EVERETT — After over 45 years as a family business, Bicycle Centres has new ownership guiding the handlebars of three stores.
John Marxer’s parents started the business in the 1970s with stores across Western Washington. He worked there as a teen and helped his mom run the Everett shop.
Marxer, now 53, expanded to a store near the Silver Lake area along Highway 527 and a shop in Snohomish near the Centennial Trail. Running the business meant long hours, seasonal swings in revenue and most recently enduring the pandemic.
Marxer was looking for a way out while ensuring Bicycle Centres’ customers could still rely on the service and stock selection he worked to establish.
“I worked almost 350 days a year,” he said. “It wiped me out.”
He could have pursued selling to a bike corporation but chose to keep it in-house.
Longtime employees Devin Ryan, Aron Chaudiere, and Ryan Brown bought Bicycle Centres and took over at the start of this year. They didn’t disclose the terms of the sale but each said they share a vision to keep its small-shop feel, invest in good employees and keep an eye on expansion.
“We’re here to get more butts on bikes doing this sport we all love so much,” Chaudiere said.
Marxer wasn’t ready to retire and still loves working on bikes, so he’s still on staff at the Everett shop at 4707 Evergreen Way. Being around means he can aid the new owners with any issues they may face.
“I treat it like if one of my kids took over the business,” Marxer said. “I’d be helping as much as I can. But my kids didn’t want it … These guys deserve a shot.”
Ryan, 39, has worked at Bicycle Centres since he was 18. He helped the company move across Evergreen Way into a new shop Marxer had built specifically for the bike shop’s needs, including room for sales, service and storage.
In his tenure, he talked to Marxer about buying the business from him, if he was ready to sell.
“This is what I do,” Ryan said. “Even when I go on vacation, after five days I’m thinking about the shop.”
Ryan remembers when Brown and Chaudiere were hired, each about 10 years ago.
Brown, who lives in Bothell, has worked in sporting goods retail since his teen years. The broad responsibilities the work requires, from knowing products to speaking with customers, convinced him he wanted to own a shop, Brown said.
He got into biking as a young adult and found himself “spending way too much money on bikes,” Brown said. A friend who used to work at Bicycle Centres led to him applying there instead of with another cycling store.
“I love bikes. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing,” Brown said. “If you find something you love, you should chase that.”
Chaudiere joined in 2012 after learning to fix bikes and sell them as a side gig. He got promoted over the years into management and also has become the company’s go-to handyman, building displays and shelving.
He used to bike as part of his commute, then got into recreational cycling. Mountain biking and bike camping are his preference these days, but finding time for it has been more challenging since his son was born in March.
“When I stepped foot in here as a lowly bike builder and sales associate I had no idea I’d end up owning it.”
Almost three years ago the Everett shop expanded into the space next door to add ski and snowboarding rentals, sales and service. Marxer said he’d thought about it for 15 or 20 years, but never did it.
Then Brown, Chaudiere and Ryan talked to him about it and they all agreed winter recreation sales could bolster revenue, which typically dips when cold, rain and snow arrive.
When customers walk in to any of the shops or visit the store’s website, they likely won’t notice any changes. The name’s staying put, including the British English spelling of “centre.” Bike selection still will span from $100 children’s starters to $10,000 rides meant for hardcore pros and racers.
“If they liked us, they’re still going to like us,” Marxer said.
But some things are changing for employees. Marxer rarely closed for holidays, but the new owners do.
They also started a 401(k) program and raised wages. Brown said it makes the job a “viable career option” and stemmed from their experience in the business. It’s also an extension of Marxer’s record of developing and keeping staff who are passionate and knowledgeable, he said.
“It’s definitely an investment on our part,” Brown said. “I think it’s a long-term investment in our employees. … The more we can invest in our people, the better that it is.”
For the new owners, running the business means they get the late-night calls when the alarm goes off because someone smashed a window and stole a $7,500 electric bike, which happened already this year. Ryan’s the first call, because he and his family live closest to the shop.
“I think I’m a lifer,” Ryan said. “I already have 20 years in.”
Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; email@example.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.
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