racks, baskets, bags, fenders, bar tape, grips, etc.  We also have a great selection of repair parts and great mechanics.  So we can compete head to head with any shop in most categories.  In order to distinguish ourselves, we also have a great selection of ride-to-work apparel and lifestyle accessories.  Our customers can pick out a pair of cycling jeans while we fix their bike, which is a unique experience for them.

What areas of growth are you the most excited about?

Cycling is becoming a part of people’s lifestyles.  It’s very exciting to see some established players in the bike industry responding to this, and to see new companies with new products that cater to Lifestyle.  It’s the main inspiration for our shop.

Biggest lessons from your first year in business?

It’s worth it to be different.  It’s worth it to be nice.

Do you think Huckleberry is only possible in SF or could you see Huckleberry in other cities, too?

It’s hard to say.  While SF, and Market street, have tons of bike traffic, the lifestyle aspect of our shop is not the whole thing.  Plenty of other cities have the bike culture, and that’s growing all the time.  Whether it’s in SF or Minneapolis,  I think the growing bike-commuter demographic is more interested in a shop like ours than in a big-box bicycle retailer.
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