Biking and hockey are two recreations that share little in common except for having a seasonal following in Montana. The warm months are ideal for riding in the outdoors, while the cold months supply the ice.
In the business world, finding a niche can be difficult for stores devoted to such periodic recreations. This was the predicament that Kalispell resident Jeff Penrod faced when he opened his bicycle shop, Summit Cycles, in July.
But Penrod arrived at an idea. He knows bikes. The Waatti family, longtime friends of Penrod’s, knows hockey. Together they are combining their specialties under one roof in a new storefront shop on Main Street in Kalispell.
Summit Cycles and Hockey Central opened in downtown three weeks ago. Visitors have access to all styles of bicycles — mountain, road and cruisers — as well as a full selection of hockey gear.
One side of the store showcases an assortment of bike models made by Rocky Mountain Bicycles, Raleigh and Diamondback. The shop also offers tune-ups and repair services.
The shop’s other half features hockey equipment for all skill levels. Maulers Hockey Central in Missoula has partnered with the business for a Kalispell “satellite” shop and is supplying high-end sticks, pads and skates for sale. Hockey Central also has a new skate sharpener.
Biking and hockey have persisted as popular pastimes in Northwest Montana, but hockey has especially seen a recent spike in participation lately. Men’s, women’s and youth leagues continue popping up at ice rinks in Kalispell and Whitefish. The Glacier Nationals, a Tier II Junior-A expansion team in the Northern Pacific Hockey League, recently kicked off its second season.
Penrod and the Waattis saw an opportunity to focus on two popular pastimes even if the off-seasons presented a challenge. By partnering together they believe their business can stand stronger.
“We’re just trying to find our niche in the Flathead,” Penrod said. “I’ve been in the valley for 30 years and had other businesses. You always want to find that niche.”
Penrod previously co-owned Penco, a motorcycle shop founded in 1985 south of Kalispell. After being bought out he was ready for a new endeavor. He opened Summit Cycles off Meridian Road last summer after surveying other bike shops in Western Montana. Missoula has 12 shops, he said, and Kalispell has far fewer than that, so he figured there was room for more.
At the same time the Waattis were interested in opening a store for hockey players. Several of the brothers are helping manage the store, including 17-year-old Cecil, who is getting his feet wet in the business world for the first time.
“I just hope to get the name out at first and bring a lot more people here,” Cecil said. “They can find anything they need to play hockey. We have a lot of higher end sticks that nowhere else has in the Flathead Valley.”
Penrod and the Waattis found the ideal location in the heart of town, which aided their new shop’s exposure.
“I like seeing things going on,” Penrod said. “There’s a little bit more energy here.”
There’s also plenty of youthful energy in the business now, with Cecil and his brothers involved.
“I like being around the younger guys. They’re fun,” Penrod said. “And I can still give them a hard time every once and awhile.”
Chiding aside, it’s definitely a team effort at Summit Cycle and Hockey Central.
“I don’t even know how to play hockey. And he doesn’t even ride a bike,” Penrod said, motioning to Cecil. “When I get in trouble on the hockey side, I ask Cecil. And when he gets in trouble on bikes, he asks me. We’re just kind of working together to make it work.
Summit Cycles and Hockey Central is located at 332 South Main St. in Kalispell. For more information call 752-2453.
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