Sit Down Interview
We thought it would be a good idea to sit down with Cascade Bicycle Studio’s founder, Zac Daab, to ask him a few questions about his shop, the industry and what makes his shop different from the rest.
Was Fremont the original neighborhood for Cascade Bicycle Studio?
Yes, I was walking to Brouwers one night with some friends and I saw a sign that said, “For lease – great for pizza, haircuts or anything”, and I fell into that “for anything” category. I’ve always liked Fremont, so many little spots here and there; its pretty central. I like the people who work in Fremont; the area is not too big, not too small and I’ve never really thought of being anywhere different.
Have you ever had a real job? In other words, you’ve basically been in the bike industry since you really started working; your entire adult career, right?
Is that rare?
I think the trend in the bike industry is to fade after a certain number of years working in the same industry. I feel like I’ve progressed, but I wouldn’t say its super rare.
Did you ever have the sense that you wanted to own your own place?
No. I think for me it was working at Seven and continually talking with Seven retailers about Seven’s value proposition (from a business standpoint) and how shops can utilize Sevens to provide customers exactly what they want, while still being a sustainable and profitable business. Seven manufactures products using a just-in-time methodology and this is a very rare yet important ingredient to how CBS works today.
Are you happy with the current growth of the shop? Too big or too small for the size of the team here?
I am happy with the progression of where we are today, yes. Having Terry [Buchanan] come on board as a partner in 2012 made a huge difference in how CBS could continue to progress. There has been solid revenue growth since 2006, but I don’t necessarily look at growth by sales volume alone. Yes, we are certainly working with more people and selling more bikes, but for me, the reward has been in the progression of more capable people working here at CBS and that’s what i focus on. Between the four of us, you can’t go anywhere else in the city and find a better shop; I truly believe that. I feel 100% confident that when Terry sells someone a Seven, it will yield a phenomenal result. Jason and David are so solid are easily some of the nicest and most approachable mechanics around. We do our best to welcome everyone who comes in. We instantly try to listen to what brings someone into our store, and how we can be of potential help. While we may not be able to serve every single person with our products and services, we’ll do our best to listen, and to help.
Is there anyone that has mentored you or that you’ve looked up to in this industry?
My friend, John Gallagher, comes to mind. He used to be a Seven retailer, only sold Sevens, and was definitely a mentor for me. He and I worked together in Michigan and I’ve know John a really long time. I think seeing his business of just selling Seven by-appointment only succeed, gave me the confidence that it could be done. Also, the president of Seven, Rob Vandermark, gave me an alternative and lasting view of how you can design and manufacture bikes, sell bikes, and forge positive customer relationships and succeed in a climate of bike store chains and big box concept stores doing their best to squeeze out single location shops. His influence on my career over the last 10 years has been strong. Finally, the shop where I first started working with bicycles, The Highwheeler, was run back in the 90’s by Mike Clark and Dave Jurgensen. Mike and Dave were two very different people but led by example in so many ways and laid the foundation for me to mature from being Trash Boy to Studio Founder. It was the Highwheeler culture that taught me how to ride mountain bikes, love Ritchey Z-Max 2.35 red tires, and dared me to cut my hair like Pineapple Bob.
Does social media help your business?
Yes, I got an email the other day from a customer who mentioned he hasn’t been riding much and hasn’t associated with a team but that our social media presence and communication has kept him connected to the bike. His Dad passed away this year and was the proprietor of a very influential shop in Seattle called Il Vecchio. So, it meant a lot to hear these words coming from George Jr. I’m a big fan of Instagram and I find it a perfect medium for lovers of the bike. My friend Tony Bustamante (of Velosmith fame) and I worked at Seven Cycles for a few years, and after we found ourselves living in separate cities, would blow each others inboxes up with photo after photo after photo, many times without caption or words. Instagram keeps it fresh and gives a voice with litte copy necessary. I like that.
You are of course biased based on the brands CBS offers (Seven, Parlee, BMC, and Ibis). That said, who do you feel is doing really interesting and fresh work right now in the industry?
Good question. I’ve always loved the bikes that the Portland-based builder Tonic Fabrication puts out there. He (I believe the builder is a guy called Tony) has a great sense of balance in how a road and a cross bike should look for being what looks like a dirt-jumping park bike kid.