Issaquah business keeps peddling strong

Mike Judkins had two options in college — continue towards a doctorate in anthropology, or keep peddling bikes in Seattle’s University District.

Mike Judkins had two options in college  —  continue towards a doctorate in anthropology, or keep peddling bikes in Seattle’s University District.

Fast forward 36 years and he has absolutely no regrets about his decision.

“I just kept working at the bike shop and never went back,” Judkins said.

He first started working for Seattle-based Bicycle Center in 1975.

Since 1982, he has owned the Bicycle Center of Issaquah, which quickly became independent from other Bicycle Centers in the Puget Sound. It is one of the oldest and most successful businesses on Issaquah’s Front Street.

“Back in the ‘80s we saw an opportunity out here,” Judkins said. “There was one stop light on the corner of Front Street and Sunset, and Gilman Boulevard was a two-lane farm road.”

Longevity is no mistake for the Bicycle Center, which has survived an influx of big-box stores and specialty shops. Judkins’ business model focuses heavily on customer service and customer needs  —  something he says separates his shop from the competitors.

“A lot of people come into this business as a hobby,” Judkins said. “They stock all the really cool stuff that they love, but that’s not what interests 99 percent of the people out there.”

Experience is also key. Of two full-time and six seasonal employees, none have worked less than eight years at the shop.

Just over a year ago, the Bicycle Center of Issaquah expanded significantly in size. The shop moved from its former 1,200 square-foot location next door to a 3,800 square-foot space near the corner of Alder and Front streets.

The store caters to a wide range of bikers, ranging from the 3-year-old getting his first set of wheels to the competitive racer in search of the fastest product on the market. They specifically sell Trek bicycles and Trek-related products  —  the same brand of bicycle on which Lance Armstrong has won many of his races.

“We sold several bikes over the years,” said store manager Hugh Simmons, who has worked at shop since responding to a help wanted sign in 1992. “We got to the point where when we started selling our customers a bike that wasn’t a Trek, we were doing our customers a disservice.”

Prices range from $150 for kids bikes all the way to $6,000 for the highest end professional bikes.

The Bicycle Center also offers several programs, including its Junior Halfback program. It allows for kids who outgrow their bikes to return the product within three years of purchase. Half of the original cost is returned toward the purchase of a new bike. The old Trek bikes are then refurbished and sold at a comparable price to those found in stores such as Target and Fred Meyer.

Approaching its 30th year, the Bicycle Center of Issaquah is one of the longest standing businesses on Front Street, behind 101-year-old Fischer Meats. Seeing the company continue to grow has been one of the most rewarding things for Judkins.

“We have a lot of people coming in here buying bikes today, whose parents bought them bikes at the Bicycle Center a long time ago,” he said. “That’s the thing we like to talk about the most.”

 


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