Three days after Hurricane Ian destroyed The Bike Bistro, the bike shop owner gave an update on the tasks he needed to do to reopen. He did this while standing in several inches of mud and mud that entered the store with about 27 inches of storm surge.
Steve Martin founded the store at the Publix-anchored Sanibel Beach Plaza shopping center on Summerlin Road, off the Sanibel Causeway, on November 5, 2012.
The store’s 10th anniversary motivated Martin to get it going again. He and his team of seven employees reached the November 5 deadline they had set. The bike shop and cafe have resumed operations after being closed for five weeks.
“For a while there, I didn’t think we were going to do it,” Martin said. His shop is one of three businesses in the mall which has reopened since September 28. The others are Publix and Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, with all the rest remaining closed due to necessary renovations.
“We had a few setbacks with supply and inventory,” Martin said. “The mechanics were great at getting in and rebuilding.”
This is the third time in 10 years that Martin has rebuilt his life. Over ten years ago, he decided to quit his office job in marketing to open the bike shop.
He created a business plan and gave himself 1,000 days to execute it, until November 2012 when he finally opened The Bike Bistro. He sells and repairs all kinds of bikes, including the latest e-bike craze.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated business. Meanwhile, Martin had to rebuild his life, this time not by choice. His wife, Angie Martin, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2018. She died in October 2021 after 31 years of marriage.
“I couldn’t work for two years,” Martin said of when he cared for his wife. “My team took over for me. They just stepped in without hesitation. They did everything they could for me. »
While seeing the devastation of his store “numb” him, he also knew it wasn’t the worst-case scenario for him, having been through it before. “I thought it was surmountable,” he said. “I thought we could do that. There was a starting point, and there would be an ending point.
He couldn’t say enough about his staff. “They have earned all my respect,” he said. “I refused to walk away from them.”
Martin said he invested at least $100,000 in rebuilding the store’s interior, filed insurance claims for the damage and applied for loans from the Small Business Administration. He hasn’t seen the money yet. The cash in hand came from the estate of his late wife.
“He drew a line in the sand and said November 5th,” said Troy Carr, the store’s general manager. “It was crazy.”
Until that day, customers would walk into the store anyway, thinking it was already open. Some of them even went through the mud demanding that their bikes be repaired. Carr said it tested the patience of staff, but now the store is almost back to normal.
Finn, Martin’s black Labrador, greets customers and freshly roasted coffee is prepared. However, the weekly 30-mile commute from the store across the causeway and to the end of West Gulf Drive on Sanibel has yet to resume.
Martin and his staff were also lucky as their new fleet of rental bikes had yet to be delivered and their storage area containing other bikes, including those belonging to their customers, escaped the storm unscathed. .
“It’s such a diverse crowd here,” Carr said. “Repair work is like a tsunami. We currently have over 40 work orders in the system. »