In the midst of a bike ride earlier this year, Scott Penzarella and partners Colin Beardsley and Chris Reed informally took stock of Studio Velo, their six-year-old Tam Junction bike shop. The bike boom of recent years had been good to them, with bike and apparel sales, repairs and bike fittings all on the incline.
But there was a void in the business, one that eats at most bike shops, Penzarella said.
"We'd paid little attention to the women's market, like every other bike shop," he said. "As a result, women's sales were pretty poor."
When the nutrition outfit Live Fit Medicine moved out of the adjacent space at 247 Shoreline Hwy. in March, the trio seized the moment, laying the groundwork for Studio Velo - Women, a store entirely dedicated to women's cycling.
"It's not lip service or pink decals or flowers on the saddle," Penzarella said. "This isn't a section of our store or a kiosk that offers women's apparel. It's an entire store focused on women."
In doing so, Studio Velo has crafted a very different kind of bike shop. While the main store is slightly less cluttered than some bike shops, its floor, shelves, racks and walls are all packed with products, and a repair shop sits in the back.
The door that leads into the women's store acts as a portal into more of a boutique than a bike shop. The 550-square-foot store features plenty of empty floor space and is far from cluttered. Just a handful of bikes from the likes of Guru, Willier and Cyfax are displayed in between sparsely stocked shelves and tables with clothing from Hincapie, Descente, Luna, Prana, and Dude Girl.
Penzarella did his homework by visiting successful female-centric athletic shops like Athleta, and found that layout and comfort were key to the experience.
"It became very clear to me that women shopped stores in a very particular fashion that did not fit how most bike shops were organized and presented," he said.
He brought on Tammy Scott, a longstanding customer and former marathon runner, to run the women's store, and began outreach to existing female customers to make sure they were on the right track.
"We've already changed the layout twice based on feedback we've gotten from female customers," he said.
Studio Velo - Women launched a weekly Saturday morning women's ride for all levels, and plans to organize an all-women, week-long cycling tour next year, similar to one the shop just finished in Girona, Spain.
"This has been a male dominant sport because the bike shop experience can be intimidating," Penzarella said. "We hope to change that."