Parry Sound Bikes continues to grow the cycling community
When Aleesha Clark moved back to her hometown, her goal was to grow the biking community. Ever since it opened, that is exactly what her shop, Parry Sound Bikes has done.
“When we started in 2013, we started our group rides, so our group ride bike rides, we were getting a handful of riders out, maybe five maybe 10 in that first year would have been a great turnout,” said Clark.
“This year, our Tuesday night group ride … saw 40-50 riders every single week. Lots of them local, but some of them seasonal residents, as well.”
Nestled in the heart of Parry Sound, the one-of-a-kind business is a full service bike shop offering sales, rentals, repairs and services.
“It’s a welcoming atmosphere for everyone,” she said. “I grew up as a kid riding my bike, but I was by no means a professional racer. I was just a kid who wanted to ride, and that’s the feeling I hope to welcome in the shop. Just bike cycling for everyone.”
Although Clark grew up in Parry Sound she spent several years in Ottawa at university and working at a bike shop. However, she wanted to find a way to come back home and continue doing what she loves.
“Being in a smaller town is actually, in a lot of ways for a small business, a huge advantage," Clark said. "You get to know everyone since it’s a smaller community. Word travels fast so when you’re doing good things in the community everyone finds out about it, which is great. And you also receive a lot of support from other businesses, other people in the community, which is fantastic.”
For her, it made sense to get help from the Community Business and Development Centre (CBDC) to help fund a permanent location – an opportunity that came up in 2017 when the old fire hall became available.
Since opening in 2013, Parry Sound Bikes has continued to grow the cycling community in town and has become a fixture for people to enjoy. (Alana Pickrell/CTV News)
“The CBDC is right here in Parry Sound, they're less than a block away from our shop and they really were there to help,” said Clark.
“They were there to help with the funding that was required, but also with any questions I had with business planning ... recommendations. They were a great resource for things like the steps required to purchase a commercial property or the steps required for insurance for that property. So they really were there for my business.”
She said it’s really difficult for small businesses to get a loan or mortgage through major financial institutions. Janice Heidman, the Community Business and Development Centre Manager, agrees.
“There were questions about the building, and then being a new business sometimes it’s a little more challenging at the banks,” said Heidman.
“So she came to us and we were able to help her successfully complete that expansion of her business. It’s a really great spot. It’s really exciting. She’s pivoted with her business during this last really challenging time and it’s just a really cool place to go and visit and it’s a bit of a landmark now in Parry Sound.”
Heidman said there’s something special about being able to help individuals start their new business.
“Aleesha added permanent, full time jobs to the community, she added some part time jobs to the community," she said. "Not only that, she’s added things like activities to the community like her bike rides that she does, so she’s added to the health and wellness of the community. There’s so many ripples from being able to help someone achieve their dreams.”
Heidman said right now, the CBDC is helping upwards of 70 businesses in the Parry Sound area.
“We want to be the place that helps them move forward with their paths and keep them moving along,” she said.
As for Parry Sound Bikes, Clark hopes the business can continue to grow and be a part of the town.
“I wanted to open a small business that has a positive impact on the community and allow me to have a livelihood, basically, in Parry Sound and to live here and to support my family and do a great job of it,” she said.
“So it’s definitely what I was hoping for, there were days where it was definitely a struggle, but this is everything I could have hoped for.”