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Saturday, October 25, 2014

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Boutique bike shop aims to make cycling KindHuman

Tags: Business
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Gavin Brauer, left, and Adam Abramowicz hope their bike shop becomes a go-to place for cycling enthusiasts. [Paul Lungen photo]

If you were to mention the brand names Kampionne, Ritchey, Bont and Lazer, chances are the average recreational cyclist might think you’re talking ladies designer handbags or some other exotic, over-priced items.

In reality, though, you’d be talking carbon frame sets, bike components, shoes and helmets, respectively.

Step into the KindHuman bike shop at the northern end of Avenue Road, and you’ll find the product lines any serious cyclist would appreciate.

You’ll also find a repair shop that will tune up your little sister’s one-speed and your old clunker of a road bike, for pretty much the same price the competition charges down the road.

“There are shops that specialize in performance bikes,” said Gavin Brauer, who founded the business in February along with partner Adam Abramowicz. “That’s not us. We’ll fix any bike for any customers and we’ll treat them with the same level of respect that we do the customers with the $12,000 super bike.”

“We created a bike shop that we wanted to exist in the city,” said Brauer. “There are some small shops, but not with the openness, the environment and friendliness we have here.”

With 1,000 square feet of retail space, much of it uncluttered, their goal was to create an “intimate” space. “We prefer to edit our assortments so we’re not trying to be everything to everybody. We’re focused on a core customer and finding more unique products,” Brauer said.

Besides assembling quality bikes – starting at around $2,500 – KindHuman’s business model is to build on its product line with a welcoming atmosphere, customer service and sheer friendliness.

KindHuman is a boutique bike shop that not only provides hand-assembled bicycles to its customers’ specifications, but which aims to be a meeting place for a community of cyclists. It’s what a bespoke tailor is to a store that sells goods off the rack. With a “bike bar” thrown in.

You can sit down, drink a coffee, schmooze, discuss biking, catch a race on the big screen TV or watch as Ayal Rahat fixes your bike.

“We want to make it feel comfortable,” said Abramowicz. “Let’s get them enjoying riding like we do.”

In the front of the store, a couple of sleek-looking bikes give a hint at the kind of ride the guys at KindHuman can put together. And put together are the operative words.

The components are manufactured abroad – the steel frames in the United States, the carbon ones in China and Taiwan. KindHuman assembles them as per customers’ specs. “We outsource our manufacturing… All the bikes we sell are our own brand of bikes, KindHuman,” said Brauer.

And that’s where the value is added to the final product. “A lot of the differentiation in a… bike is the quality of assembling. With a higher standard, we can offer customers a better bike,” he continued.

Take carbon frame bikes, for instance. “With carbon, you can truly decide the characteristic of a frame, design the tube shape, the thickness of the shapes that gives a bike different riding characteristics,” said Abramowicz.

The tubes are thicker at the crank, where you need the stiffness to better transfer power. The tubes are tapered and thinner at the seat.

“It reduces the harshness of the ride,” he explained.

Clearly the guys know their bikes and are willing to discuss them in some detail.

Though they’ve been in business a relatively short time, they’re noticing the clientele so far has been quite varied, “everyone from super elite riders to commuters and leisure riders. They want to know that their bike is repaired properly,” said Brauer. That’s where Ayal Rahat comes in. A champion racer in his native Israel, Rahat competed on Team Canada at the recently concluded Maccabiah Games. He’s a guy who knows his way around bikes and provides “a level of professionalism” seldom matched elsewhere, Brauer and Abramowicz state.

“Our goal is to become the gold standard for bicycle repair and bicycle maintenance,” said Brauer.

A longstanding cycling enthusiast himself, Brauer bought his first high-end mountain bike while still in Grade 8.

Exploring business opportunities south of the border, he ran into Abramowicz, a native of Philadelphia who had worked in the television industry in Los Angeles. He was familiar with fast riders who exhibited something of an elitist attitude to the sport.

He, on the other hand, along with like-minded enthusiasts, wanted to bring the sport to “human-kind.”

Abramowicz was living in South Carolina, “putting together KindHuman bikes,” when he ran into Brauer “in a chance encounter.”

Brauer was intrigued by the kind of bikes Abramowicz was working on, as well as the name. “To me, it represented a brand that had a good social identity,” he said.

After a relatively short time – “it feels like we’ve been friends longer,” Abramowicz said – the two became partners. They found Brauer’s business background and Abramowicz’s product development and marketing backgrounds meshed nicely.

To further develop the brand, the company is sponsoring scholarships, supporting local charitable events and they’ve assembled a competitive amateur cycling team.

They raised seed money for the venture from a private equity fund, Brimor Capital, in exchange for a one-third stake in the business. They retain the other two-thirds.

They’ve raised enough funds to make it to the end of the year, said Brauer.

The store has seen business from the day it opened in June. “So far, we haven’t covered the overhead, but most people coming in tell us it’s a cool shop. People appreciate our vision for the store,” said Brauer.

Good wishes, however, won’t butter the bread. “At some point,” he acknowledged, “you have to stop burning and start earning.

 “The goal is bicycle service. That drives everything. Our belief is that if we do a stellar job repairing people’s bicycles, they’ll come back and it will drive product sales.”

 

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