Charles Conte Jr. decided late last year it was time to move to the Tri-Cities, where his wife Susan’s family lived.
In January, the family moved from Virginia, where Charles worked in his father’s bike shop chain, Conte’s Bike Shop. He intended to work for a local nonprofit.
“Susan was born and raised here,” Charles said. “Her parents live in the Tri-Cities, and that was the driving force for us to move here — to be close to Susan’s family.”
Charles, however, decided against working for a nonprofit.
“I thought long and hard about what made me happy,” he said.
Bicycles. Bicycles make him happy.
So the Contes opened Reborn Bike Shop at 1341 George Washington Way in Richland at the Uptown Shopping Center on May 14.
Charles said the Tri-Cities is perfect for his store.
“The infrastructure is here. There are plenty of bike trails,” he said. “The government has done a wonderful job with the greenways.”
Reborn — which operates in a 2,500-square-foot building — sells new bikes, as well as pre-owned and others on consignment. Trade-in options also are available.
The bike shop offer warranties for all its bikes.
“We have bikes for as little as $35, up to a few thousand dollars,” Charles said.
The store also sells wheels, tires and tubes, parts, accessories, helmets, shoes, clothing and car racks.
It also offers bike service and repairs with free estimates and professional bike fittings, with three service bays.
Reborn also rents bicycles. The daily rental rate for a hybrid is $30, while road and mountain bikes rent for $50 a day. There also are weekly rates.
Opening a new store during a pandemic may be an unusual move by a business owner.
But bicycles were deemed essential as transportation during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Charles said the shop’s staff has been doing a great job making sure all inventory in the store is disinfected.
“We’re doing this with the safety of the staff and clients in mind,” he said.
Charles knows the bicycle business.
His father, Charles Conte Sr., opened his first bike shop in the Virginia area back in 1957.
Over the years, the Conte’s Bike Shop chain has been a popular and successful business, expanding to its current footprint of 14 stores in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Florida.
Charles was a big part of his father’s success.
“I started in my father’s business when I was 13 years old,” said Conte, now 54. “I was servicing pre-owned bikes. He allowed me to sell bikes to clients.”
Most of the family — he has five sisters and one brother, David, who runs the family business — is involved in the company.
The National Bicycle Dealers Association ranked Conte’s among America’s Best Bike Shops of 2019 and it’s been ranked among the best for 10 years. Considering there are an estimated 5,200 bicycle retailers in the United States, that’s elite company.
So this is the background Conte brings to the Tri-Cities.
“Where I come from, it’s tough,” he said. “I ran one of the largest stores in the company in Arlington, Virginia, with 7 million people around the region. There is a demand for high-end customer service.
“Here at Reborn, we’re not just another real solid choice. We’re experts in the business. We give really good information.”
It starts, Charles said, with customer service.
One of the first things he did was to hire Tony Tran as his lone full-time employee.
Tran, better known among the local biking community as Dr. Tony Tran, the bike doctor, has worked locally (at Kennewick Schwinn and Markee’s) for 37 years until he decided to step away from the business, Charles said. “He was kind of burned out,” he said.
But Charles was able to convince him to work at Reborn.
Tran has certifications on most of the top bicycle brands, including Cannondale, Giant, Schwinn, GT, Trek and Diamondback.
Tran is a great addition, Charles said.
“At any bike store, you need to have someone who knows the service end of the business. You deal with older products, but also the new technology,” Charles said. “You better know how to service the customer.”
So far, Charles said, the business is off to a strong start.
“It’s about 50-50 service and sales for revenue,” he said. “Business is good. Customers are going to our website. They’re buying, selling, consigning. They’re also talking to their neighbors about us. Word of mouth is getting out there. Clients are helpful, through (reviews in) Google and Yelp.”
That’s good because while the bicycle business overall really started to take off in March, there were some problems with the supply chain.
A May 18 article in the New York Times stated that people, trying to avoid public transportation, were buying more bicycles.
The pandemic forced factories that make bicycle parts to shut down at the beginning of the year in Asia. That stalled production of new bikes.
Now the global supply chains are struggling to meet demand.
“We’re looking at a gap of five to eight months for products,” Charles said. “Mainly bicycle tires, tubes, baby seats. A lot of things in the business are either out or hard to get. In pre-owned bikes, even that market is tight.”
Still, with his years of experience and his connections, Charles said he is confident he can find what a customer is looking for.
The store appears to have plenty of inventory, and Susan said they have more in storage.
And this is just the start. Charles said he eventually would like to do what the family business did on the East Coast: expand.
He has plans to open Reborn Bike Shop stores elsewhere in the state as well in Oregon.
But first things first. The Contes want to get the Richland store up and running well.
He’s confident it will do well.
“I didn’t study my competition when this started because of my experience,” Charles said. “I knew this was going to work.”
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Reborn Bike Shop: 1342 George Washington Way, Richland; 509-371-9483; rebornbikeshop.com.
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