McHENRY – Things were getting tight at Epic Cycle and Fitness’ last shop, its owner said.
The bike store moved to 909 N. Front St., a newly renovated space that had been vacant for about five years.
Just shy of 5,000 square feet, it’s much roomer than the shop’s old location, 3932 W. Main St., where it had 1,800 square feet on the main floor and another 1,200 square feet of basement storage.
“Now, we’re able to illustrate it, display it better,” said Mike Mrachek, who co-owns the shop with his wife, Maggie. “Things aren’t piled up on everything. Everything kind of got lost. Now, we’re able to segregate from bikes to parts and pieces to accessories.”
The full-service bicycle sale and repair shop opened in February 2012 with Mrachek and one part-time employee, he said. Now, he employs six part-timers.
“There’s definitely health awareness growth going on in the last five years, maybe more probably,” Mrachek said.
“Then I think people have downscaled a little bit, and instead of the trip to Florida, now it’s back to ‘We’re going to take the bikes on a camp trip’ or something. Then there are a lot of people I’m more and more talking to that are using it as a form of transportation.”
Mrachek belongs to McHenry County Bicycle Advocates, which tries to encourage the county, area municipalities and townships to incorporate bike lanes and trails into their planning.
A new off-shoot of the store is a nonprofit cycling club called Epic Riders.
The club is open to anyone and facilitates regularly scheduled road and mountain rides. Social rides – for example, through a neighborhood or along McHenry County Conservation District’s Prairie Trail – may soon be added to the list, Mrachek said.
The bike shop also sponsors race teams: mountain, road, BMX, and coming in the fall, cyclo-cross.
His customer base is split pretty evenly among recreational riders, mountain bikers and road riders, he said.
He tends to sell kids bikes to a lesser degree because his line of products is more expensive than what is available at a big-box store. To address that issue, Epic Cycle and Fitness has a trade-in program for when the child gets bigger and needs a new bike.
Mrachek encourages people to come to the shop even if they just have questions and aren’t necessarily looking to buy.
“A lot of people just have a lot of questions about bikes, and I think coming to a specific location like a bike shop may be intimidating for some people,” he said. “We want them to feel welcome.”
That’s how Mrachek found his way into the business.
While attending Illinois State University for construction management – a field he was in for 10 years before opening his store – Mrachek, who was interested in mountain biking, started hanging out at Bloomington Cycle and Fitness.
Mrachek started helping them out more and more and eventually found himself with a job, never having had a formal interview.
Opening a shop “was always in the back of my mind and kind of the dream,” he said. “It sounds cheesy, but it was definitely there.”