Grand Rapids Bicycle Company and Trailhead Cafe

Tom Smith, Sr. is not a bicycle man by nature, but by trade. His Grand Rapids Bicycle Company now also includes Trailhead Café, putting him in the food business as well. These are somewhat uncharted waters for Tom, but the bike company in the Knapp’s Corner compound was for sale and he was looking for a change. After scouting a possible new location at 1200 East Paris, he found it contained a bit of restaurant equipment that could also be included in the sale. The age-old Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus is conveniently located next door, ensuring him a built-in audience of outdoorsy types. He did the math and decided to purchase the space and bicycle company in January of 2012.

While still a few months away from the end of the lease at Knapp’s Corner, he and his crew prepped the new location for its eventual opening in March. Local designer Ashley Cole was enlisted for her planning and renovation know-how, and played a key role in the final look of both the shop and cafe. They took down some walls, put up other walls, got all the necessary permits, made some upgrades and got everything to code..

Although already a local business owner for 25 years, Tom’s Lakeland Finishing Corporation was changing. Tom, Sr. owns two auto parts finishing plants; he and his son Brian ran one, while his son Tom, Jr. ran the other. They consolidated the two buildings, but soon had three Smiths all wanting to be bosses. They realized they could still have a family business while making everyone’s day-to-day life smoother.

Tom, Sr.’s initial acquiring of the business goes back to his family’s fundamental appreciation of the outdoors. At first, he wanted to buy auto parts stores just north of Grand Rapids since he and his wife, Jill, were living in Boyne City at the time, but the sellers changed their minds and Tom’s views shifted. He started thinking about the outdoor industry and the connection with the outdoors his family shares. Tom’s other son Steven had over a decade’s experience working in a bike shop and building bike frames. Tom, Jr. worked at REI and had other related experience in the outdoor industry. At that point, it seemed a retail bicycle shop and service center made sense. Tom, Sr. had the general business knowledge and he could get valuable help from his sons. After a bit of contemplation, Tom and Jill decided that Grand Rapids was the right location as they would be closer to their children. Fast forward to January of 2012, and the new space was purchased and renovated in preparation for the early spring opening.

Although the bike shop officially opened in its new location in mid March, Trailhead Café opened only recently in mid-May and seems to be thriving. They currently have a very capable Executive Chef in Danny Teliczan, a family friend with whom Tom is excited to work with. Tom is fully confident Danny’s menu will play a big part in the café’s success and potential expansion. Along with burgers, fries, salads, wraps and coffees, they also offer creative and energy rich breakfasts. There is hope from Tom that his son Brian will be involved at some point in the café side of the business.

In the end, Tom Smith, Sr. wants people to be excited about biking. His good-natured personality and sharp business mind are echoed in his interactions with staff and neighbors during our discussion and tour of his space. Engaging and honest, he appreciates his customers and believes his obligation is to sell the right bike to the right person. He wants to have people coming to the facility during the slow season to take advantage of maintenance or spin classes, while also taking a more constructive role in their appreciation of riding. The shop’s community board is full of information about group rides, general bike knowledge and also has a large trail map showing our community’s wonderful bike treks.

Already expanding again, Tom has purchased the former Moving Company at 644 Lovett in East Grand Rapids to make room for his inventory. Although the EGR shop will not have the café feature, Tom is very pleased to have a retail location by Reeds Lake. This is on schedule and should open shortly to catch the remaining season.

Grand Rapids Bicyle Company offers Cervelo, Felt, Independent Fabrication, Focus, Jamis and Orbea bicycles. With the knowledgeable staff and special fitting area for optimizing size, leg extension and ensuring the right fit, there is no doubt you can find a road bike, trail bike or something in between to suit your needs. The store offers plenty of extra accessories and other fun upgrades such as pedals and shoes. Clothing, gloves and helmets are available in addition to the great selection of bikes.

Connect with Grand Rapids Bicycle Company on Facebook or give them a call at 616-855-7467.

Grand Rapids Bicycle Company is located at 1200 East Paris SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546.

Store hours are Monday & Tuesday 9 a.m.- 8 p.m., Wednesday 9 a.m.- 6 p.m., Thursday & Friday 9 a.m.- 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. and Closed Sunday. The Trailhead Cafe is open Monday-Friday 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Photography by Adam Bird.
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