A bicycle built for you
The plan was to move from Brooklyn to Katonah and then make nice with Metro-North.
Colin Tanner and his business partner, Jonathan Blyer, started ACME Bicycle Co., a business specialized in high end bicycles, in Brooklyn ten years ago. They had established a strong presence in Brooklyn, but Tanner and his wife were about to have a baby. Like so many others before them, they craved more space for their growing family. Tanner planned to move to Katonah, a stone’s throw from his childhood home in Mt. Kisco, and become a commuter.
Then the world shut down.
With travel in and out of New York City made infinitely more difficult during the pandemic, Tanner was spending lots more time in Katonah, and began to notice some storefronts becoming available. “We made some phone calls off of the real estate signs,” he recalled. “We looked at a couple places, talked it through and thought it all could work. As a business owner, that’s always your thought -- I think this could work.” Suddenly, Katonah was no longer the place the ACME co-owner retreated to at the end of the day. Now, it was home to an expanded small business serving two very different markets.
While a Katonah location may not have been part of ACME’s original plans, a high-end bike shop in this corner of Northern Westchester seems like a perfect fit. Plenty of high-income people call the area home, avid cyclists abound, and the scenery is breathtaking. “There are lots of people here who are extremely deep into the sport,” Tanner said. “They’ve been super receptive that there is now a place that is catering to that level of interest. And, there are few places that are nicer to ride a bike than up here.”
ACME’s business model is very much reliant on face-to-face interaction. The shop’s primary service is bike fitting, which Tanner says differentiates ACME from a lot of other bike shops. “We see people for three reasons: pain, fear and ambition,” Tanner said. “Those are usually the primary motivators. Sometimes they come to us because their knee is killing them. There are adjustments we can make to make them more comfortable. Some people want to go a quarter of a mile faster on whatever ride. Sometimes people are looking to buy a new bike and don’t know what size they are.”
Whatever the reason is that brings a rider into ACME, the fitting process is the same. “When somebody comes in and says they want to buy a bike, we say, ‘that’s great, let’s get you on the fitbike and figure out which bike that is, so that it works for the way you ride and the way your body works, and all those things. Typically we are slowing down the bike purchasing process, whereas most bike shops want to get you on a bike and out the door,” Tanner said.
Fittings at ACME, which cost $400, are done by appointment only. The process can take up to three hours depending on the rider. “We have a prescribed flow that we go through,” Tanner said. “That’s something that we pride ourselves on. The order of operations is really important when you’re working through this stuff.”
While bike fittings for serious cyclists are ACME’s bread and butter, Tanner said he enjoys the walk-ins who drop in to ACME out of curiosity. “I appreciate the people who have zero interest in bikes coming in to check it out. I like that excitement. They are excited that there are new signs of life in town.” To broaden their appeal, ACME has been experimenting with adding retail items to the Katonah shop. “We’re having a lot of fun with that,” Tanner said. “In a world where you can order everything online, we are trying to focus on things that are interesting or that rely on touch and feel to really give a solid idea of what you’re buying. We are curating things that are special, cool and unique, so that the shop has something to offer.”
It has been just over six months since ACME put down new roots in Katonah, and Tanner couldn’t be happier with the twists of fate that brought his business to this point. “In Brooklyn, despite the dense population, you sometimes felt removed from the community. Here, you really feel like you’re a part of something. I’m very glad that the pandemic led to this.”
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