Theresa Van Ackeren, Managing Director of Family Bicycles, worked years at DST. Finally, she quit–the steady paycheck, paid vacation, retirement plan and healthcare coverage. She wasn’t happy and wanted something new. Her last day of regular employment was in April 2007–just before the economy started the swan dive.
She decided to open a bike shop. Her father was an avid cycler, and her sister convinced her to ride the Katy Trail. Theresa was hooked. After quitting her job, she biked day after day..taking a few months off to refocus and then write a business plan for the store. In March 2008, as the recession spread, Theresa opened Family Bicycles at 7140 Wornall. And she’s still in business, with four full time employees and two part time, offering her staff a 401K plan and health insurance. This is one of the locally owned and operated business that area residents love to support.
One of my first questions to Theresa was, ‘how can you compete with the big box store for bike sales?’ . A simple answer: service and product. A customer walking into her store is immediately greeted with a smile and offer of help. She and her staff will take the time to educate the buyer on the bike that works best for their particular needs–whether it’s a child’s bike to ride around the neighborhood, a racing bike or a motorized bike. Theresa explained that the bicycles she sells–particularly for children–are ‘built to withstand use and abuse’–and the big box store bikes are not. It’s a higher quality of bike, with better components and metals. This is important when the bike is handed down to the next kid in line. In addition, Family Bicycles will take the bike as a trade in when it’s time for a new model.
Besides selling bikes, Family Bicycles offers a full service repair shop. The store also stocks plenty of gear–shoes, reflectors,bags, tires, apparel. They also have information on upcoming races in KC and beyond, they are open seven days a week and the store recycles. Every Monday night you can join Theresa for the Family Bike Ride that starts at 6:30–an easy 8-10 mile neighborhood ride that starts at the store. (Bring your helmet and bike light).
Finally, here are two of my favorite things about Family Bicycles: the store radio station is always set on local NPR station KCUR, and it’s SO EASY to park there! Besides street parking, there is a lot adjacent to the building that’s easy to get in and out of on always-busy Wornall. This store has that laid back, relaxing atmosphere that says ‘come in, hang out, say hi, we’re here to help you’…a store that fits in perfectly with the overall vibe of Brookside/Waldo.