By Nolan Connelly
Published: February 28, 2011
It’s a tight, perfect space.
That’s what Jack Parker, owner of Bikes Unlimited, said about the new home for his business.
Two months ago, he moved the bike shop from a box store on Lakeside Drive to an 1897 warehouse on Jefferson Street, once a bottling facility for Anheuser-Busch.
“It’s quite a change,” he said.
Parker bought Bikes Unlimited in 2004. The business opened in 1967 and had been on Lakeside Drive since the 1980s, he said.
His inspiration to move the store came partly from customer feedback, partly from experience.
Parker said he wanted the store’s atmosphere to reflect a Winter Park, Colo., bike shop where he had been a part owner. It also is in a downtown setting.
A native of Lynchburg, he was impressed by the changes that have taken place along Jefferson Street between the time he left in the ’80s and returned in 2004.
“It used to just be all industrial down here,” he recalled. Now, amenities include the James River Heritage Bike Trail.
When the lease expired on Lakeside Drive, moving downtown and closer to that trail was an easy decision.
“We’re very fortunate to have something like that right here that everyone can use,” he said. “…Usually you’ll only see that in a bigger city.”
The move opens up a lot of new possibilities.
Once a fleet of rental bikes comes in March, for example, Parker plans to use the location’s easy access to the James River Heritage Bike Trail as a bike rental point.
“We came to where the customers are,” he said.
Except for when the train rolls by, the new parking lot is quieter without the U.S. 221 traffic, Parker said, making it easier to hold Saturday classes that teach basic bicycle maintenance.
He sacrificed his old building’s 8,000 square feet for something smaller, with a bit more character. There are tall windows, exposed brick, iron beams and a slight ripple to the floor.
“That’s what you get with a building of this age,” he said. “I was looking for something that fit my personality and my type of business I wanted to create.”
Part-time employee Bob Dunn said the store’s new location is an improvement in atmosphere, with more natural light.
“It’s so much better than being in a big box,” he said.
Already it resembles the look of an established shop, with rows of bikes from the floor almost to the ceiling, and racks of clothing and accessories.
“It’s almost like it was meant to be,” Parker said. “It just fit.”