Clark Butcher was looking for more than a good education when he sent off his college applications. He was looking for a college with “killer terrain.”
That’s how Butcher, a 30-year-old Memphis native and the owner of Victory Bicycle Studio on Broad Avenue, ended up at Fort Lewis College, a small liberal arts school in Durango, Colo.
Butcher, a cycling enthusiast since he was a child, began racing professionally after his freshman year. For 42 weekends in the year, he raced and did well. Then he raced for six more months and didn’t do as well.
“I quickly realized I don’t operate well on one thing,” Butcher, who returned to school after racing didn’t pan out, says. “Just training and racing wasn’t healthy for me.”
But neither was school, he adds. An entrepreneur who’d started several companies before college, Butcher knew more about starting a business than some of his teachers, and soon decided to focus on growing his companies.
“I still have that competitive edge,” he says of his time in professional racing.
That competitive edge led Butcher to envision a different kind of bike shop, one that looks more like an Apple Store with an emphasis on quality over quantity.
“I’m a lot younger than all the other bike shop owners out there and I have a very different approach in that I don’t believe in stacking bikes three stories high to the ceiling and yielding the most sellable project per square foot.”
In August 2010, Butcher and a partner, who has since been bought out, started Victory on Young Avenue in Midtown. Their building burned down 28 days later, leading to the opening of Victory’s shop on Broad in August 2011.
Following the traditional wisdom, Butcher should have put his shop – which sells high-end bikes for as much as $55,000 – out east, where most of his customers are. But, playing into that “Apple Store” mentality, he wanted to be a destination retailer, and wanted to help make Broad a destination as well.
And so far, the plan seems to be working.
“It’s just grown tremendously over the years,” Butcher says. “It’s gotten to the point where there’s a couple of motions that need to happen for us to continue growing that I’m eager to do.”
First, Victory will launch online sales of its bikes and its merchandise. Apparel sales are already strong, even without a web store.
If online sales pick up, Butcher says he may buy a warehouse in the area for his distribution operations.
Second, the brand will expand with a second, 2,000-square-foot location in the Broad Avenue area that will focus on a lower price point – the $300 to $400 range, including for children.
“One’s going to be more family friendly, more price conscious,” Butcher says. “The other one will continuing catering to our clientele.”
Third, Butcher hopes to start consulting on other bike shop operations.
“Everyone who wants to work at Victory says ‘I like bikes,’” Butcher says. “Everyone likes bikes. But you have to like the bike shop business. And there’s a lot of shop owners that like bikes but don’t like the bike business. So let me come in and take over the not-fun part of the business.”
That could result in “Victory-approved” shops around the country, he says.
Eventually, Butcher hopes to operate Victory Bicycle Studios in other cities, and says he is approached “constantly.”
“Over the past three years, I’ve been approached about putting ones in Nashville, Chattanooga and North Carolina,” he says. “And every one of them, I’m going ‘Not yet, not yet.’ Well, I’m eager to get to the point where I can actually hit the ‘go’ button.”