Victory built on founder's passion for bicycling
By Anthony Siracusa
Monday, September 13, 2010
For Clark Butcher, a love of cycling started with hamburgers and hot dogs.
"I was a Boy Scout as a kid, and one weekend, I volunteered to serve food at a mountain bike race at Arkabutla Lake," he said.
After the inspiring event, Butcher began saving money for his first mountain bike.
Butcher, who completed his first triathlon at age 7, has been racing bicycles for 12 years. He is the city's only Category 1 racer, a class reserved for semi-pro riders, and he has coached cyclists of all skill levels across Memphis. He serves as a consultant for bicycle team training camps and organizes a handful of local races annually.
When Butcher's part-time interest in bicycle coaching began to blossom into a full-time commitment, he called his friend Robert Taylor -- a real estate agent with Raspberry CRE -- to ask about acquiring office space. Taylor, who had spent his 20s and 30s as the general manager and head buyer for a local outdoor retailer, was also looking to move his continued client base back into a brick-and-mortar
"We started brainstorming and decided that, since I needed a space and Robert's maintenance and fittings needed to move from his house, it just made sense to get a little storefront."
The duo tapped professional bicycle mechanic Michael Crum, acquired a 500-square-foot storefront on Young Avenue near East Parkway, and decided to open a small shop in the heart of Midtown. They decided to call it Victory Bicycle Studio.
"Victory Bicycle Studio is a specialty retail store with a focus on cycling enthusiasts, weekend warriors and racers," says Butcher. "Our goal is to provide exceptional service, support and expedited maintenance time. Between Robert, Michael and myself, there is 30 years of experience in the bicycle industry. Our goal is to over-service people."
Beginning a bike-based business in the midst of difficult financial times may appear risky. According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, total bike sales declined from 18.5 million in 2008 to 14.9 million in 2009. But specialty bike stores catering to a particular niche -- such as elite racers or daily commuters -- experienced a slight growth in market share during 2009. This is largely because specialty bike dealers provide a high volume of parts and accessories, a market niche not filled by big box retailers.
Still, the lifeblood of a locally owned bike shop is its service and maintenance commitment. This, Butcher says, is Victory Cycle Studio's No. 1 priority.
"We're doing so many fitness assessments and seeing folks not riding the right bikes. At Victory, we don't want to sell you a bike that we have on the floor. We want to see you on the absolute right bike. We want to be a sort of liaison for finding the best possible bicycle. If someone says, 'Hey, so and so online has the best bike for the best deal,' we'll sit down with them, take measurements and make sure that they have the best stem, the best handlebar and the best bike fit."
Butcher believes bicycling is growing in Memphis. "The opening of the Shelby Farms Park Greenline, the creation of designated bike lanes, the growing number of charity rides and races in town, the weekly group rides with as many as 80 people showing up ... there is just so much going that can cater to any level of cyclist in Memphis. I was the only kid racing in high school, but now there are all sorts of individuals riding bicycles in the same group. There is a student with two part-time jobs riding next to an orthopedic surgeon."
Butcher is particularly excited about the opening of the Shelby Farms Park Greenline on Oct. 9. "The greenline is what is attracting people who haven't ridden bikes before. They're dusting off their bikes and checking this out. The growing number of group rides keep people engaged. It's fun, it's a low-impact sport, it's social. It's cool."
Victory Bicycle Studio, 2294 Young Ave., 729-2229, victorybicyclestudio.com.
Anthony Siracusa, a native Memphian and graduate of Rhodes College, has just completed a 12-month study of bicycle policy, advocacy and infrastructure across four continents. You can read about his travels at anthonysiracusa.blogspot.com and communitypoweredcycling.com.