Welcome to the neighborhood
Bikesport opens in Bellingham’s Fountain Disctrict
By Ian Ferguson
On the surface, Bellingham’s newest bike shop has an uphill battle to differentiate itself from the seven or so other bike shops in Bellingham. Dig a little deeper, and it quickly becomes apparent that Bikesport, open since March, has already found its niche in family-friendly customer service.
Owned by Andy and Stacy Walker and Scott and Tassie Kowal, Bikesport is a family-run business with a lot going for it. It has a wide selection of road, commuter and mountain bikes for everyone from beginners to passionate enthusiasts.
Two in-house mechanics bring years of experience to the service department. Four Bikesport employees are Bikefit certified – trained to adjust every point of contact on your bike to the exact specifications of your body to make riding
The business also boasts an extensive kids section and a complete in-house triathlon shop that comes with the expertise of Maureen “Mo” Trainor, who is a well-known local triathlete. Even with all that, the shop has plenty of space.
With 9,000 square feet spread over an upstairs and basement, the building was built in the 1950s and was home to an iconic Whatcom County business until it closed in 2007. Fountain Drug & Galleria was a pharmacy upstairs and a toy store in the basement. Many Whatcom County natives remember sitting on Santa’s lap in the toy store when they were kids.
“Our kids bought toys in this basement,” Andy Walker said. “The building has a legacy in Whatcom County, and one of our goals with this business is to create our own legacy here. We want to be the place where, in 20 years, the guy who got his first bike here when he was a kid comes in with his child and buys them their first bike.”
So far, the first part of that dream has been happening often. “The kids section has been really busy from the day we opened up,” Kowal said.
There’s nothing quite like the day you get your first bicycle. With a background in retail management, Kowal believes there’s no reason adults can’t find that same youthful joy in a bike shop.
“People should walk into a bike store and enjoy the experience. Get on a bike and love it. Walk out with a smile on their face. We don’t want people walking out saying, ‘Gosh, I feel stupid because I didn’t know what component group I have’,” Kowal said.
Trainor runs spin classes and coaching through her (Train-Or-Tri triathlon) program in the shop’s spacious basement. The basement also houses repair benches, a space for Bikefit sessions, and free bike repair clinics run by service manager Casey Schlenker.
“The idea of the clinics is to get people to the point where they can go out on a ride and not have something that is a relatively simple fix get them catastrophically stuck five miles from home,” Schlenker said. “We want riding to be fun
The owners envision the shop as a community hub and meeting space as well.
“Last Saturday, there was a guy in who I actually went to high school with,” Tassie Kowal said. “He and his old riding buddy had both had health issues and hadn’t seen each other in a couple years. They saw each other in here, swapped phone numbers and now they’re getting back out riding together. That’s exactly what we want.”
From Jamis and Santa Cruz mountain bikes perfect for trail riding on Galbraith to higher-end road bikes that would do well in Ski to Sea, Bikesport’s selection is tailor-made for Bellingham. Even cyclocross athletes will have cross-specific bikes to drool over as the season approaches.
“Ryan Rickerts puts on a great series in Bellingham,” Kowal said, referring to the Cascade Cross series held in the fall. Tassie Kowal described their 12-year-old son’s blossoming cyclocross career. Walker’s sons, 12 and 13, ride trails with their father, although he said they often have to wait for him these days.
“Running a business, you don’t get as much time to go bike as you’d like,” Walker said.
Many of Bikesport’s neighbors have stopped in to say hello, and the owners are loving the neighborhood. Kowal said a near constant stream of bike traffic pedals down Meridian Street in front of the store windows, which brings up another reason Bikesport is likely to succeed:
“This town loves its bikes,”
he said. x