by Kathy Schwartz
If you love what you are doing, you never work a day in your life. If you are lucky, you are not only living your passion, but you are sharing it with others. Case in point: Larry Buzzard of Spokesmen Cycling in downtown Roanoke, Indiana.
“My buddies and I all rode, and you couldn’t buy a tire or a tube for a bike in Huntington. After we rode, we would sit around and talk about opening a bike shop. It was just a summer discussion,” remembers Larry. “The only option we had was to go to Fort Wayne, which was a 45-minute drive.”
Than fate stepped in. In 2011, Larry ran for mayor of the City of Huntington but came in second. His friends wondered what he was doing next. Was he going to open a bike shop?
He smiles. “So, I said, ‘Sure!’”
By April 2012, Larry opened the doors of his shop, Spokesmen Cycling, in Huntington.
“The theory was we wanted to keep everybody riding. We had parts, tires, and tubes, so when the guy’s bike broke, he wouldn’t have to run it to Fort Wayne,” explains Larry, “and if we made some money, even better.”
Business was slow. Larry and his wife began discussing the possibility of moving to Roanoke just a couple years after opening.
“Roanoke is a happening little town,” he says. “Their downtown is vibrant. They do a lot of events. The foot traffic is good.”
By the fall of 2016, the owner of a building in Roanoke had just lost his tenants. Larry recalls, “So I came in, took one look at it, and I said, ‘Yes this will work. This could be really cool.’”
Larry worked over the winter to make the space his own. At its new location in Roanoke, Spokesmen Cycling offers three lines of bikes–Jamis, Litespeed, and Masi—each offering a variety of styles. The shop carries kids’ bikes, along with comfort, cruiser, hybrids, road and mountain bikes.
When customers come into the shop Larry asks specific questions. “Where do you want to ride? How far do you want to ride? How fast do you want to ride? How much effort do you want to put in? How much is your budget?”
He explains, “Their answers determine what type of bike they need.”
People often come in later and want to trade up. “I want you to get on the bike. I want it to be fun for you. If you get the bug, bring it back in and trade it off. Anything I sell I’ll trade back in–and make a deal on the next bike.”
Spokesmen Cycling offers more than bikes. The shop features a full line of cycling attire and equipment. “If it has to do with cycling, we have it,” Larry assures. “If we don’t have it, we can get it.” Larry also keeps three part-time mechanics on hand to repair bikes.
Larry promotes cycling as a sport by sponsoring a racing team. He’s also involved with a group ride out of Roanoke on Mondays and Saturdays.
On June 17, there is a group ride beginning at Spokesmen Cycling, and Larry has plans to partner with a winery. “It’s a great way to finish,” he says with a smile.
There’s a great social benefit from cycling–a lot of camaraderie, a sort of brotherhood. The brotherhood is what drew Larry to start his business. This is one aspect of the business that Larry didn’t expect.
“Memorial Day to July 4th, I see a dozen to twenty people that are riding coast to coast,” explains Larry. “They stop in to find out about a place to stay or eat. Sometimes, my wife and I offer our spare bedroom. We feed them a meal and have a great night. Their stories are fantastic.”
Larry remembers hearing one tale about a ride through the Nebraska plains. “They were on a deserted road. In the distance, there is something across the road, it looked like a log or a semi tire.
“As they got closer, it stood up. It was a cat, a mountain lion. He had been sunning himself on the pavement. Who’s going to win this race? The cat looked at them, and they rode by REAL slow. Scary!”
Larry remembers another story about a bear cub and its very protective mother. The cyclist grabbed the side of a passing car to get past the pair on a mountain road. Fantastic stories, indeed.
After opening his shop, Larry says he was also caught off guard by the better health biking can bring. “First summer I was in business, I sold a bike to a guy,” he recalls. “Fast forward to the next summer. The same guy walks in the front door, and he says, ‘Look at me. My blood pressure is down, and I’m off blood pressure medication.
“’My sugar is neutralized, and it’s all because of that bike you sold me. It changed my life. It saved my life.’ And then he hugged me.”
Larry says with a catch in his voice, “That was not on my radar. I did not expect that when I opened the shop.”
As for the future, Larry is looking towards his biking brotherhood for answers. “I would like to see the shop stay and pass it on to another rider, someone who has the passion, who loves the sport.” He adds, “There’s never a bad day in a bike shop.”
Ride on, Larry. Ride on.
Spokesmen Cycling is open Tuesday thru Saturday from March thru December.
247 N. Main Street
Roanoke, IN 46783