Servicing the biking, skiing community

According to Brian “Gerk” Gierke, the owner and founder of Gerk’s Ski & Cycle, the small two-story building that he now occupies on the corner of Leary Way and Redmond Way has been around for a while. Eighteen years ago the original Alpine Hut was founded, and back in 2004 Gierke took over the failing business.

Gerk’s Ski & Cycle owner Brian Gierke has been in charge of his shop

Gerk’s Ski & Cycle owner Brian Gierke has been in charge of his shop

According to Brian “Gerk” Gierke, the owner and founder of Gerk’s Ski & Cycle, the small two-story building that he now occupies on the corner of Leary Way and Redmond Way has been around for a while.

Eighteen years ago the original Alpine Hut was founded, and back in 2004 Gierke took over the failing business.

After four successful years, the store went through an extensive exterior remodel, during which a significant name change took place to better represent the company’s primary inventory.

“Cycling is such a big part of our business, that the name ‘Alpine Hut’ wasn’t really doing a whole lot to help us,” said Gierke, an avid outdoorsman. “People would always come in and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you sold bikes!’”

SERVICE WITH A SMILE

The success of Gerk’s can be traced to Gierke’s extensive background with business management, as well as knowing a lot about the industry.

“I ran Bothell Ski & Bike for 12 years with a partner, so I was just 10 miles up the road running a similar-sized business,” Gierke recalled. “This store was empty and available, and I saw the opportunity to move in and take over. I was just able to go from a small percentage of partnership and shift that to 100 percent as the owner.”

Unlike larger, retail chain stores, Gierke’s business model revolves around getting to know customers on a personal basis and catering to individual needs.

“Definitely what sets us apart is the service you get from the time you walk in the door,” Gierke said. “Customers that come in here, having been to a number of different stores, right away comment that ‘Wow, he actually greeted us right away,’ and the fact that we can tune bikes in three days instead of two weeks.”

Gierke said that he hires mainly full-time, career staff who have the knowledge and experience in the field necessary to provide a high level of expertise.

“We approach every customer personably, professionally, and make sure we’re staffed and have the resources to do that,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of part-timers that don’t know what’s going on or what’s where… We get along great, and most of my guys spend half their days off here either working on their own bikes or helping out.”

CYCLING COMMUNITY

Gierke noted that Redmond was the perfect location for his business, due to the high interest of bikers in the area.

“It’s a community that supports a lot of cycling,” he said. “Most towns this size would have one little bike shop, and we’ve got four, if you count REI.”

Although Gerk’s big brand is specialized, custom bikes, the top sellers currently, according to its owner, are entry-level carbon-fiber road bikes. But Gierke always makes sure to keep a broad inventory to please as many customers as possible, from triathlon competitors to those looking for a pair of dependable wheels to get to and from work.

He said that three years ago there’d be one or two selections for recreational commuter bikes, and today that number has jumped to 15 or 20.

In line with virtually all businesses, particularly smaller, locally-owned ones, Gierke said that he has seen a definite impact on his sales from the economic recession.

“Our high-end bike sales have fallen off,” he said. “A year ago we’d have sold a reasonable number of $5,000 bikes, but this year our sales have maxed out at about $3,000. The recession hits and you’ve already done your forecasting for the year, so once you realize you’re in it, you still have 15 expensive bikes on the floor. It takes about a full year to readjust your inventory and sell off your mistakes.”

That readjustment, which includes his ski and snowboard inventory hitting the shelves this fall, will hopefully be able to get profit margins back on track, as Gierke has spared no expense with his shop.

“We’ve purchased the most expensive stone grinder the industry has, an edge-tuning machine, boot-fitting equipment,” he said. “We’ve made huge investments in all the services and tools to be the top-level shop we want to be, so now we’re hoping to start reaping the rewards.

“Every year we want to say, ‘what can we do better,’ so whatever the next step happens to be is the next step we take.”

When it comes down to it, however, Gierke knows that winter sports and bicycling enthusiasts tend to be part of a tight-knit community, and one that he and his staff are thrilled to be a part of.

“We have a staff here that enjoys coming to work every day,” he said. “We really enjoy each other, we’re a family, we’re friends. We’ve established an environment working together, and the customers see that, along with our common goal of giving great service. That’s really what drives us.”


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