Bicycle Warehouse celebrates 30th anniversary, got its start in Pacific Beach
For 30 years the Bicycle Warehouse has helped experienced riders and newcomers take to the road.
The company’s journey, that has grown to five locations, got its start in Pacific Beach. Its original store is still there at 4670 Santa Fe St.
The company’s anniversary events included one on July 9. Owner Debbe Simmons said it drew up to 100 participants for a bike ride at Mission Trails. Afterwards, there was a bicycle giveaway at the Pacific Beach store for military families.
Its other stores held similar giveaways, with a total of 20 bikes gifted last month in honor of the anniversary.
The Bicycle Warehouse is a full-service cyclery and repair shop with locations in Pacific Beach, Chula Vista, San Marcos and Oceanside. Its newest store opened on July 30 in Temecula.
The company’s mission is to get people actively involved in cycling and be their best source for information and equipment.
“I can’t believe it’s been 30 years,” Simmons said, reflecting on the store’s history.
Debbe Simmons and her husband, Mike, launched the company on the Fourth of July in 1992, shortly after tying the knot. Having themselves only recently fallen into mountain biking, their mission was to help San Diegans “get their butt on a bike.”
“We got married in November of ‘91 and started laying out the business in December, like 30 days after getting married,” Simmons recalled. “It all happened so fast.”
The couple found what used to be a storage space right off of Interstate 5 in Pacific Beach, leased it in April 1992 and three months later opened. Using credit cards to finance the business and repurposed wood to build shelves, they launched headfirst into the business world.
“It just took off,” Simmons said “We were the only employees and we were busy seven days a week. That’s right when mountain biking was just beginning to be super popular.”
The company started as “Mountain Bike Warehouse,” but as other forms of biking became increasingly popular, they rebranded as “Bicycle Warehouse” to meet the demands of the sporting scene.
The San Marcos location opened just a year after opening the Pacific Beach store, a testament to the popularity of the business the Simmons had opened. But five years into the business, Bicycle Warehouse was met with its first big hurdle — finances were deep in the red.
“Mike asked me to come in at night and go through the books and it turned out that our financial planner was not above board on some things,” Simmons said.
Under the stewardship of their first financial planner, the company was in debt by as much as $650,000. The couple had to let go of 32 employees and take out notes with their vendors in order to climb out of a dire financial hole.
“We were young and naive and we made a lot of rookie mistakes,” Simmons said. “It was the worst year of our life, uncovering that nightmare and having to eat crow and negotiate payback. But I wouldn’t change it because of the lessons it taught us.”
In the years since, Bicycle Warehouse has been helping people get involved with the bicycling lifestyle, from mountain biking to casual cruising.
Robb Riggle, Pacific Beach store manager who has been with the company since 1994, said their approach to helping people biking is to be as helpful as possible.
“We really do just want to help people out,” Riggle said. “We’re not judgemental and we’re not trying to sell you on a bunch of stuff. We just want to answer their questions and help in any way that we can.”
Part of the company’s sustained success is owed the culture fostered with employees, some working with the company for more than 20 years.
“Our team is hands-down one of the most important parts of our business,” Simmons said. “If our staff isn’t happy it’s hard to get that outstanding service. They’re on the frontline and we need to take care of them.”
She said the company regularly takes the staff on team events like go-karting and escape rooms. The couple also sponsors leadership workshops pertaining to the store and life at large.
“Mike and I have always believed in personal development,” Simmons said. “The more we better ourselves, the more we educate ourselves and grow as people, we will lead a happier life.”
That level of service seems to have paid off, with a loyal customer base that has been shopping with the warehouse for three decades.
“We’ve had raving fans and a lot of our guests have shopped with us for 30 years,” Simmons said. “They were here buying bikes for their kids and now they’re back buying bikes for their grandkids.”
Riggle said their approach to helping guests is what makes them stand out as a bike shop.
“It’s always been a culture of trying to help people and get people involved in the cycling sport,” Riggle said. “We get all sorts of customers from newbies to intermediate riders. None of us are doing it for any competitive reason, the staff just does it out of a passion for cycling. It’s great to get somebody who either is on their first bike or hasn’t been on a bike for a while and to see the enjoyment they have when they start riding.”
Simmons said the bicycling scene has seen an uptick in new riders in recent years.
“If you just look from two years ago to today, I’d say it’s up at least 20 or 30 percent of Pacific Beach riders,” Simmons estimated. “I see so many new riders and new people riding ... That was the only way of getting out during COVID.”
In addition to a newfound interest in alternative transportation, Simmons said e-bikes have a newfound popularity and will soon help transform the landscape of the bicycling scene.