New bike shop owner eager to get back in the saddle

Owner Andrew Colborne and shop dog, Hank, are putting in long hours getting ready for the opening of Great Lakes Bicycle Co. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

In the grip of winter, most of us aren’t thinking about the upcoming bicycling season, but Sarnia’s Andrew Colborne is thinking of little else.

He is getting ready to open a new bicycle shop at 137 Michigan Ave. in Point Edward by mid-March.

The timing is ideal, he says. Pandemic-weary Sarnians have bought bicycles at a record pace and the lockdown gave him lots of time to come up with a business plan.

“Bike shops and me are kind of a thing,” explains Colborne, who arrived in Sarnia with his wife Tia in 2007 and opened Great Lakes Dance Academy.

The couple moved from Oakville where he managed a well-established bike shop called Cyclepath for about four years.

Colborne studied musical theatre and performance in college and helped pay his student bills with a part-time job at Cyclepath. When he finished school, he was hired on full time and became manager.

“I learned a lot there about customer service and was trained to do bicycle fitting to ensure the bike is the right size for you,” he said.

He also became a licenced mechanic and worked in the auto industry for a time.

All the while, the idea of his own bicycle shop was percolating.

When the pandemic made bicycles a hot commodity, Colborne secured financial assistance through the Sarnia Lambton Business Development Corporation and firmed up a formal business plan.

“I talked to a lot of people in the business, including the owner at Cyclepath, to find out what works and what doesn’t,” Colborne said.

“It’s either the best time to get in or I’m absolutely crazy,” he said. “Bike sales are great everywhere, but it’s also a tough time to source bikes and find distributors.”

Great Lakes Bicycle Co. will carry two brands.  Brooklyn Bicycle Company headquartered in New York City is stocking the store with city bikes suitable for community and recreational uses. Colborne said they will retail from $600 to $1,300.

He’s also bringing in Orbea bikes from Spain, which are higher-end road, mountain and e-bike lines.

The new shop will specialize in bicycle gear and cycling apparel, a part of the market that Colborne doesn’t think is being met locally.

“I’m passionate about cycling apparel and believe the demand is there,” he said.

Sarnia already has two independently owned bicycle shops but there’s “lots of room for a third,” Colborne added.

He has leased newly built retail space at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Monk Street and is busy installing a large repair service area and showroom. Preparation work is continuing under the watchful eye of Hank, Colborne’s Blue Heeler and official “shop dog.”

Bike rentals will also be available.

“My goal is to provide a different experience from the others,” Colborne said. “The look is different and customer service is where I’ll shine.”

Great Lakes Bicycle Co. is hiring now with plans for three full-time employees and several seasonal workers.

The shop’s opening date in March will be posted on the Great Lakes Bicycle Company’s Facebook or Instagram page.

Got a great idea for a business story?  Send it to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.