Judi and Dominic LoPresti opened Spun Bicycles in February 2013.
Dominic and Judi LoPresti opened Spun Bicycles in Northside in February 2013.
Spun Bicycles is a full-service bike shop that sells new and used bikes and also repairs and customizes bikes.
The repair area is in the front of the Spun Bicycles shop in Northside, instead of being hidden in the back.
This bike belonged to Ed Rothenberg, Judi LoPresti's father, and hangs above her desk at Spun Bicycles.
Dominic LoPresti built this bench as a gathering spot at Spun Bicycles.
Dominic and Judi LoPresti work at Spun Bicycles on a January afternoon.
Judi and Dominic LoPresti wanted to bring a different kind of bike shop to Greater Cincinnati when they opened Spun Bicycles in February. The couple's focus on fun and their own love of cycling has been a big hit.
CINCINNATI – Judi and Dominic LoPresti never really expected to be entrepreneurs.
Before they opened Spun Bicycles in Northside last February, she worked at nearby Sidewinder Coffee. He tended bar at Dilly Café in Mariemont.
He was a high school dropout. She didn’t get far in college. They were living paycheck to paycheck, relying on tips. Then Judi’s father, local real estate investor Ed Rothenberg, died in May 2012 and left her an unexpected bequest. The couple decided to use the money to open a bicycle shop, something they had dreamed about for years.
“It was bittersweet,” she said. “When we found out, it was like, ‘Oh my God – it’s going to happen.’”
Now, almost a year after opening, Spun Bicycles has been more successful than the LoPrestis ever imagined. They exceeded their first-year sales projections after only five months and ended 2013 with more than double the revenue they expected.
The shop averaged between 60 and 70 repairs per month during its busiest season and sold scores of new and used bikes, too.
“The community has wanted a bicycle shop for a long time so I think the foundation of their success was there,” said Bruce Demske, president of the Northside Business Association and owner of Ellanet, a web development firm. “The bottom line is that they are awesome, which I think makes a huge difference.”
A Different Kind Of Bike Shop
Different is exactly what Judi and Dominic wanted for Spun. Both have spent a lot of time in bike shops. They wanted a place where people could gather and talk about cycling, even if they weren’t buying anything that day. And they wanted to sell good bikes that didn’t scare potential customers with $4,000 price tags.
“That’s Northside all over,” said James Heller-Jackson, a board member of Northside Community Council and the Northside Business Association. “We’re really good at creating good community spaces where people feel comfortable.”
The LoPrestis found their location at 4122 Hamilton Ave. They went to an Over-the-Rhine branding company called We Have Become Vikings for help with their logo and branding. And they got help with their business plan and budgeting from SCORE, a small business mentoring organization where Rothenberg had been an active counselor for years.
“My dad was a great businessman, and he had tons of knowledge,” said Judi, who worked in corporate travel before becoming a barista. “Years ago, he said, ‘Go to SCORE if you need help.’”
A Life Of Cycling
The couple’s passion for cycling was their greatest asset, said SCORE counselor Carlin Stamm.
The LoPrestis met at a bike shop. Their first date was a bike ride. They even got married in Las Vegas during Interbike, a cycling industry trade show. Dominic has been riding freestyle BMX for more than 20 years and was a semi-pro, sponsored rider back in the day. For years he worked as a bike mechanic when he wasn’t bartending.
Stamm helped the couple put together a business plan and budget for the space and the shop’s contents.
“I just knew from the beginning that they were going to make it,” he said. “I could just see that Judi had this knack for assimilating information and a lot of street smarts.”
The LoPrestis finished out their space in Northside under budget, and Judi learned QuickBooks and how to manage inventory.
“Without knowing that they have a knack for merchandising and retailing, they do,” Stamm said.
For example, Spun’s repair area is in the front of the store – not the back – so anyone walking, driving or riding by can see Dominic or head mechanic John Myers working right inside the storefront windows.
“Every other bike shop regards the front of the store as retail space,” Stamm said. “That’s thinking outside the box, in my opinion, and it’s been successful.”
Being Partners In Business And Life
But the biggest challenge for Judi wasn’t going from barista to business owner, she said.
It was figuring out the best way to work all day with her husband.
“We have such a strong, solid marriage. We’re extremely close,” said Judi, who is 43. “We figured out who was in charge of what. But still we would clash.”
All of a sudden the couple was spending almost every minute of the day together. They both had strong opinions about how to operate the business. Usually those were in sync, but not always.
“There was a lot of storming out,” Judi said. “Our mechanics would have to listen to us bicker a little bit. Usually it was solved in 10 minutes.”
The key, Dominic said, was learning to leave work at Spun and try to simply be husband and wife when they were home.
“We figured it out,” said Dominic, who is 40. “I have no delusions of grandeur about what I do. She does all the hard stuff. I do all the fun stuff.”
Judi credits Dominic for the vibe of the shop. He built the bench made
of skateboards where people can just hang out and watch TV or talk. He’s also the main person in charge of sales and customer service.
Keeping Dad Close
Judi helps with customer service, too. But her primary workspace is the office in back where she keeps track of the financials on her laptop, manages inventory and watches the shop’s margins.
Her father’s bike hangs over her desk, a constant reminder of the opportunity he provided after his death and the business DNA that Judi inherited.
“I feel him close,” Judi said of her late father. “And I do think he would be proud.”
Stamm certainly is. He’s kept in touch with the LoPrestis, and Judi sends him the shop’s numbers every month just to keep him posted.
“I told her the next time she might need me is when they decide to open another store,” Stamm said. “And I think they probably will someday.”
For more stories by Lucy May, go to www.wcpo.com/may . Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.