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Behind the Counter: Meet Takoma Bicycle’s Bruce Sawtelle

Takoma Bicycle provides residents a place to learn about cycling.

 

When Bruce Sawtelle, owner of Takoma Bicycle, decided to open his doors on 7030 Caroll Avenue in Takoma Park he was ready to embrace the small town feel the city offered.

Owning a bicycle shop wasn’t new to Sawtelle. Alongside his father and brother, he helped manage about six bike shops in the Washington, DC area. He served as the buyer and facilitated selling about 5000 bikes a year.

However, due to a recession and slow business growth in the 1990s his family closed all but one store, which is currently based in Laurel. Bruce and his brother Roger Sawtelle ran Laurel Bicycle Center together until a couple of years ago.

In 2010, Bruce decided to branch off and open a shop on Carroll Avenue.

He took a few minutes to answer some questions about his business.

Tamika Smith: So, there use to be a bike shop in this same location called Takoma Park Bikes. Were you hesitant of owning the same type of business in this location?

Bruce Sawtelle:  I hadn’t actually planned to open in this same spot. He was actually in this same building and I was looking at different places to rent and we just ended up here because it was the best space. There are kind of good things and bad things about that. People knew there was a bike shop before but there was some confusion.

Smith: What helped you settle on a location in Takoma Park?

Sawtelle:  It was a little bit of a challenge because there are alot of bicycle shops in the Washington area already so I was trying to find a good market that wasn’t already near some other bike shop. Takoma Park seemed like a good spot because there are a couple of shops in Silver Spring, Adams Morgan, and College Park, but there wasn’t anything right here. There are a tremendous amount of people who ride bikes in this area so they have been very receptive and huge supporters.

Smith: What drives you to continue on with the family business?

Sawtelle: I really enjoy it. I like the interaction directly with the customers and getting to know them. Alot the customers I know on a first name basis and I don't know how I'm able to do that, but I’m able to remember alot of their names.

Smith: What makes your shop different from other shops in the area?

Sawtelle:  When you come in here, most of the time it’s me, the owner, who waits on the customer and fixes your bike for you. There aren’t many bike shops in the Washington area where it’s like that.

Smith: Tell me something fun about yourself. What artist(s) are you listening to these days?

Sawtelle:  Bruce Springteen’s latest album Wrecking Ball but mostly the title song.

 

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