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My Economy

A small bike shop with a big, customer-first idea

Bennett Purser Sep 10, 2019
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Diane and Brian Jenks riding their tandem bicycle on a trip to Israel.
Courtesy of Diane Jenks

More than 40 years in the bicycling business, Diane Jenks and her husband Brian specialize in creating custom bicycles. They fabricate many of the frames and wheels at their shop, HubBub Bicycles in Kirtland, Ohio.

They create bikes to fit a client’s specific needs, like catering to an injury, an unusual height, or for riding extremely long distances. Along the way, they’ve seen the impact e-commerce has had on local retail, including the bicycle industry. Instead of competing with the dominance of Amazon and chain stores, they shifted from a product-centric company to a customer-centric service, specializing in one-of-a-kind bikes. Offering something you can’t easily get online has helped them win business.

Along with running the bike shop, Diane hosts the “Outspoken Cyclist” podcast, and teaches yoga in her community.

Diane Jenks, HubBub Bicycles

Hi, my name is Diane Jenks. I’m the co-owner of HubBub bicycles with my husband, Brian. We are in Northeast Ohio, in a little town called Kirtland. We fit, design and build custom bicycles for the cycling enthusiast.

It’s sort of like the Brian and Diane Show, when you come to HubBub. And everybody says: ‘You own a bike shop, you must ride a lot,’ which, of course, is totally not true. Because the time that we’re working is the time people want to be riding. But actually, my husband and I ride a tandem together, we have a saying: ‘Whichever way your relationship is going, it’ll get there faster on a tandem.’ So people either fall in love or fall out of love on a tandem.

The local bicycle shop, I think, is suffering right now from maybe a lack of excitement about the business, because the business feels like it’s slipping away, when you can just go online and order something. So, you have to reinvent yourself. We did away with things like shoes and shorts and gloves and jerseys, and the things that now, there is no way to compete with online. But nobody can really compete with wheel building, frame design and fabulous customer service.

One of our favorite stories, we go back to 2004. And this gentleman came into the store. and he was being told, because he was having trouble with his back, that he could use either go to an upright bike, or just ride a couple of miles, or just give up cycling altogether. That was not in the picture for him. And his goal was to be able to comfortably ride 25 miles. Brian built the bike, we sent him out and a week later, he’s riding 50 miles at a time and suddenly he’s riding century rides, which is 100 miles at a time. Fast forward to this past weekend, he rode his fourth century for the year, and he turned 80 this year. And he always tells us we changed his life for the better. I mean, you can’t buy that anywhere. And that’s what makes our business so much fun.

-Diane Jenks
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