Spotlight on Ian Christie and Summit Bicycles
Name: Ian Christie
Shop: Summit Bicycles (www.summitbicycles.com)
Main Location: San Jose, CA
Talk about working your way up in a business. Ian Christie’s first job was cleaning the bathrooms at Summit Bicycles. Now, he proudly owns the company’s four locations
“I loved bikes, obviously. But the bike shop was a way for me to learn so many different things – mechanics, customer interaction, strategic planning, design,” says Christie, when asked what inspired his career choice. “Running a bike shop requires you to use so many different skill sets that you are constantly learning, improving and growing. It goes way beyond loving bikes. It’s loving everything involved in running and growing a business.”
Summit Bicycles sells every category of bike, with each location focusing on the niche within its local market, and all targeting the same central mission: to get as many people as possible riding bikes happily.
Indeed, the business provides a whole lot toward making customers happy, including lifetime free tune ups, trade-in opportunities, a discount on accessories the day of a bike purchase, guaranteed fits, free pick up and delivery, 24-hour turnaround and a customer focused sales staff with incredible aptitude for all things cycling, committed to creating the friendliest experience possible.
It’s a lot to offer, but the returns, for Christie, are invaluable. “Everything about the bike business is rewarding,” he says. “Providing good jobs for my friends. Watching their families grow. Creating something from scratch with them. Strategic planning around our local competition. Teaching a customer’s kid how to ride without training wheels. Making someone who would never walk into a bike shop feel like they belong.”
The theme of community runs throughout Christie’s business. Summit Bicycles is the largest cash sponsor of local advocacy group Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC), and the shop sponsors the Peninsula Velo Cycling and Kain Performance Triathlon Clubs. “The clubs have been unique sponsorships because they understand that sponsorship is a relationship. They understand that if we win, they win, and vice versa,” says Christie. The result has been a large increase in labor sales from the club members directly, plus a significant number of referrals from each club.
The demands of running a four-store retail business haven’t dampened Christie’s desire to ride. One of his most cherished memories in the saddle is of a cycling trip to Mallorca with two friends. It was an adventure that also proved one of his most challenging – when the group got lost. And then there was that one time in Moab...
“I was riding a MTB across a flat empty riverbed at a whopping two miles per hour,” says Christie. “I was going so slow that my momentum wasn’t enough to hold my tire straight and it washed out under me. I fell onto the bike with the end of the handle bar jabbing me in the groin,” he recalls, with a grimace. Needless to say, he sat out the final two days of that trip.
But even the painful moments add to the passion that is cycling, the passion that inspires this IBD owner to bring his best self to bear in his everyday business dealings. The bottom line for Christie? “I hate being bored,” he says. “And owning a bike shop is never boring.”