Wednesday, April 05, 2006

No. 58, Vol. 5 - Here We Go.

Waiting for a taxi in Taipei, sporting the MUSA shirt.

As many have heard, Cycles Gaansari the bike shop is closing for good April 29, and Gaansari and Fisso the brands are being shelved for now. We don't view this as failure; rather, a wise decision to know when to gracefully bow out. The cost of doing business in a narrow niche is higher than people imagine. Those that do it well (Rivendell, Ritchey, Seven, Chris King, etc.) have had their share of bumps and bruises, but have found a way to carry on and maintain their high standards and positive cash flow.

We hold our heads high at Cycles Gaansari. We've done what we know best: provide expert service, offer finely detailed bicycles and goods, and keep our promises. The challenge was convincing people to buy our products without pandering to people's false desires for a product that can make them faster or improve their lives. Of course bicycling can improve one's health, but the rest of the equation is up to the individual, not some man-made product.

We've been humbled by the volume of cyclists who've vaulted a Gaansari to their wish list, but we've been frustrated by the lack of orders. We put some serious thought and time into developing a Gaansari dealer network. We've traveled all around the world to visit frame builders and component makers, in the hope of offering reliable products at more affordable prices, because that's what people were wanting. It was during this quest to bring our company to the next level that we "bumped" into other opportunities to use our talents and connections, and it made our decision to turn the lights out at Cycles Gaansari a hard but easy one.

First, folks should know that my background is journalism, marketing and public relations (I even have the degree to prove it, although I haven't found my diploma yet). As a curious fellow interested in all aspects of the bicycle industry, I cut my teeth at a bike shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the early 1990s, only after catching the bike bug from my buddy Steve Smith in 1988 when I was finishing up college. Andy Hampsten had just won the 1988 Giro d'Italia, Team 7-Eleven was raging, and Greg LeMond was still recovering from his turkey hunting accident the year before. Bicycle Guide, VeloNews and Winning were the magazines of choice, and I devoured, and was inspired by, every word and photo. I'm indebted to Ted Costantino, Maynard Hershon, Keith Mills and a few other writers during that period for this education.

Courtesy Sheldon Brown

Then Bridgestone Cycles appeared on my radar. Grant Petersen and his merry group of devoted aficionados really grabbed my attention in the early 1990s with their eclectic catalogs and bike models. I was a contributing writer for Bicycle Dealer Showcase by 1993, and when I heard of Bridgestone's closing in late 1994, I contacted Grant for an interview to discuss his next career move, Rivendell Bicycle Works. We hit it off swimmingly, and a year later he asked me to oversee production of his new line at the Waterford factory in southeast Wisconsin. I learned everything about frame design, lugged steel manufacturing, and met the world's brightest people through my association with Grant, whom I consider my best mentor in the industry.

I maintained my media contacts throughout the 1990s, wrote some cool catalogs for companies, and when the internet appeared, started writing content. When Rivendell transitioned its frame production out West in late 1997, I freelanced for several magazines in the U.S. and Europe, which put me in touch with dozens of industry folks. This is where I gleaned the experience needed (in hindsight) to start Cycles Gaansari in 2002. My inquisitive journalistic mind always wants to learn everything about an individual or company, and the marketing and branding lessons learned has brought me to this point. I'm fortunate to have a vast collection of industry contacts, and my association with some really smart and successful folks has been an inspiration.
Cycles Gaansari closed its doors in Ohio onApril 29, I'm now working full-time on building my marketing/public relations/branding/web development consultancy based in northern California. Ritchey and Syncros are my main focus right now, with Project Rwanda evolving into a wonderful industry-wide effort with Tom Ritchey and several other wise, experienced and talented people. I also look forward to growing Servant Leaders Outreach with Tom.

Cycles Gaansari was made possible by the several thousand customers that supported us since 2002, the wonderful vendors that worked with us, the mentors that guided us (thanks Wayne, and Grant), and the employees that dedicated a few years of their careers to us (thanks Bryan Bell, Justin Kellermeier and Scott Henry). Hats off to Will Meister for bringing Gaansari to the U.K. The real heros of this endeavor have been the AN, the SA, and the RI of GAANSARI: my wife Jean and our children Samantha and Henri. Thanks for your sacrifices and hard work - I look forward to the next chapter in our lives together.

~ Gary B.


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