ALMA — Russ Howard’s hobby has now become his business.
For about 20 years, Russ has been repairing bikes at his home in Boulder, Colorado. His wife, Julie, is originally from Alma and the couple owns a second home in Alma. When they made the decision to purchase a building in downtown Alma, Russ originally intended to use the space as a rental. Instead, he turned it into Lakeside Bike & Golf.
“I made the decision the day before closing to turn my hobby into a business and bring it to Alma,” he said.
Russ loves mountain biking, and he is one of the many who enjoy biking the Pheasant Ridge hiking/biking trail at the northern edge of Harlan County Reservoir. He approached the community’s city manager about his idea for a bike shop, and he was enthusiastically received by city officials and community members.
“The people of Alma have been fantastic and very welcoming. And we know a lot of people here now just because we’ve been coming here forever,” Russ said.
People also read…
The Howards opened Lakeside Bike & Golf in August 2019. They primarily sell used Trek bikes, but the store also carries a few used Scott, Gary Fisher, and Specialized bikes.
“Trek is very reliable. … Everyone seems to know this brand and also know that it is a premium brand. So I learned over time, having worked on many different bikes, that it was better to go for quality bikes,” he explained. “People like the idea of being able to get a quality bike, but they don’t have to pay a whole new price for it.”
Russ will service the bikes he sells and customers can also purchase bike supplies including tires, tubes, seats, grips, lights, pumps and more.
When the business opened, he knew he had to appeal to more than just small-town cyclists. With a thriving nine-hole golf course in Alma, Russ knew the golf equipment would appeal to his clientele. Golf supplies are premium used golf equipment from brands such as Ping, TaylorMade and Cobra Golf. The store also sells new sports jerseys and hats.
Russ and Julie continue to live in Boulder, but they spend about 7-10 days a month in Alma. Their oldest daughter, Lauren Onsager, lives in Denver, while their youngest daughter, McKenna Howard-Fahrenbruch, resides in Holdrege. The business has become a family affair for the Howards. McKenna made t-shirts and hats with the store’s logo that can be purchased at the store. Lauren helps Russ with social media and posts updates on when the store will open.
Russ and Julie hope to retire next year to split their time more evenly between Boulder and Alma. Customers are delighted to have the store in town and to be able to shop locally. And for Russ, coming to the store was never a job.
“I just like hanging out here and working on the bikes at the store,” he said. “It just boils down to me doing something that I love to do.”