By Phil Busse
WebCyclery is an anomaly.
It began in 1997, during the nascent days of online shopping. Amazon was only four years old and other (no longer existent) companies like 800.com were booming with the then-novel idea that everything could be sold online—even something as fitted and individualized as shoes or bikes or skis. At the time, Kevin Gorman was working out of his garage, primarily selling Timbuk2, the trendy bike messenger bags which were unique at the time in that their colors and designs could be customized.
But then something strange happened. Gorman explains: "I started in my garage and local business wasn't even a thought until people started knocking on my door wanting to look at product." Eventually, Gorman took his company in a direction opposite from what where online shopping was going; that is, he opened a brick-and-mortar store—and his company has flourished, especially with what online shopping cannot provide—specialized treatment. "What used to be a 90/10 split," he says explaining the ratio of online to in-person retail sales, "has become closer to a 10/90 split."
A large reason that local cyclists (and eventually skiers, when, in 1995, WebCyclery added WebSki) are attracted to the barn-red store along SW Industrial Way is the engaged and knowledgeable staff, all who are avid bikers and skiers, instructors and competitors.
"We often have a lot of interaction with a customer," explains Gorman. "We like to help the customer make the right decision and educate them when we can."
That passion translates into a loyal and largely local customer base.
"We go to pretty extreme lengths to make sure that our customers are getting skis that are flexed well for them, not just for their height or weight, but we also take experience, ability, and location and typical ski conditions in to account as well."
But, Gorman also admits, "We don't offer much in the way of entry-level equipment. Our customer is the enthusiast who is either already into the sport and wants to upgrade."
"I'm sure some people get turned off when they come looking for less expensive gear," he says. "Everyone has different priorities. We're still happy to talk to them and educate them and refer them to a competitor that might have what they want."