West Duluth bicycle shop rolls on despite recession

By Jon Mason The dark basement is full of bikes. They hang from the ceiling like bats in caves, but these bikes long for the sunshine. Their owners haven’t picked them up yet, but Denis Sauve, owner of Twin Ports Cyclery, fixes them, stores them and gets new ones ready for display and sale.

Twin Ports Cyclery has bicycle repair stands throughout the store, but on this particular day, Sauve works in the basement shop to get some work done.

With Kool 101.7 playing, an apron with an assortment of tools, numerous tool boxes full and more needed tools on hand atop the bench, Sauve is ready to work in the well lit small shop room.

He enjoys all talk while assembling one of the three bikes recently acquired Cannondale’s from a warehouse that forgot they were there. He is happy to be able to get the bikes for a reduced price because bigger markets usually scoop up those deals too fast for him to get any.

He is not sure how long it will take him to assemble this American made bike or how long he has worked on it, but he is anxious to get it done. “I aim for less than one hour, but if you could just do that,” said Sauve. He has so much going on throughout the day; procrastination is always a problem.

His basement hiding spot is good, but not perfect. “Never leave the basement because they will ask for something then ask for something else,” Sauve said.

But he broke his own rule on April 30 and left the basement. After taking a phone call, he had to go upstairs to clarify something. Quickly, he said, but he ended up being on the floor for nearly 20 minutes helping everyone who needed it.

His trip out of the basement pushed him a little further behind schedule on the bike, but he came back with an ice cream sandwich and was back to work.

With ice cream sandwich in hand, he wired the brake cable. Something of such importance in Duluth seems like it should be done without ice cream in hand, but Sauve knows what he is doing. It is easy to tell he has assembled a bike before.

The ice cream was soon gone and two hands worked quickly assembling the bike. While making the adjustments to the gears, Sauve talked about the business of owning a bicycle shop. He has a lot of words of wisdom after 33 years of experience.

“Tools are expensive,” he said. Not only are the basics needed, but specific tools designed for specific bikes can often be very expensive and hard to come by. “Some shops don’t want to carry tools because they are expensive and they become expired. To open a shop means extreme expenditure to front all of that stuff,” said Sauve.

As he put the finishing touches on the flawless Cannondale, he said, “If you want to make a million, start with two. Margins are small so you make your money on repairs and service, not on bike sales.”

Sauve hopes this bike will sell. He is concerned about the current state of the economy and the numbers of people that come into his shop. Sauve tells a story about compulsive buyers he has seen in other cities and says that would never happen here.

“People like look at the bikes here a long time before they make their final decision,” said Sauve. Hopefully we see this shiny blue Cannondale with the Shimano tires cruising throughout Duluth some day.

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