Three days before State Rideshop opened to the public, Eric Ferguson met up with Timmy Ham. Ferguson is co-owner of State Bicycle Co., a bike manufacturer based in Tempe. Ham is a prolific street artist known as “Sloth.”
Ferguson pointed to a pillar in the middle of the store. It was tall and boxy and white.
“This pillar is yours,” Ferguson said. “Do your thing, man.”
When State Rideshop opened its doors on August 1, the pillar was finished: Ham’s mural is a surreal landscape of weird creatures, rolling hills, and pineapples.
“It’s off the wall,” Ferguson says with a laugh. “The pillar has this whole story to it.”
The mural sets the tone for State Rideshop, a lively new bike retailer on the southeast corner of Apache Boulevard and Rural Road in Tempe. Ferguson founded State Bicycle Co. with partner Mehdi Farsi in 2009, when they decided to build high-quality, single-speed bikes. The company has exploded in the past seven years, distributing their “fixies” around the world.
But the duo had never intended to set up a brick-and-mortar store. Until now, State Bicycle’s stock was sold online and through a network of 350 retailers. If they were going to open their own store, Ferguson reasoned, the place would have to be noticeably different from other bike shops.
Both owners attended Arizona State University, and they opted to headquarter their business in Tempe. Tempe is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, but Ferguson has been underwhelmed by the bike shops he frequents. Some showrooms struck him as stuffy and unapproachable.
“Kind of like a dentist’s office,” he recalls. “We wanted our place to be cool. Our bikes are colorful and interesting, and kind of loud.”
Ferguson found other inspirations as well: surf towns and skater culture. He has vacationed in such diverse paradises as San Diego, Costa Rica, and Hawaii, and he wanted to bring a beachy “SoCal” flavor to the new shop. Ferguson fondly remembers his first job at Cold Stone Creamery, where he earned enough money to buy his first skateboard. He wants State Ride Shop to blend his love of longboards and high-end bicycles, eliciting the same thrill he felt as a 15-year-old.
“Bikes and boards belong in the same vertical,” Ferguson says, “particularly in a college atmosphere.”
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There is a hands-on component as well. The State Bicycle demographic is generally young – 18 to 30 – and serious about cycling. Most bikes cost $600 to $700, and some models cost more than $1,000. Fixed bikes appeal to a certain class of cyclists, who like to bike hard and fast. Customers can buy a bicycle straight out of the showroom, but Ferguson encourages his clientele to request custom models. Mechanics will be able to construct new bikes right in the store. Their cheeky term for this is BYOB, or “Build Your Own Bike.”
As for skateboards, skaters are invited to assemble their own boards from crates full of parts. These boards are small and plastic, modeled on the “Banana Boards” that rose to popularity in the 1970s. According to press material, customers should be able to put together a functional board in a matter of minutes.
Summer is a slow time in Tempe, and the shop opened quietly last Monday. But Ferguson is organizing a grand opening at the end of August, which he hopes will include group rides and community events. Shifting from a manufacturer to a retailer is no small task, and Ferguson’s team has a lot of kinks to work out. But the bike mogul is confident that his shop will appeal to the personalized styles of millennial riders.
“This is your bike,” Ferguson says. “This is your moment to shine. If you want a frame with the colors of the Arizona Cardinals, we can do that for you. And there isn’t this barrier between the customer and the mechanic. If you want to sit there and watch us build your bike, you’re welcome to.”