White Bear Lake bike shop peddles wheels for exploration.
If we all know someone who was bitten by the bike bug during the pandemic, we must also know someone who was bitten by the bike-repair bug during the same pandemic. But what about someone who took it even further?
Well, John Sheehan is that someone. When a leasable space on Third Street in downtown White Bear Lake caught his eye last February, he saw an opportunity to pursue his dream of opening
a bike shop.
As a local resident, Sheehan knew that the closest bike shop to White Bear Lake was at least a city away. He also knew that a potential downtown location was within riding distance of the heavily used Lake Links Trail that sits just off the shores of White Bear Lake.
“I remember watching the homecoming parade two years ago,” Sheehan says. “In the middle of the parade, there were [a large group of] kids from the high school mountain biking team riding their bikes. Where were they getting their bikes [fixed], and didn’t they deserve their own shop that understands mountain biking?”
With a heart for solving a community need, he pushed on. Roam Bike Shop, a full-service shop that sells and repairs bikes, opened its doors last March.
Sheehan’s story is full of twists and turns. After five years working in California and a total of 25 years in software, he sold his company, moved back to Minnesota in 2016 and fell head-over-the-handlebars in love with riding and repairing bikes—so much so that he studied bike repair and assembly at Minneapolis Technical College.
While all these things add up to the opening of a bike shop, they fly in the face of Sheehan’s simplified explanation: “I went for a bike ride, and now I have a bike shop,” he says.
The shop tagline, “Bikes for exploring,” speaks to Roam’s emphasis on adventure-style riding. If the goal is fitness, Roam sells road bikes. If the goal is to ride in the snow or sand, Roam has fat bikes. If the goal is adventure, Roam markets mountain bikes. If indoor riding is your gig, they’ll get you onto a trainer.
“The correct number of bikes a person needs is N + 1,” Sheehan says.
From the very first pedal, Roam’s business was busy. “I had this romantic notion of what running a bike shop should look like,” says Sheehan. “I’ve owned software companies for 25 years but never owned a retail store.”
Repairs have been steady from the start. Sales, aided by an improving supply chain and shifting trends, have been robust. “We’re in the middle of an e-bike boom,” says Sheehan.
With increased accessibility for varying abilities in a plethora of environments and the ability to take riders farther and faster, there’s a reason electric bike demand is high. In spite of the high price point, what pushes an e-bike purchase?
“A throttle,” Sheehan says. “That’s it.”
And there you have it: adventure-style biking.