Cycling through the years: Cupertino Bike Shop
How the Cupertino Bike Shop and its staff have evolved with Cupertino's cycling community
The Cupertino Bike Shop was originally located on De Anza Blvd for 21 years, until Vance Sprock, the store’s owner since 1989, moved to its current location on Foothill Boulevard due to skyrocketing rent prices. After his lease on the property expired, the new property owners informed him that the monthly rent for the store would increase from $7,500 a month to $21,000 a month “because it’s Cupertino.”
While Cupertino Bike Shop has been located in its current location for five years, the building itself has been leased to many business types. From a grocery store to a furniture antique store to an automotive parts shop to a pizza parlor to a women’s fitness studio and eventually to the Cupertino Bike Shop, the location has gradually evolved with Cupertino.
Its location in one of the country’s biggest technological hubs has caused its demographic of customers to become much more technology-oriented. In order to keep up with the increasing implementation of technology, the Cupertino Bike Shop has needed to increase its online presence. While ordering online is more convenient for customers, an increase in online orders provides a different experience for customers as they cannot “come in and touch, feel and ride the bikes.”
Sprock has managed the shop for 30 years and has observed that instead of coming into the store to test out bikes or materials, people now prefer to instantly order their materials from the store’s website due to convenience. However, while his online sales have increased, Sprock still needs to maintain the shop and pay the “rent, utility, vacation, medical for [his] employees, utilities, garbage, water, sewer [and] electric.” He believes that due to these factors it is “difficult to compete with the Internet” and this type of transition is becoming more prevalent “throughout the retail industry.”
Those who walk into the Cupertino Bike Shop with broken bikes and popped tires end up talking to Juan Oliva, the full-time mechanic for the Cupertino Bike Shop. Oliva has noticed that the bikes he currently works with in Sprock’s shop involve much more technology than the ones he started out with in Mexico.
Oliva has been involved with biking ever since he was younger, when he began to race at the age of 11 and started to work in his dad’s bike shop in Mexico, who won a cycling national championship in 1954. As he grew older, Oliva eventually opened a bike shop in Mexico with his sister, repairing chains, tires, wheels, kickstands and flat tires. After moving to California to continue his involvement with racing and mechanics, Oliva noticed a large difference in the types of bike parts he was working with, specifically in Cupertino. Working for Sprock these past 12 years, Oliva has become familiar with all types of bikes, not designed for racing, and products that appeal to all kinds of bikers.
“When I [started] working on basic bicycles, like community bicycles, [it was] really simple,” Oliva said. “You don’t have to do [much] stuff, you replace cables, brake pads, tires and tubes. When you work [with] road bikes, [however], [it’s] more high-end stuff. They take extra time just to figure out, assemble and all kinds of stuff like that.”
Although a number of other bike shops exist in the area, Cupertino Bike Shop specializes in mountain bikes. Customer and junior Iris Yuh recalls her experience when she went to buy a bike in first grade.
“I went and bought a bike and I think the person was pretty nice,” Yuh said. “I wanted some pony bike but then they said that I should get one with breaks [because that was safer], but I wanted one with a basket. They were really patient with helping me choose out a bike. I chose the one without the brakes at the end. There were a lot of bikes [and] they had fancy mountain bike and kid bike stuff [with designs of] princess or ponies or Batman.”
Part-time staff member, high school student and mountain bike racer Brian Kalcic has noticed that the Cupertino Bike Shop tends to fit the needs of customers in technology careers. He believes this is due to the shop’s greater focus on higher quality bikes and parts and tending to the cycling needs of many, positively contributing to the business and the community.
“There’s a really nice community around that really uses this resource to their advantage [and] this whole area is really great for cycling,” Kalcic said. “There’s a lot of people that are very interested [in cycling] and you see groups of 15-20 people pass by every hour or so. That’s definitely helped us because there’s such a strong [cycling] community here that it really helps support the business.”
While Sprock faces ups and downs as a local bike shop owner, the Cupertino Bike Shop has remained one of the longest local businesses in Cupertino.
“My ex-wife used to ask, ‘How do you know how much money you’re going to have every month? How do you pay your bills?’” Sprock said. “I said, ‘I don’t. I just assume that people are going to come in and buy products and then I’ll have the money to pay [them].’”