In this edition or Retail Partner profiles, we connect with Steve Martin of The Bike Bistro in Fort Myers Florida. Steve shares with us his passionate entry into the business 10 years ago, a personal loss, the devastating effects that Hurricane Ian had on his business, and how it forced him to rethink everything they do.
What’s the history of the store and the people behind the shop?
Twelve years ago after over 25 years of being in advertising I was starting to severely burn-out. The pace, the demands and the rewards were not worth it. With the blessing of my family I gave myself a thousand days to figure out what to do next. About 365 days left I heard a speech that said “Follow your passion. Remember what you loved when you were 15 or 16 — that’s when you were the most passionate.” It hit me, that was bikes all summer long in Minneapolis, building, repairing and riding.
So I began writing a business plan, making contacts. I was amazed how open and friendly the bike industry was, very unlike marketing. I found a space, spent every spare minute building it out inch, by inch all by hand. With the help of friends and family — and an exceptionally understanding wife, I opened the Bike Bistro on November 6, 2012. I worked literally every day for 2-1/2 years before I hired my first full time employee.
We have tripled our space in the past 10 years. I was not confident about saying “we made it” until the five year mark. All the staff, aside from one who I lured from another shop, started as a volunteer! Working weekends and pitching in where they could doing deliveries or small repairs they built a great reputation for the shop. I had no choice but to hire them, and fortunately I did. In 2018 my wife was diagnosed with ALS, a disease that has no cure. The last two years of her life I became a full-time caregiver. I could not have done that and kept the shop if it were not for the love, support and tenacity of each and every one of my “staff”.
Angie died on October 7, 2021. I was slowly getting back to working at the shop, relearning a lot and being amazed by the growth my team managed during my absence. Then tragedy hit again in the form of Hurricane Ian on September 27, 2022. The shop was devastated. Doors and walls buckled, 30” of water flooded the shop destroying virtually everything. After ten years it was time to start over…again.
My team was/is amazing. Despite their own personal loss and suffering they all pulled together to rebuild and re-open on the 10-year anniversary date of the Bike Bistro. Quite a journey, indeed.
Tell us a little bit about your shop now, and your vision for the future?
The hurricane forced us to reexamine many of our procedures and practices. While we had started honing in on how the business functioned Ian made it an absolute necessity. We are focused on a better shopping environment for our customers, enhancing the “bistro” aspect with food and beverages along with more community outreach.
Describe the biking community and facilities of in your area?
No pun intended, we have been flooded with repairs for the hurricane damaged bikes. We typically have a robust rental season — Roll Bicycles are the core of our hybrid fleet, but the storm virtually wiped out the destination spots of Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach, Florida. The shop sits adjacent to about 200 miles of bike trails, paths and shared use lanes. Our main customer is a pleasure rider, typically a little older. Rolls bike styles fit that market in quality and price.
You came on board as one of our first Retail Partners, tell us why?
Matt popped in while visiting and showed my team the bikes — they loved it, especially the quick turn on ordering directly online as we were still struggling to get our other brands due to the pandemic. I came by briefly, saw the bike and ordered one for myself, since I currently had no bike and no promises of getting one even after a year. I got the orange A1, and loved the simplicity and feel of the bike.
What’s the reaction been from your team and customers to the bikes in person?
We had intended to replace our hybrid fleet in 2020 but the order went dark with no supply from the pandemic. Our team discussed it and determined Roll would be a very appropriate solution. Roll even accommodated to our specific needs for tourist bikes like schrader valves and quick release seat clamps. We love the bikes, in all the formats and so do our customers.
Open mic! What else would you like people to know about you, or about roll:?
Roll Bicycles has bent over backwards to help us — before and after the storm. They are truly “partners” not just suppliers. Great bikes, brand and people.
You can connect with Steve and The Bike Bistro team at the links below, and if you're in Fort Myers area please stop by for coffee, talk bikes and say hi!
20351 Summerlin Rd #114
Fort Myers, FL 33908