In 2010, Clark Butcher and Robert Taylor opened Victory Bicycle Studio
in Cooper-Young only to have it burn down less than a month later. Where many might have taken that loss and packed it in, Butcher and Taylor instead got back up on their bikes and pedaled faster than ever.
The shop was eventually moved to Broad Avenue, where it's seen upwards of 30 percent growth yearly. Success has been due largely to the pair's experience in the industry--Taylor has been a bicycle mechanic for more than two decades and served on the advisory committees for both Trek and Cannondale bicycle companies, while Butcher has competed at the highest levels in American and European cycling--along with custom-fitted inventory and a near-obsessive dedication to service.
Yet time rolls on and focuses change, and effective May 1, Butcher is the sole owner of Victory Bicycle Studio, having purchased Taylor's portion of the business. The two remain co-owners of the property at 2549 Broad Avenue.
The split was mutual and amicable, Butcher saying, "We've been friends for 15 years, he hired me to work for him when I was 14, so we've known each other forever."
Butcher, ever the endurance athlete, shows no hint at slowing down. "I’m on a mission for us to grow nearly 60 percent this year." This is thanks to a three-pronged plan.
Within the next 30 days, he'll formally launch a retail internet site, saying he did nearly a quarter of a million dollars in out-of-state sales last year without any e-commerce site at all. "We have been shipping shirts, hats and jerseys--all Victory branded--all over the country, and feel it is definitely time to launch an online segment."
To help facilitate this, he’s worked with Harvest Creative
and has hired Nick Lewis, a new general manager with extensive IT experience, to build the system's back end.
Butcher recently went through the New Memphis Institute
program and says, "I learned a lot in the sense of how to build this team around me."
That team includes Lewis; longtime employee Nathan Barry, who has taken over as maintenance manager; and Rick Valentine, who will solely work building bicycles.
But cyberspace isn't the only place for expansion. Butcher is also looking into a second retail location specifically focused on bikes that run under $500, called Victory Bike Shop, forgoing the higher-end "studio" model. The Studio currently carries such names as Orbea, Cervélo, Pinarello and Felt. He’s looking at a space on Broad Avenue but also another possibility in the Midtown area and hopes to have details firmed up in the next two months.
"Ideally we're on Broad," he says. "I want to keep investing in Broad."
The third prong of Butcher's plan involves a consulting company of sorts that will take the best practices he's learned in the cycling industry to other current and potential retailers around the country. Those practices might include everything from organizing group rides to follow-up phone calls to customers after professional fittings. He's already talking with concerns in Nashville, Little Rock and North Carolina. The idea, which he likens to the Project Green Fork model for restaurants, is to create a network of "Victory approval shops."
"Essentially, it will be a network of shops ... and the consumer will know that they are getting the same service as they have come to appreciate at VBS," Butcher says. "The same policies, procedures and practices will become an industry standard, or at least that is my goal."
By Richard J. Alley