NANTUCKET — For close to 90 years, Young’s Bicycle Shop on Broad Street has been renting bicycles to island visitors and residents.
Young’s was founded in 1931 by current owner Harvey Young’s grandfather, who shares the same name, and has been run by the family ever since.
“My father bought it from his father, sold it to my brother, and my brother sold the business to me back in the mid-’90s,” Young said.
When COVID-19 shut down the island in March, the Youngs had to rethink how they’d been doing business.
Can you sum up what your business does to someone who has never been? We are predominantly a rental shop. We do some bicycle retail and we try to do some bicycle repair, but the huge percentage of our business is renting bikes. In the late ’70s we added the small fleet of car rentals.
How big is your staff? Usually about 40 to 44 staff, but this year we are closer to 30.
What did you do before? Or are you juggling multiple careers? I was born and raised on Nantucket. I was born and raised in the bicycle shop. That was my life as a young person. By the time I was a young adult in my late teens, I wanted to get out of town like many people. I was very fortunate. I went out to the West Coast … planting trees, working on some fishing boats, a drilling rig, all kinds of cool stuff like that. And then in the early ’90s I started a family and moved back to Nantucket. In time, I had an opportunity to get back into the family business. I took over as manager and by the mid-’90s I was able to buy the business and keep it in the family.
Does your business have a lot of competition? If so, what makes yours stand out? This business on Nantucket is extremely competitive. On lower Broad Street, where we are, there are now three separate bike shops all on one block. If you come to Nantucket and get a bike from anybody, it’s probably going to be a pretty good bike and it’s going to be at a pretty competitive price. What we learned is that you just have to be constantly improving and making the product better. That’s how we compete. In terms of standing out, Young’s Bicycle Shop has a great reputation in the community.
Who would you say is your base customer? The base customer on Nantucket runs the gamut from the locals who want to buy a bike for a birthday or get a flat tire fixed, to visitors from around the world and around the country.
What are your plans for your business’s future? This has been a challenging year, but the plan is to keep calm and carry on. I don’t want to overuse the word fortunate, but again I am fortunate because my adult children are very interested in taking over the business. My son, Jasper, this is his first year to be the general manager, and my daughter, Emma, is the office manager. The two of them are going to run the business this season.
What advice do you have for someone starting out in business? Starting out I would say, good luck. You’re going to have to work a lot harder and probably make less than what you were working for someone else. But if you can hang in there and put out a good product and be competitive, the rewards should follow.
How has the outbreak of COVID-19 affected your business? We have always appreciated, respected and tried to reward our staff, but it has helped us realize how important they are. We are putting them on the front lines. It has helped us appreciate our community more. Our community has done an amazing job out here of trying to manage this time that we are in.
Did your business have to close down for a period of time? Has it been able to reopen? We were closed for a while. Memorial Day weekend, one of the biggest weekends of the year, (and) for the first time in history, Young’s was not open for business. I think we started opening up around the 9th of June. It was really hard to plan and figure out what staff do we need, what supplies do we need to sell, will there be customers? We anticipated there would be a pause in life. But by mid-June, it was evident that that wasn’t going to happen on Nantucket, which for business was good.
Do you think your business will be able to survive through the upcoming fall and winter? Young’s is going to survive. We will get through the winter and be ready for whatever happens next year.
Take 10 is a weekly feature in which we interview an established Cape and Islands business owner about the secrets to their success. Email suggestions for businesses to feature: [email protected].