Cole’s Bicycles first met the needs of the Carlisle community by renting bicycles during World War II at a rate of 25 cents an hour out of the music and gun shop Leonard B. Cole opened in 1940.
Cinda Cole Shannon, who now runs the shop with her husband, Kevin, and brother, Mike, said the rentals allowed women to do their weekly shopping at a low cost.
“It was cheaper to do that than have the husband run the car around and use gasoline ration points and rubber — things that (they) were not able to get,” she said.
The war eventually ended, but Cole’s place in the community was just beginning.
Aside from their daily interaction with customers, the staff fits helmets at three or four events a year, participates in bicycle safety events and answers numerous requests for donations. The event the shop is arguably the most known for, though, is the annual Pink Mechanic Night.
Cinda said the shop was looking for an event that would inspire more women to get involved in cycling. They decided to make it a charity event to benefit breast cancer research, so they wanted pink in the title. Kevin ultimately came up with the “Pink Mechanic” name.
The weather tanked for the inaugural event with the temperature at 6 degrees at the scheduled start.
“I had 25 ladies, and I was hoping for 5 or 6. It was so cold,” Cinda said.
Since that humble beginning the event has grown so much that attendance is now capped at 100 and women who left the Carlisle area return from as far away as State College and Virginia to attend.
“It’s a challenge every year. Without some of my regulars that give me a hand every year, I don’t think we’d be able to do it,” Cinda said.
Cinda credits her father for being a driving force for the shop for many years. She said he deserves the credit for what has been accomplished, saying it was "a little daunting" when she and Mike took over in 1997.
“Small business is always a challenge, but it’s not just myself. My brother’s involved along with my husband. The challenge is spread out between the three,” she said.
Looking to the future and remembering the past on which it’s built, she thinks back to her grandfather and his decision to rent bicycles during wartime and how the shop has grown and adapted since then.
“It is a challenge to keep a family business going. I do not believe that my grandfather, who died in 1953 before I was born, would even recognize the shop today. I think he would be very proud,” Cinda said.
Cole's Bicycles Inc.
Owner: Cinda Cole Shannon, 64, and L.M. Cole, 57
How many years in business: 79 years (opened in 1940)
How many years in current location: 79 years in the 300 block of North Hanover Street
Hometown: Carlisle, Pa.
What do you like best about what you do?
I enjoy my customers, meeting new ones and saying hello to longtime customers. Interacting with them to make biking enjoyable for everyone, whether a very fit person or a person who has a disability, makes me feel good.
What is the toughest challenge you face?
There are a few. One is the weather. Get a rainy spring and summer and business will be down. The other is the internet. Yes, you can buy bikes and parts off the internet, but they do not come with 80 years of experience to stand behind the products.
Combined, we have more than 115 years of experience in the repair department. Knowing why and how something works is important. That is worth the small amount you pay to support your local businesses.
Why is it important for a small business to be involved in the community?
The community encompasses everyone, both small businesses and individuals. I like the saying, "pay it forward." Giving back to the community encourages others to give or lend a hand. I fit helmets at three or four events every year. We participate in talks about bicycle safety to young people and do repair stations at different events throughout the year. Numerous requests come every year for donations of door prizes, and we try to participate in all the bike-related charities and clubs.
What's your proudest accomplishment as a small business owner?
Being able to grow the business into something that my Grandfather Cole could not have even comprehended. I hope he is looking down and is proud of what his son and grandchildren have done to preserve the business and carry it forward.
What are the key elements of your business success?
Being able to change with the growing market. We have grown the bicycle business by expanding into electric bicycles, adult tricycles, recumbents and recumbent trikes.
We've also added sidelines to enhance our growth. The locksmith department was added in 1955 and still continues. We're proud to say, "We make the best keys in town."
What's left to do?
That depends on the new and exciting advances in bicycles that have yet to be made.
Email Tammie at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.
"The community encompasses everyone, both small businesses and individuals. I like the saying, 'pay it forward.' Giving back to the community encourages others to give or lend a hand."
— Cinda Cole
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