Tom Hammett: A Business Model To Envy

Friday, August 16, 2013 - by Tom Hammett

About 30 years ago my wife and I purchased a couple of department store bicycles which were sufficient for occasional riding.  A young man at my church insisted that we investigate purchasing serious bikes for more intense riding in the hills of Chattanooga. I didn’t see the need in spending $500-$700 for a bicycle.  After all, bikes were only $30 bucks when I was a kid.  We did purchase two new bikes from a dealer who was going out of business and we got a good deal on excellent bikes.
  We still have those bikes and I recently logged 1800 miles on mine.  Since it had not been ridden very much in the last few years, it was time for a tune up…new tires, cleaning, a few new mechanical parts.  I had occasionally dealt with Owen Cyclery in Hixson, so I returned there for service.  To my pleasant surprise, the new owner, Erik Hunt, actually remembered me as a long-time, yet infrequent customer.  Erik and his business partner Brian Lowery purchased the dealership from Tom Owen in 2002.
 
That background brings me to the focus of this article which is to share my profound appreciation for a business and the individuals involved who exemplify a perfect and successful business model in today’s difficult era of entrepreneurship.  Neither business nor bicycle sales and service are rocket science, but through rather extraordinary gifts, talents, hard work, customer relations and quality products, the management and staff have built a solid, successful customer-oriented business.
 
My recent saga with Owen Cyclery began in January when I began serious riding again and commuting to both of my part-time jobs.  One ride was 16 miles and the second was 27 miles roundtrip.  My 25 year old bike needed servicing to handle the extensive rides.  After 3 or 4 trips to Owen’s for service and for the purchase of whistles and bells I, like all little boys in a bike shop, caught a case of new bike fever.  I learned that it is possible to spend $400 to $20,000 for a new bike.  I have discovered there are two things in life that are difficult for me to purchase: a pair of shoes, and a bicycle!  About once or twice a week I would visit the bike shop for a tweaking of my bike’s mechanical operations, or just to shop or just to hang around.  Faces became familiar; I learned the first names of the sales and mechanical staff and would often watch their work in the shop.  The more I watched the more I was mesmerized by the mechanics’ high-level of proficiency.  I realized that bicycles can no longer be repaired with just a screwdriver and adjustable wrench as I did when a kid.  They are technically complex machines made from some advanced alloys and carbon fibers which require a great deal of knowledge, mechanical ability and specialized tools.
 
Mr. Hunt serves as CEO of the company as well as sales personnel and master mechanic.  His personal attention to customers is a rare gift indeed.  Whether a customer is an entry level, casual rider or competitive professional, his knowledge is extensive at every level.  He is intuitive as to which style of bike would best serve the needs of the customer, and there is a large variety of bikes from which to choose.  In retrospect I find it amusing that after shopping for a bike from January to August, I finally settled on the very first bike that had been recommended to me.  The sales staff endured 7 months of my shopping, questioning, test-riding and shop-lurking.  Erik, Brian, Tom, Corey, T.J. and Justin have all been friendly and accommodating for many months now, and each is a seasoned professional in one or more areas of the bicycle business.
 
I write this article not as an extensive commercial advertisement for Owen Cyclery, but as an encouragement to all customer-oriented businesses in Chattanooga.  My background has been in Choral Arts and Church Music Ministry, so my knowledge of business theory and management is very limited, but I do know what attracts my initial and repeated business.  It is a complex combination of elements that make a success.  A desired product, a wide variety of various levels and qualities of products, extensive accessories, knowledgeable and experienced personnel, friendly customer relations, the ability to make the customer feel important, and that the customer is receiving an outstanding deal on the final sale.  Owen Cyclery has it all together as a textbook example of outstanding business practices.  I am a satisfied customer!

Salon And Spa Joins Cambridge Square

Cambridge Square developers have announced the addition of Spalon Three to the community’s tenant family. Spalon Three, which is owned by Ooltewah resident Shawn Dunn, is a combined spa and salon concept that will occupy 2,500 feet on the community’s public square. Opening date is slated for late spring 2015.  Cambridge Square is a commercial, retail and residential development ... (click for more)

New Hamilton County Businesses

Here are the new business licenses from the County Clerk's office: 3 I'S PERSONAL CARE SERVICES 4447 JAMES DRIVE CHATTANOOGA, TN 37416 ALL AMERICAN SUBCONTRACTOR LLC VARIOUS LOCATIONS CHATTANOOGA, TN 37402 ALL AMERICAN TREE SERVICE 5245 DONLYN LANE HIXSON, TN 37343 ARC FITNESS STUDIO 4716 MURRAY HILLS DR CHATTANOOGA, TN 37416 ARCHITECTURAL ... (click for more)

Cabela's To Open Fort Oglethorpe Store May 13

Cabela’s announced Monday plans to celebrate the official grand opening of its new Fort Oglethorpe store on Wednesday, May 13, with a unique ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by a weekend-long celebration featuring giveaways, family activities and more.  The ribbon-cutting ceremony, hosted by Cabela's executives and special guests, will begin at 9:45 a.m. and conclude with ... (click for more)

City Set To Commission $200,000 Mural On MLK Boulevard By Famed Muralist Meg Saligman; Foundations To Cover Cost

The city is set to commission a $200,000 mural on the side of the AT&T Building on MLK Boulevard by famed muralist Meg Saligman. Ms. Saligman has created over 50 murals all over the world, including one called  "Fertile Ground" that is 32,500 square feet in Omaha, Neb. Her most famous mural is "Common Threads" on the west wall of the Stevens Administrative Center ... (click for more)

Physicians Thank Their Patients On Doctor’s Day

March 30 has been set aside as National Doctors’ Day since 1933 as a time to recognize the contributions made by our physicians. While the recognition is appreciated, our greatest satisfaction comes from caring for our patients.  For 132 years, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society has been the physicians’ voice as we worked together to improve health of our community. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The 15-Year-Old Marine

There are 58,267 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall that today sits majestically in the Constitution Gardens of our nation's capital. It has never been lost on me that 33,103 of those who are named were only 18 years old when they died. But what caught my eye during my morning reading is that one of the names carved in the black granite “Dan Bullock“ was only 15 years old ... (click for more)