Monday Business Focus: Berkshire Bike & Board–Inflating Tires and Riding on Gravel

During the pandemic, Robin Fried bought an e-bike from a wonderful place. This purchase changed her entire life. In Monterey, she has a group of e-biker friends and they all enjoy riding to the Southfield store for lunch and returning home. Fried is grateful for Bike and Board’s support. Whenever she has a problem with her bike, they are always there to help her, even when she had to package and send her bike to Florida.

Steffan Root, who grew up in South Egremont and attended the Steiner School, fell in love with mountain biking early in his life. His first real mountain bike was a Schwinn High Plains. Growing up near Jug End, with a lot of kids his age, they used to ride down to The Gas Light Store for penny candy when they were young. As they grew older, they started building trails and exploring the mountain. In high school at Berkshire School, Root joined the cycling club and fulfilled his sports requirement on the road. At Green Mountain College in Vermont, he started riding with a student-run club on a new mountain bike with suspension.

In 1995, a bike shop named Berkshire Bike & Blade opened in the spring of his freshman year. The shop was hiring salespeople and an apprentice bike mechanic, so Root applied for the apprentice position during the summer. When Root was pressed to state his major in college, he responded, “I want to play and get paid for it” and decided to major in leisure resource resort management. By the spring of 1998, Root was graduating from college and the manager who had hired him quit. The new manager, Dave Clark, and Root started racing bikes together. Root found inspiration through their passion and decided to leave the bubble of his youth and head to Tahoe.

However, by August of that year, he learned from his manager friend that the owners of Berkshire Bike & Blade decided to take a job offer servicing submarines in Pearl Harbor. They offered Root a chance to buy the shop. Root wrestled with the decision because Tahoe represented everything he enjoyed. But the chance to run his own shop was equally enticing. After a lot of soul-searching, he decided to give it a go. With help from his father and business partner, Clark, they managed to get a loan from Salisbury Bank. At twenty-two years old, Root was running his own business and admits that he didn’t know much about how to run a business at that age.

In 2000, they hosted their first group rides, initially attracting small crowds. Over time, their rides grew and added “gravel” groups, attracting some 70 people who sign up each week. Rentals are another popular offering at Berkshire Bike & Board. In 2003, Root started looking for a permanent home for the bike shop and learned that the property at 29 State Road was for sale. Root concentrated on growing the business until Kimco raised rents in 2006, forcing Root to find a different location. He eventually found a new location on Route 23 and with it came a new name, Berkshire Bike & Board.

At that point, Root and Clark started to step on each other’s toes, which led to the opening of a shop in Pittsfield in 2013. Greylock Outfitters in Pittsfield announced that it would be closing its doors at 502C East Street in six months, which provided an opportunity for Bike & Board to take over the lease. In 2015, they formed their standard operating procedures so that anyone off the street would know what to do. Root acknowledges that Jared Cowing, general manager, and he made developing their systems a top priority, and in 2019, they had their first really good year. They also hired a consulting firm, The Mann Group, to help them analyze their business more in-depth.

Then the pandemic hit, and they had a small existential crisis. Root was returning from a trip to Cuba in March 2020 when the world started to close in on itself. However, when the governor granted them “essential business” status in April, the demand for more bikes raced at an alarming speed. People were ditching nearby cities (part of the two-million migration from 2020 to 2022) and reconsidering their outdoor activities during the pandemic. Despite the challenges, Bike & Board persevered and continues to be a thriving business today.

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