After 65 Years, Glenwood Cycle Still About Family
AUSTINTOWN, Ohio — For Chris and Don Johnson, Austintown Glenwood Cycle has been more than a way to make a living. It’s been their whole lives.
When their parents, Chuck and Terry, started the business – originally named Glenwood Bicycle & Hobby – “he was an infant. I was three or four,” Chris Johnson says, pointing across his desk to his brother. “We basically lived there. We were right up the street and we went to school across the street at St. Pat’s School.”
The business opened in 1954 at the corner of Glenwood Avenue and Cleveland Street in Youngstown, although its origins go back to when Chuck Johnson would repair bikes for kids in the neighborhood.
“He always believed that every kid deserved a bicycle. So he’d fix them up in the garage and then give them to the kids,” Chris Johnson says. “That was really the start of the business.”
From the very beginning, there was a family culture at Glenwood Cycle that extend beyond the walls of the Johnson home and into the community surrounding them.
“It was a real family business. It was all neighborhoods back then. Everything you did was in your neighborhood,” Don Johnson says. “We were there on Glenwood Avenue, there was another bike shop on Market Street, but that was their area and this was our area. People were dedicated to their local people.”
Chuck and Terry Johnson were an example of that dedication having an impact, the brothers say. One time, when their parents were in California visiting family, they were approached by two young men who exclaimed, “You’re the bicycle lady!”
“They remembered her from the shop and had made their way out to California,” Don Johnson says. “[Mom and Dad] were the neighborhood icons, I guess you’d say. We have customers whose parents came in and now we’re down to their grandkids. It started with them all the way back then.”
Today, that spirit continues.
Customers who buy bikes aren’t limited to the one-size-fits-all option of chain stores. Models are available in a variety of sizes and can be set up for each rider, creating a bike that’s just for them. After a sale, they’re invited back about a month later to check the fit and to have any adjustments made.
“People know that they can come here and get a good product and they know we’ll back it up,” Don Johnson says. “If you go to Walmart or somewhere over there, it won’t be right to begin with. And then you’ll have issues. So much of it has to do with us being here for 65 years.”
Just about everything the brothers learned about running a business came from their parents, the duo says.
“We worked with them right through it. They were there until we reached the point where Donny and I and our wives were there doing it all,” Chris Johnson says. “They got to enjoy themselves for a little bit. They taught us through the years right alongside us. We followed their footsteps.”
Neither went to college and except for time in the military, both have spent their entire lives at Glenwood Cycle. Their father, a Marine, taught them how to keep the business self-sufficient
“You either did it right or you didn’t do it all,” he continues. “You didn’t get people to do things; you did it yourself, whether it was a car or bike. He had that knowledge and we got that knowledge.”
Over the years, the two have streamlined their processes and expanded their offerings.
The store was never just a bicycle-sales-and-service shop. It was one of the first dealers for Cushman industrial vehicles and still carries the brand. Chris and Don Johnson brought in more industrial brands such as Clubman and Kawasaki.
Among the store’s bigger clients in that category were the area’s large manufacturers such as Packard Electric, Van Huffel Tube and, up until a few years ago, the General Motors Lordstown Complex.
Business slid somewhat after the store moved to Austintown in 1982, but in recent years the fall has been broken by the resurgence in bicycling.
With a trailhead for the Mill Creek MetroParks bike trail just over a mile away from the store, 69 Fitch Blvd., combined with increased interest from young women and more active retirees, there’s a more interested customer base.
“It’s a low-cost recreational sport. There are many trails across here and Pennsylvania where you can do one-day trips,” Don Johnson says. “Other than the cost of getting there, you don’t have too much invested. It’s not like going to an amusement park where you’ve got all these other expenses.”
Adds his brother, “How many people make it part of their day instead of going to the gym? That’s never been here before.”
But the biggest changes to the industry have been with the products they stock.
The two recall their dad going to dealership meetings and working with other area dealers and company representatives.
There was a close-knit relationship between the locals while the representative would be there year in and year out.
“Today, it’s strictly about numbers. You don’t really have a voice in their company; you’re another number and if you don’t produce, they don’t [keep you],” Don Johnson says. “It’s not fun like it used to be. It’s still enjoyable and it’s what we love to do. But having a family business and running one, they’ve made it hard to do that.”
And that, they agree, is the biggest difference in the business.
“I don’t know that they’d be able to accept all the changes,” he says, imagining if Chuck and Terry were working at the store today.
“Not the fixtures, the building and our changes, but how business has changed,” Don Johnson says. “They were old school and I think they wouldn’t accept it. They grew up in a neighborhood and serviced their neighborhood. They were there for the family. A lot was done on a handshake.”
Pictured above: Don and Chris Johnson moved their parents’ bicycle shop to Austintown in 1982, renaming the store Austintown Glenwood Cycle. Business has been bolstered by the nearby Mill Creek MetroParks bike trail.
Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.