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Bringing back a bicycling legacy

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JEFFERSON COUNTY (WKOW) -- One man's innovative idea is responsible for bringing back a Lake Mills legacy.

It's just a small bike shop in a small town, but it had a big impact on Andy Quandt: “Gib's Bike Shop is the place where I got my first bike,” said Quandt. He says most kids growing up in Lake Mills learned to ride their bikes in the alleyway right outside the shop.

Gib's opened in 1933 in the same spot it's located in today, right off Main Street. It was owned by Gilbert Kersten, whom everyone knew as “Gib”. In 1990, “I guess he just got too old to do it anymore, and it was time to close up the shop.”

For years, Quandt imagined bringing the shop back to life. “I've had this dream of moving back to Lake Mills and having a bike shop for 25 years. And I've been telling myself you can't do it, there's not a population to support... to turn a living.” So it was shelved, just a pipe dream.

He still wanted to work on bikes though, he'd been a bike mechanic since he was 13. “I thought that if I didn't have enough people to come to me, I would have to go to them.”

So came the Bikemobile – a van with an entire bike shop in the back. Think of it as Uber for bike repairs. “Everything happens online,” said Quandt. “So you can order your tune-up online, you pick your time, and then I hop in the van and I come out to your house and I tune-up the bike at your house.”

That's the kind of online presence that can be hard for small businesses to implement. “There's a learning curve with it,” said Michelle Somes-Booher, director of the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison. “They realize how important their social media is, they're getting education around how to use it effectively, how to use those advertising dollars differently than maybe they had in the past.”

Only 32 percent of businesses invested in social media marketing just two years ago, using the most recent data. But with global internet advertising expected to surpass TV ad spending by 2020, now could be the time for them to start.

Because of Andy's success online with the Bikemobile, he was ready when last year, life threw him a curveball. “I got a text from my ex-wife who's a realtor here in town and she said the Gib's bike shop property's on the market. And I went and looked at it that night, and we put in an offer.”

Quandt makes about three times as much with the Bikemobile than with the brick-and-mortar shop. “The Bikemobile … really supports the shop.”

There's even a new Gib... but he's been around about a decade. “My first-born son I named Gibson, so I could call him Gib, after the bike shop growing up,” said Quandt. “As a gift, when he was born, a family member gave us the original Gib's Bike Shop sign. It was the greatest gift I ever got.”

This one shop stands as proof that with new innovation, old-school traditions can pedal on. “Here in Lake Mills … this is what we need, this is what we've always wanted, and now we have it.”

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