Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month. Today we talk shop with the owner of Rivers Bend Bike Shop!
Jamie Sharp has loved bicycles for as long as he can remember. That enthusiasm shines through when he talks about his business Rivers Bend Bike Shop in historic downtown Chillicothe. The shop offers bicycle sales and service along with a host of accessories and products for cyclists of all ages and experience levels.
Sharp actually started working in a local bicycle shop when he was just a kid. “I needed a bike to go riding with a buddy and two girls. I had narrowed it down to a Rink’s bike that was cheap and in my budget or this bike shop bike that was so much nicer but a little more money. It was white with red and gold trim – a Scorpion bike. I went back and forth but went for that better bike and I’m so glad I did. That was my first lesson in how you get what you pay for when it comes to bikes,” he said.
Sharp says the number one question he gets every day is whether he does bicycle repair. “Yes! I do repair bicycles. That’s one of the big things that a bike shop does and people bring me their bikes for tune-ups and for all sorts of reasons,” he said.
While a bicycle seems like a straightforward thing to put together, they tend to be more complicated than a lot of people realize and are often assembled incorrectly by people who do it at home or at the big box stores. “You see a lot of the same problems when they’re not put together by someone who understands bikes. People bring them in with serious things wrong that make the bike harder to ride and less safe,” he said. “A guy recently brought in a bike and the handlebars were on backwards. He said it was like riding a different bike after that. It seems like a simple thing but these are common mistakes.”
He also sells a full line of bicycles to fill every need. “When I was a kid it used to be a cruiser or a ten speed. Now you have all kinds of bikes for specialties,” he said as he described the store’s selection that includes adult comfort bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, gravel bikes, Ebikes, BMX bikes and all kinds of kids bikes.
Sharp said that he aims to not just sell or service a bike but to truly help the customer. “A lot of times people have questions or they need a little direction. I’m happy to listen, offer advice. People come in only to look around and realize that I’m not just trying to sell something. I’m trying to help them out too.”
This is the kind of service offered by most bike shops but traditional bike shops are becoming more difficult to find. “Years ago, every town around here had at least one bike shop,” he said as he began reminiscing about all the bike shops that once existed in the area. “Now people have to travel just to find one so I guess it is pretty unique that we’re here.”
Sharp first opened his own shop in 2008. Locals may remember Rent and Roll along the bike path in town where he rented roller blades and bikes. The following year, he relocated to a Water Street location where he became a full service bike shop. He grew again two years ago, moving just around the corner to a Walnut Street location with off street parking and more display space.
He noted that the pandemic has been good for hobby cyclists but has created some challenges for people in his line of work. “People want to get outside, they want to exercise and a bike is a great way to do that. You could get out of the house, exercise even when the gyms were closed and have fun so the bike world really took off last year,” he said.
Unfortunately, the pandemic caused supply issues as well since it became harder to get in new bikes and parts. “I sold every bike I had. I sold every used bike I had at home and whenever I was able to order bikes, they would be sold before I got them here. It’s been a tough year.”
Sharp is an avid mountain biker who supports the biking community as a trail steward for Great Seal State Park and as an active member of Columbus Ohio Mountain Biking Organization or COMBO. This group advocates for new trails around central Ohio and in Ross County. Here, Sharp hopes to see more mountain bike trails developed to appeal to overnight guests. “Some of the best mountain bike trails in the state are right here but we need more to entice people to come ride. We want them to stay longer and spend more money in our community,” he explained.
He also encourages use of the bike and walking path that uses the abandoned B&O Railroad corridor to connect Chillicothe and Washington Court House. Locals call it the floodwall but it’s actually called Paint Creek Recreational Trail and offers 32 paved miles for exercise and recreation. “It’s a great place to get out and go for a ride,” he exclaimed.
What is it about bicycles that he loves so much? “I’ve been asking myself that for a long time. It’s the freedom of being on two wheels. You’re in total control of those two wheels and where they go. That makes me happy. If you think back, the first feeling of freedom when you were a kid was on a bike. Some of us just never lost that,” he said.
River Bends Bicycle Shop is located at 86 N. Walnut Street in Chillicothe. Stop by, call them at 740.779.0061 or follow them on Facebook.