Stephen Proffitt | The Breeze
Almost 40 years of local cycling tradition exchanged hands one fall morning over a cup of coffee and breakfast.
That’s exactly what happened for Harrisonburg resident Kyle Coleman who finalized a deal with Mark Nissley over the ownership of the former Mark’s Bike Shop, now operating as Bluestone Bike & Run.
“It was a fateful day there at Greenberry’s Coffee one morning,” Coleman said. “That’s when I offered and it made sense that I buy the bike shop.” Nissley operated the bike shop for almost four decades before passing it on to Coleman. However, his passion for bicycles has spanned much longer than his time with the shop.
Nissley obtained his love for cycling while living in Puerto Rico, where his parents practiced missionary work. He’d crouch for hours admiring the skill of one mechanic creatively repairing bicycles in the ’60s.
Upon arriving in Harrisonburg in the early ’70s, his mechanical passion grew out of his parent’s garage until he obtained a business license in September 1975.
“I think we were a continuing, ongoing presence that provided some stability … there were a lot of bike shops that came and went,” Nissley said. “Being there for the cycling community for four decades.”
After 39 years and change — 40, if you ask
him — Mark’s Bike Shop changed hands this past fall upon Coleman’s purchase. As an ’07 JMU alumnus, Coleman was doing Web work for the shop a couple years before the inception of such a deal.
“Fortuitous interests that coincided,” Nissley said. “Couldn’t be prouder of someone [Coleman] to have bought it. He’s a man of the highest integrity. The professional people involved have never seen something run so smoothly.”
Pulling into the parking lot just off South Main Street adjacent to Wendy’s, on a bike of course, one may see that the exterior signage still reads “Mark’s Bike Shop.”
“Still waiting on the sign company,” David Taylor, (’13) said. Taylor serves as store manager while Erik Jensen, his good friend and only other full-time employee, operates as service and footwear manager. Jensen is also a ’13 alumnus.
Taylor and Jensen come from running backgrounds but transitioned to bikes after years of cumulative damage from pounding the pavement.
“It’s almost like a therapy to get away from college,” Taylor said. “You spend so much time cooped up in a lecture hall with no windows in it. I’d rather go out and ride my bike.”
Leadership is just one way that Bluestone Bike & Run has evolved in its early existence. Coleman works a full-time job just down the street at Truck Enterprises, Inc. His daily commute from his nearby home includes multiple pit stops at the shop. With Coleman juggling work, a family and the shop, it only made sense to issue Taylor and Jensen managerial roles.
“With the transition of his ownership came the opportunity where Erik and I [have] management positions,” Taylor said. “Most of the decisions in the store are our ideas. It was this amount of freedom we’ve never had before. Now’s our time to shine.”
Inside the glass-framed door, Taylor selflessly assists a customer with a pallet of questions. Jensen, donning bright blue pants, tends to the workbench where two bikes are amid repair. They’ve spent much of the winter rearranging the store, which now offers customers with running footwear, apparel and even some disc golf implements. The new look is much more inviting to a prospective customers who aren’t greeted by the “Great Wall of Bikes,” Taylor said.
“If you walk in and you’re greeted by a $4,700 bike, most normal human beings have never owned a bike that expensive,” Taylor said. “That’s more expensive than most peoples’ first car. Now, we think you can come in to the bike shop and see everything. It’s not just high-end bikes.”
The opening of the Bluestone Trail last fall will only help the shop as it runs right along their backyard near Pheasant Run Townhomes. With winter barreling down on the Valley, it’s way too early to start assessing the impact of the changes.
“Two years will tell us more about what we’ll see in terms of a change more than the next six months because it’s so new,” Taylor said while assembling a disc brake. “Seems very positive so far.”
Coleman, Jensen and Taylor don’t plan on leaving Harrisonburg anytime soon. Biking is what brought the three of them to Harrisonburg and JMU in the first place.
“Not getting time off when the weather is nice,” Jensen and Taylor said laughing about their biggest challenge.
The three, along with employees from the other two local shops, Shenandoah Bicycle Company and Rocktown Bicycles, get together on Sundays to ride when their respective shops are closed.
“Now, I think there’s a really good relationship between all the bike shops,” Taylor said. “I think more so than growing in any individual bike shop in Harrisonburg, I think everyone’s interested in growing cycling in the community.”
Moving forward into the “season,” Bluestone Bike & Run will only continue to grow as a new unit of operation.
“The biggest change that we’re going to do from this point forward is be super involved in the community,” Coleman said. “The cycling and running thing makes us unique. It’s like a one-two punch.”
The shop is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. It’s located at 1570 S. Main Street.
“Cycling is religion here,” Taylor said. “It’s just done with a jersey, some shorts and a bike, not in a church.”
Contact Stephen Proffitt at firstname.lastname@example.org.