If there’s a single truth to bicycle retailing that everyone involved can agree upon, it’s that the nature of being a bike shop and how you provide value and service is changing, and will continue to change. Not to be too reductionist, but as the wisdom goes, the only constant is change, right?
Here in Santa Rosa a bike shop opened today that will cause a great many bike shops around the country to think about what they can and should do differently. Called the Trail House, it’s a new venture by the owners of NorCal Bike Sport and the Bike Peddler. That it sits barely 200 meters from singletrack isn’t what makes the Trail House different.
The Trail House serves food. Sure, they have Clif Bars and Bonk Breakers and that sort of thing, but that’s not what I’m talking about. They serve actual food, stuff that you’d have with … a beer.
Sorry, I buried the lede.
The Trail House is a bike shop that serves beer.
There’s room to sit and relax. And talk about the Strava PR that you just re-set. Yeah.
The owners, Shane Bresnyan and Glenn Fant (above left and right, respectively) are not just local shop owners, but they are an integral part of the Santa Rosa cycling scene. Indeed Shane and Glenn own many of the Strava KOMs in Annadel (and elsewhere). They’re fast. They’re chill. They’re friendly. And they are like crack dealers for bikes.
The vision for the Trail House was to have something that reflected the Sonoma County cycling vibe. It needed to embrace Annadel, but it also needed to be a place where you could hang out and not feel like if you didn’t purchase another coffee (or pint) you’d get run off.
Shane constructed the tables and did a fair amount of the welding needed inside. He turned the two load-bearing columns into sculptures of oak trees to evoke the forest that covers so much of Annadel. A big part of that park’s appeal is the heavy canopy that hides you from an encroaching world. He was also responsible for the oak mosaic behind the mechanic’s work bench shown in the opening image.
Part of the charm of the Trail House comes from the fact that while you can buy kits, parts and accessories (and get your bike serviced), the floor isn’t covered with stuff to buy. It’s there, but not front, not center. It’s tragic that such a thing should be so refreshing.
And if you think you can stop by for a quick coffee, the fact that the three giant plasma screens are showing great bike racing means that if you don’t bump into a friend (either new or old), there’s something to keep you captivated.
I think the word “curated” is overused. It implies vision and intent in a way that is often nothing more than a bunch of stuff someone just liked. The Trail House is different in that Shane told me every beer he and Glenn chose, every piece of furniture was chosen to reflect some experience the two had shared. Be it beers they’d had post-ride or a couch they napped on, the place is meant to evoke their love not just for cycling, but for Sonoma County specifically.
Because the Trail House’s owners have two other shops, they have the ability to set an unusual agenda. NorCal Bike Sport is a Specialized Concept Store that does a brisk trade in S-Works models, while The Bike Peddler is a more mountain and family oriented shop that doesn’t deal in the high end. Because they have two two businesses, the Trail House doesn’t have to worry about bike sales. So the only bikes at the Trail House are for demo (or display). It’s a great way to check out a Stumpjumper if you’ve never had the chance. There’s also a deeper strategic need: in order to keep their liquor license, 50 percent of their receipts have to be from food. Sell one bike and they’d need to stay open all night selling hotdogs.
The tap pulls were made by an artist-slash-furniture maker who uses old skateboard decks to make everything from tables to chairs and now, tap pulls. Don’t worry if you can’t tell which beers are available from the pulls. They have a board they’ll keep updated. I’m told four taps will be devoted to Russian River Brewing Co. options, while others may be traded out here and there. Expect to see special releases and other hard-to-get beers there.
You can do samplers, of course. But really, with Pliny the Elder, what else do you need?
As Shane said to me, “It’s not a dream if you make it happen.”