Monday, February 1, 2010

ZenCog - A New Attitude

If you talk with local bike shops (LBS) they will give you all kinds of reasons why their sales are lagging. The number one complaint I hear most from LBS's is that they can't compete with the prices of frames and components on the internet.

I also get the distinct pleasure of hearing the other side of the coin from the patrons of those same bike shops. The ones that walk into those LBS's and walk out empty handed. They also have a number reasons why they don't purchase locally.

Their number one reason: LBS doesn't offer what they are seeking in a bike. And they usually follow with a statement which always includes something about the "attitude" of the shop or sales person.

As of today there is new bike shop in town that thinks it has the answer to this issues. How to be a self-sustaining bike shop while providing the bikes and service the people want, and doing it all without the snobbish attitude.

Enter ZogCog Bicycle Company. Located in the Mary Built building on Stockton St. at the corner of College St. sits a bike shop experience like none other you've had.

The First thing you'll notice when walking in is the wall of flat screens with table chairs and keyboard. This is what makes ZenCog Bicycle Company different and allows them to bridge the gap of what a bike shop offers and what the customer is looking for. This where you'll be taken thru the ZenCog catalogue of frames and components to build up your perfect bike that also keeps you within budget.

I had the chance to meet and talk with ZenCog mastermind Clark Schaffer to find out more about how it all works.

Bike Jax: What is ZenCog Bicycle Company and what sets it apart from other bicycle shops in the Urban Core?

CS: ZenCog Bicycle Company is more than a bike shop, it's a lifestyle. Most other shops try to lock people into a category, whether it be road, mountain, or whatever, then fit the customer to what they have in stock. ZenCog is a custom place where a person says "this is what I like, this is who I am, can you build a bike to fit me?" It all started with the ZenCog. A steel bike I built for myself, which starts with a road frame and track dropouts. I put all high end components on it (the few that were required with a coaster brake). And I ended with a maintenance free ride that is like no other, it coasts silently and has no cables or controls. Find that at another bike shop.

Bike Jax: Who are the guys/gals that makeup ZenCog and what does each add to the ZenCog experience?

CS: Unfortunately no estrogen, just three relatively freaky outcasts. The Garf and Istvan (Steve the Hungarian) are the face of the shop. They have many years in the bicycle business, and have a true love of cycling.

Garf is the front man and will pull out catalogues and take customers on a tour of our distributor web sites to find bikes and parts to fit the project.

Steve is flat out the best mechanic in town. He is not just a kid who wants a part time job in a bike shop, he is a professional. Service is our mainstay. Although we may have the best parts prices in town, we are steadfast that we offer top shelf service, and the customer must pay for the service, its not free to go with overpriced parts. We kind of flip flop the business model.

I am just a business man and do the web part early in the morning. I maintain the website, Facebook, the online catalogue, blog, gallery, and all technology. This is really about Garf and Steve, they do the heavy lifting.

Bike Jax: What brands of bikes will the shop be carrying?

CS: Of course you can get a custom ZenCog, but a single speed coaster road bike is not for everyone. The other brands we carry are Surly, Origin 8, Vilano, Soma frames, and Pake frames. We are searching for a quality commuter bike, (3 and 7 speed) to offer and will announce it on the website when we find the quality brand we want to represent. Garf has frequently talked about Marin, and that may be it. We will mostly be carrying steel frames. Nobody in town really does that anymore, so we see that as our niche.

Bike Jax: Will ZenCog be catering to specific type of rider?

CS: We will cater to all riders, however we will not be for everyone. We specialize in single speed and fixie steel bikes and conversions. However we can build a fully geared road, mountain, touring, or commuter bike.

Due to our low inventory model and off beat presentation we will not appeal to everyone. If someone wants to buy a pre-built carbon fiber or aluminum bike right now - today, we cannot serve them well. There are many fine shops on the Westside that can do that. Close by there is City Cycle, Open Roads, and Lakeshore. All really fine shops with passionate owners. They appeal to many folks, and suspect have a loyal following.

We are there for those that just don't fit in there. We are gambling that there is enough of that market that we will appeal to.

Bike Jax: What is a ZenCog Bike?

CS: We must differentiate here. ZenCog is an attitude. It is about being unique, and not just following. The ZenCog Bicycle Company builds custom steel frame bikes, whether it be a ZenCog original coater road bike, or a Surly, Soma, or Pake. We will even try to add the little known but highly coveted Waterford and Gunner frames. If someone wants a frame built just for them, we will be working with a young and passionate frame builder in Gainesville - Brandon Kelley.

In answer to your question a ZenCog bike is one that makes the rider feel good. If a rider feels good on their custom bike, they will ride it more. If they ride it more, they will be happier, and maybe even live longer. The only way we can gauge our success is with smiles. In the end, we want to sell smiles. How cool is that?

Bike Jax: Does ZenCog also offer service and repairs?

CS: Service and repairs is what feeds us. Upgrades and conversions go along with that. It is Steve, the master mechanic that will drive the success of the shop. You won't be coming in, buying a bike, and getting free lifetime service. We just couldn't charge enough for the bike or components to make that business model work. That is like insurance. You offer it free, but really don't expect 90 percent of the customers to take you up on it.

We sell service, let's be perfectly clear about that. A long time ago, someone asked me what I was worth. I struggled with that and undersold myself. It led to failure, and I learned from that mistake. You must get paid what you are worth. So here is our model. We think retail pricing on parts is excessive. Therefore we will be less expensive than other local shops, and maybe a tad higher than Internet stores. That will be a bargain for our customers. When it comes to service it is like going to any professional, and it will cost. When was the last time you bought a car and got free tuneups for the life of the car?

I don't mean to dwell on this point, but merely to set the expectations of our customers. If you want the best service available, come see us and help keep us in business.

The final thing I will say on service is that we will service every bike out there. Whether you just picked it up at a garage sale for $25, or paid $2,500 for a carbon fiber beauty at another shop. Steve has worked on them all and will treat each with the same courtesy and professional attention you and your bike deserve. We are not judgemental, that is what ZenCog is about. No attitudes.

There you have it. A local bike shop that gets you on the bike you want, with the service you want. All without the judgment that other shops dole out like candy on holloween. Stop by and check them out.

ZenCog is located at:
883 Stockton St. Jacksonville, FL 32204
If you want to give them a call: 904.219.7777
Find them on the net HERE.


Just a rider said...

Thanks for this article, I have been wanting a steel ss for some time now and no longer have an excuse no to do it.

clark said...

Thanks for the post. It was a pleasure to meet you. I just want to make one correction, we are near Post, but actually at the corner of Stockton and College. Thanks again!

I also wanted to mention that Garf was at the store all day yesterday and Steve and myself part time. Garf just kept saying and texting, today feels good. Thanks ya'll who came in and made my business partner feel good.

Bike Jax said...

I knew it was on College. Why I typed Post St. is beyond me. I have corrected it and thanks for pointing it out.

Anonymous said...

yay another bike shop that is supposedly different from the dozen's of other bike shops.

Anonymous said...

What makes this different from the "dozen's (sic) of other bike shops" is that Garf and Steve are totally cool and have zero bike jock or hipster attitude. They were the reason I would go to Lakeshore and they will be the reason I go to Zencog...

Anonymous said...

I recently bought a bike from this shop and am very pleased with it thus far. The guys that run it were super nice and very helpful towards me. thanks!

Clark Schaffer said...

Thanks for the good words ya'll. This is a passion for us. I was at the store a few minutes today and watched garf help a customer look on the Internet for a internal gear hub. They were looking on eBay, but that's okay as long as we can help. Maybe we should re-think our business model : ) We have almost 400 fans, on Facebook and have just been open a week and a half.

Anonymous said...

When does Steve work?

Bike Jax said...

Anon, I think giving ZenCog a call is the best option for finding out when Steve works. 904.219.7777