Fifteen years ago, hardcore Austinite and McCallum High School grad John Chisholm and his business partner Bryce Holt opened Clown Dog Bicycles in a small shopping center at 2821 San Jacinto.
Flanked by a pub and a restaurant, Clown Dog Bikes is a stone’s throw from the northern end of UT’s campus, equidistant from I-35 and Guadalupe, and just south of 30th St. On top of the centralized location, parking is pretty convenient with a mix of free and paid parking. They aren’t planning on going anywhere soon.
John Chisholm and his crew made a number of commitments when they opened the shop: never alienate customers, never make a customer feel substandard because of their choice of bicycle, and help anyone who walks into the shop.
John educated me about the bicycle scene in Austin, “You know, several years ago, there was quite a bit of cliquishness concerning the bicycle community. People would go to a shop and get attitude regarding their bike.”
Fortunately, that has changed and Clown Dog Bikes has done their part to bring together the bicycling community in Austin. John told me that if they don’t have a positive role to play, he’ll find a place that does and send customers there. “I had a customer come in looking for a 24” wheel for a friend’s wheelchair,” John said, “but I didn’t have it. So I kept calling until I found one and sent him there.”
That’s a rare thing these days, but it builds customer loyalty. A dude named Johnny, who rocks a pretty old Peugeot, has been one of those loyal customers for seven years. In fact, he believes in Clown Dog Bikes so much, he’s helping John Chisholm and the gang use today’s technology by creating videos to promote the shop.
Keeping customers rolling on their bicycles is priority one with John. He plans to build on the sense of community by making how-to and promotional videos on YouTube. These videos range from creative commercials made with the help of Johnny, to videos on how to change a tire and perform other bicycle maintenance activities.
Does It Work?
How have John’s policies worked out for Clown Dog Bikes? Has sending customers to other shops for parts and posting DIY videos hurt the business? Not in the least. John proudly informed me they perform roughly 500 repairs a month, from flat tires to major repairs like bearing overhauls and gear maintenance. On top of that, they are maintaining a 4.8/5 rating on Yelp. On Yelp!
After seeing the shop and watching John amicably greet customers and help with their bicycle problems, I’ll be taking my own ratty jalopy of a bicycle down to Clown Dog Bikes. I need a rear brake to finally be installed on the thing.
Where do you get your bike fix in Austin?
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