By Shay Castle
Sleepy Pearl Street shoppers can take themselves to one of downtown Boulder's dozen-plus coffee shops for a cup of joe. Or they could dash into Rapha, a cycling apparel store.
In need of a taco and a new bike tire in Longmont? CyclHOPS Mexican Bike Cantina has got you covered. Or put some pep in your step via an espresso and a pair of shoes at Flatirons Running.
These local retailers and others have hopped on the hottest trend in retail by offering food and drink to keep customers in the store and off online shopping sites.
"There's so much pressure on brick and mortar to differentiate from the Amazons of the world," said Russell Chandler, owner of Boulder-based Full Cycle. "Anybody can buy a high-end road bike online; you can go find a mobile repair shop. Shops run the risk of going out of business if they don't find ways to build more community."
Full Cycle is in the process of adding a 16-tap beer, wine and coffee bar to its downtown digs (1795 Pearl St.) which it hopes to have open in the coming weeks. Chandler sees it as a way to bring in more bodies and, hopefully, boost revenue.
"We host a 200-person women's bike club that might like to finish their ride up with snacks and beer," he said. "And we rent a lot of bikes to tourists who might want to sit down for a drink when they're done."
Rapha, a cycling apparel store that just moved in up the street (1815 Pearl St.), has "ended up being more of a hangout than a store," according to General Manager Pete Loptino. "People can look at their product if they're interested, but it's more about the culture of cycling."
In addition to the coffee bar, Rapha has a flat-screen TV that will always have a cycling race on it and hosts regular social rides that leave from the store. It's part of building an experience that turns shopping into "more of a social event," said Holly Wiese.
Wiese is a retail specialist at 3 Dots Design, a Boulder firm that specializes in store re-designs that boost profits. More and more lately, that includes adding coffee or sandwiches.
"Over the last three to five years, we've seen it popping up all over in bike, run and outdoor."
The trend isn't limited to active retailers. "Banks are adding full coffee bars," said Allen Ginsborg. (Boulder has one of those, too: the infamous Capital One Cafe that inspired a temporary bank ban on the Pearl Street Mall.)
According to Ginsborg — who develops shopping centers, including Longmont's Village at the Peaks — nail and hair salons are getting in on the game, too, offering wine and beer to customers.
"It's about creating an experience, an environment where people want to linger," he said. "Customers have higher expectations these days; you need to provide something that makes them want to return."
That's particularly important as options for shoppers proliferate online.
Internet retailers, dominated by Amazon, added $27.8 billion in apparel revenue alone between 2005 and 2016, according to Morgan Stanley. Department stores during that time lost $29.6 billion in apparel revenue, and major retailers from Macy's to Best Buy are closing dozens of stores.
Making physical shopping more efficient is the key, said Chad Melis of Oskar Blues, which operates Longmont bike shop/taco joint/bar CyclHOPS. By offering more than one service, customers can accomplish multiple tasks at once and reduce their trips.
"You kill two birds with one stone — you come in and drop off your bike to get some work and you can have lunch."
"It takes a little creativity" from a business standpoint, he added, "but combining revenue streams makes the concept healthier financially."
Tacos and beer haven't necessarily boosted revenue for the bike shop: Melis sees it more as a marketing play for Oskar Blues' bike line REEB Cycles, a way to "show who we are and what we contribute to Longmont's culture."
The local trend is new enough that it's not clear if the effort is boosting sales, though Wiese says her cafe-adding clients in other states have seen a bump. But Full Cycle's Chandler is hopeful that when the brews start flowing, the cash will follow.
"You just test-rode an $8,000 mountain bike, you sit down and have a beer — you might talk yourself into buying it."