Bike shop has moved to Lyndale Avenue after 32 years on Hennepin
Jay Erickson has never been big on advertising.
His business, The Alternative Bike and Board Shop, relies on word-of-mouth and quality service to draw customers, he said.
So when Jay decided to close his shop at 2408 Hennepin after 32 years of service and relocate to 3013 Lyndale Ave., he put up a banner for a few weeks and simply moved.
He just felt it was time.
“It's like a 32-year marriage - at some point, if you're not in love, you've got to get out,” Jay said. “We didn't really love that building. We really weren't seeing the growth we wanted to see either.”
Jay sells and fixes bikes, skateboards, and snowboards with sons Joel and Jesse Erickson and four other employees. His shop, which employees and patrons call The Alt, opened at its new location April 1.
Some customers were surprised by the move, and Jay said he was a little pessimistic about what business would be like initially. That pessimism faded when the store finished its best April since the mountain bike boom of the early 1990s, he said. He credits this to a loyal following and accepting new customers.
Steve Hilton, of Minneapolis, said he used to go to The Alt's old location to get hard-to-find parts for his Mongoose bike. He assumed the store was closed for good after driving by the cleaned-out space.
“I was just shocked because I thought it was gone,” he said.
Hilton was relieved when he happened upon the new shop a couple weeks ago and picked up a new sprocket for his busted ride.
Andrew Dinking, of Edina, recently made his first visit to The Alt to have a new bike assembled.
“Most places said they would take a week to assemble it,” Dinking said. “(The Alt) did it overnight, and it was cheap.”
The Alt's employees pride themselves on serving enthusiasts, being able to fix just about anything and getting the job done quickly. What other shops replace, The Alt fixes, Jay said.
Jay and most of his co-workers, whom he refers to as family, bike to work and are passionate about what they sell and repair because they love the sports.
“We're not doing this to get rich,” Jesse said.
Some of Jesse's fondest memories of The Alt are of skate competitions the store used to host - one of which was attended by professional skateboarder Tony Hawk. The Alt still hosts bike and skate demonstrations but hasn't returned to the days of setting up ramps outside the store for impromptu demos.
Old photographs plastered on a back wall of the new shop document some of those events, along with former employees, old friends and other store history.
Jay, 55, can't imagine being in any other business. It's a lifestyle, he said.
He's built bikes - including a four-seater hanging in the back of his shop - and he gets a kick out of “resurrecting dead ones.” According to some of his employees, he's got a stable of different bikes in his home garage.
Jay said he only uses a couple.
Like his sons and co-workers, Jay has been a snowboarder, and he skateboarded until falls became too painful.
He works part-time these days and plans to eventually let his sons take full control of The Alt's handlebars, though he didn't plan it that way.
“I never had any fantasy of how things would turn out,” Jay said. “We've just always followed our hearts and tried to be the way we are.”
In a market dominated by corporate shops, Jay said his is the alternative. Customers just might have to do a little work to find that out.
Jake Weyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 436-4367