By Duncan Hurd
Photos by Colleen Kirley
Selling bicycles on one of Toronto's busiest streets presents a unique challenge. The combination of on-street parking and a constant stream of cars and bikes on Bloor Street can be intimidating and overwhelming to someone learning or rediscovering how to ride a bicycle in the city. Manager of Sweet Pete's B-Side in The Annex, Chris Cousineau (pictured above with a customer), says they've even had a few customers purchase bicycles after only being fit in the shop as they preferred to learn to ride again on quieter streets or in parks.
Open since December 2010, Sweet Pete's B-Side is the first expansion of Pete Lily's popular bike shop, Sweet Pete's. The original location, which is located several blocks west on Bloor Street, stocks bicycles designed for the road, mountains and everything in between with a large store front. Due to the smaller space, B-Side focuses on bicycles and accessories for the everyday and commuter cyclist. Taking the collective bicycle knowledge their employees posses from all cycling disciplines, focusing on the commuter cyclist has been a joy. Cousineau tells me, "It's fun to sell city bikes because you know you're helping a person find something with the power to change their life."
"We spend a lot of time matching the right bike to the person," B-Side employee Tish Gaudio tells me. B-Side customers have often not been on a bicycle in years if not decades. Many come in not knowing what they want or need to get started. Most conversations with customers will sound like an interview as fitting a bicycle designed for everyday use requires more than just determining the right size. Finding the right riding position is important for comfort as are a few accessories essential for day-to-day city riding. The must-have accessory for every new bicycle? "Fenders," Trish tells me, "They're a pretty basic add-on but can make riding more comfortable in all weather."
Tish tells me how the new location has helped bring Sweet Pete's closer to many of their customers. Now open for 7 months, many customers of the original shop are happy that the new location is in their neighbourhood and that it is a shorter trip for tune-ups and service.
The hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, new counters and display units still look brand new and clean. "I've had customers ask me if they can bring in their coffee or are worried about bringing a dirty bicycle into the shop," says Tish. "We're a bike shop, so that means you're going to find grease here even if it does look clean." The dark mark in the shape of a chainring on Tish's leg tells of the hands-on approach the staff have, one they also encourage their customers to take when trying out bikes and accessories.
Sweet Pete's B-Side is located at:
517 Bloor Street West
Sweet Pete's is located at:
1204 Bloor Street West
dandyhorse magazine is proud to have Sweet Pete's as an ongoing supporter. Customers of Sweet Pete's can pick up a free copy of dandyhorse at both locations.