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Career takes cycling detour

Owner Billy Blanton expands 'The Bike Shop' near Fairgrounds

Career takes cycling detour

Career takes cycling detour

The Bike Shop owner Billy Blanton wor...


      When one of his retail tenants couldn't make a go of the bike shop he opened, Billy Blanton became a bicycle shop owner. Located almost 20 years ago in a small retail shopping center next to the former Weiss Theater on Georgia Avenue, Blanton took over The Bike Shop in 1992 with no experience, but a hunch that Statesboro could support a bike sales and repair shop.
      With about two decades years under his belt, Blanton said he has had to learn a lot, but doesn't regret making the move.
       "I was doing several jobs at the time," Blanton said. "From construction to managing the House of Sirloin, this looked like it could be a full time situation. The guy that owned it just couldn't do it anymore, so I stepped in and have been running the business ever since."
       Blanton owned the retail shopping strip where The Bike Shop was located, and that is how he became familiar with the business. Blanton moved his store to its current location on Highway 67 South, just beyond the Kiwanis Fairgrounds six years ago after Georgia Southern razed the building to construct Eagle Village.
       Walking into the Bike Shop will generate a trip down memory lane for the baby boomers and excitement for bike enthusiasts. From older bikes displayed around the perimeter of the showroom to the latest in BMX racing, Blanton's passion for the sport is evident.
       "Cycling is a lifestyle, and there are several people in this area that are very passionate about it," he said. "In conjunction with that, a bike is the easiest and most convenient way to get around Georgia Southern's campus, so we get a tremendous amount of business from students."
       Unlike "big box" stores that just sell bicycles, Blanton also performs repair and maintenance on any bicycle that is brought into his shop.
       "That is a very big part of our business," he said. "For many, a bicycle is a major investment, and they really do need to be maintained. We have mechanics that do that. Also, it doesn't matter if the bike was purchased from us or not. We are very happy to service it."
       Blanton is a proud member of Southern Cyclists, a local bicycling club was founded in 1990 when a group of bicycle enthusiasts in Statesboro decided to start riding together. Eleanor Schneider is a member, and long-time fan of Blanton's.
       "He kind ended up with the Bike Shop by default, so he learned the business from the outside looking in," she said. "We are blessed that he did that, because it has given us a very good local bike shop. Had he not stepped in, I don't know that we would have one now."
       Schneider said many people probably don't realize how much Blanton does.
       "From donations and sponsorships to rehabbing old bikes and donating them to children, he really tries to give back and be supportive of our community," she said.
       Statesboro resident Mike Dunsworth is an avid cyclist riding between 10,000 and 12,000 miles per year. He has known Blanton for seven years, and credits Blanton on getting him involved with cycling.
       "He started me out in the sport, and has helped me along the way with my needs and equipment," he said. "He has also been very active in trying to get multi use trails constructed such as the Greenway to Brooklet."
       Although Blanton carries an array of bicycles, he also has sections of his store devoted to skate boarding, Boy Scout and Cub Scout needs, as well as paintball supplies.
       "I was asked to carry the scouting supplies, because weren't being sold here any longer," he said. "I agreed to do that, because there was a need. Skateboarding is hugely popular as well as paintball."
       Blanton said he really hopes that the Statesboro Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department will construct a skateboard park.
       "There are so many kids that just want to ride a skateboard," he said. "They really need a good place to go and do that. I hope that something for them will be developed. It would be wonderful."
       The Bike Shop should have its website up and running in just a few weeks. To learn more about Southern Cyclists, you can visit their website at www.southerncyclists.com.

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