Wrench monkeys Dave Hartman and Kevin Downey left managerial positions at Missoula Bicycle Works to secure a quasi-monopoly in the local bicycle market. Not a month in, business at Hellgate Cyclery, Missoula’s only used bike shop, is booming. The two haven’t even had time to plan a grand opening.
Hartman says Hellgate Cyclery is filling a void in the community. An 11-year veteran of Missoula bike shops, he’s noted a steady increase in the biking population. A used bike shop seemed the logical response.
“Just always something I’ve seen the need for,” Hartman says. “I’m just surprised no one’s done it already.”
When a back-alley storefront opened up behind Moose Creek Merchantile, Hartman and Downey put months of lofty talk into action. Now the cramped brick space houses a workbench and a wall of bikes and used parts. Hartman’s poodle, Grover, lounges near stacks of new fenders.
For Jim Sayer, executive director of the Adventure Cycling Association, Hellgate Cyclery serves as a terrific example of how the cycling community continues to grow. He says along with the new Big Sky Cyclery shop near the University of Montana campus, a used bike and repair shop downtown will offer more options for people looking to get out of their cars and onto bikes.
“You’re in the middle of a down economy and you’re seeing a flourishing of the bike community,” Sayer says.
Hartman wasn’t the only one to notice a void in the local bike market that needed filling. Reed Sonsalla, shop manager at Missoula Bicycle Works, has fielded many requests for used bikes over the years.
“A lot of times we’d tell people to go to Craigslist, but there you’re not always guaranteed on quality,” Sonsalla says.
Sonsalla says losing Hartman and Downey was a bit disappointing. Combined, they boast over 25 years of mechanic experience. Still, Sonsalla sees a need for a place like Hellgate Cyclery.
“It’s better than just getting something off the Internet,” he says.