John and Carolyn Roy
Age: John, 55; Carolyn, 53
City: Birch Bay
Lived here for: 2 years, 10 months
Originally from: Portland, Oregon; Bellingham
Notable: John (former sales professional, 911 operator, Western physical education teacher), Carolyn (director of community engagement at Lighthouse Mission Ministries), bike enthusiasts
What attracted you both to Birch Bay? Had you visited the area before moving here?
Carolyn: My family goes back generations, having cabins out in Birch Bay and living out here. About 15 years ago, my grandparents sold their last cabin out here. So, we had a window where nobody was coming out here, and when we got the opportunity to buy, we decided to do it.
John: Not having the family history out here — other than hers — it was always a real joy to come out here with the kids, and just a little bit slower pace, and of course the bay and all that … when we saw the opportunity, we jumped on it.
Carolyn Roy's father's 1960s cruiser — a bike that has lived in Birch Bay most of its life — hangs on the shop's wall. (Andrew Ford/Cascadia Daily News)
How did you get into the bike industry and what interested you in breaking into it?
Carolyn: We're empty nesters, our kids have grown and we were thinking we really wanted to be in a beach recreational community and start a business … when this came up at Birch Bay and then we bought the house, we were like, “Oh, we are in a beach community. This would be really great to see what we could open here.” So, there was a lot of back and forth. But John has always wanted to open a bike shop. So, it just seemed like a natural fit.
John: My cycling experience started in high school. I got into mountain biking kind of at the forefront when they were still pretty primitive. Then I was a ski bum in Utah and a river guide … and part of what we did for exercise and to have transportation is we had bicycles. So I just always enjoyed riding a bike. I got a job at Olympic Sports in Seattle, which was a big sporting goods [store], and got in the ski department. But then, I was able to go over to the bike shop aspect of it, and then that's when it just started to snowball.
I remember the first bike box under the Christmas tree. I was so excited, and I knew it was for me and I got there and opened it up. My mom had tricked me and put sheets in it. So my excuse for now buying a whole bunch of bikes all the time is that childhood trauma.
Birch Bay is a biker-heavy town. How have you handled the high demand during the summertime as the only bike rental/maintenance shop on the bay?
John: When we were looking at opening a shop I kind of surveyed the area, talked to a lot of businesses, certainly knew that there’s a lot of bikes out here, but I talked to the chamber of commerce and I really have to give them accolades — they were super helpful and kind of talking about the population out here and the requests that they get.
As far as handling the load, it’s just me. Carolyn helps when she has time, but it's just a matter of pacing myself, and this community out here is incredible. I'll have six or seven people in here at a time. They’re patient. They’re waiting and they understand that it's just kind of a one-man show. But it's a lot of late nights, and then certainly during the peak season, it's seven days a week.
As a new business (spring 2023), what’s been your biggest challenge since opening?
John: The biggest challenge isn't so much doing it by myself, it's just making sure I'm able to shake everybody's hand and say, “Thank you,” and really get the customer service experience, because I think that's more important than selling a bike or fixing a bike or renting a bike is when someone comes in here, I want to shake their hand and say, “Thank you for coming in.”
How has the community received you and the business?
Carolyn: They are amazing. They really are.
John: I've gotten just tons of thank you cards … People have been making me cookies and thank-yous, and in this day of social media interaction, I've got incredible Google reviews from people, which is just, I mean, it's so important … This community has just embraced this and it wouldn't have worked without it.