“I was working as a fitness coach at Orangetheory Fitness and organized fitness was not a thing during the pandemic, so we shut down. And I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing so I started doing house calls-actually, the person’s house who we are at today was a past Orangetheory Fitness member. So, I started just reaching out to members and being like, ‘Hey, you need a bike to tune-up so you can ride it during the pandemic and actually stay fit?’ Then I’m in these beautiful neighborhoods, tons of people are walking around, or biking and bike shops are four weeks out,” says Oestreich.
“And I realize, I know how to tune-up bikes, I could offer them a same day turn-around rather than have to have them wait a whole month. So I started doing pop-up bike shops and the response was so amazing and the community just really turned out for me that by the time Orangetheory opened back up and I was offered my job back, I was able to decline and fully support myself on this business,” says Oestreich.
Oestreich arrived at his pop-up shop one day to find 10 or so bikes waiting for him. Afterward, a full day’s work became more and more consistent. He realized just a few months in that his newly forged path was going to work.
He says the pandemic put him in a unique situation to try something new.
“Well, one of the nice things is I didn’t sort of up and quit a job, you know? Like, I wasn’t like, ‘You know what? I’m going to go out and forge my own path and I’m going to quit everything that’s comfortable.’ Everything that was comfortable kind of got taken from me. So, the doubts didn’t really have to be there because if it failed, I would be right back to the point I was at, right? I was no worse for it,” says Oestreich.
“But yeah, certainly in the beginning, I was, ‘Who knows where it was going to go?’ I didn’t certainly envision that by the second year-the very next year-I’d have an employee and we’d be doing this well. So now at this point, the question is, can I continue this much success in Madison? Which, I think I can. I think this concept of being able to walk your bike a couple blocks and get a same day turn around tune-up for cheaper than anywhere in town is something that people obviously enjoy and gravitate towards,” says Oestreich.
Every weekend, Oestreich is somewhere new for pop-ups. This weekend he is in a residential neighborhood on Madison’s west side, setting up shop outside the home of a family who have offered to host the pop-up shop in their driveway for a day.
Russ Lemmon and his family hosted Oestreich’s Saturday bike shop as well as had their bikes tuned-up and fixed.
“We had two of our kids’ bikes. And that needed some breaks fixed and he helped us out and got them going really quick,” says Lemmon.
By 9 a.m., clients are driving and biking up.
Lying in the grass on either side of the host’s driveway are bikes from neighborhood residents and local citizens. There are about 10 bikes or so in counting.
Oestreich learned how to fix and tune-up bikes in part from his dad. He says a lot of it is just trial and error.
“My dad was a big biker and so, he did a lot of his own repairs. So I’ve kind of just been around it, right? Like, ‘Oh, your tire popped, you change your tire. Something’s off, you have to adjust this.’ And so then, I kind of grew up like just youtubing and figuring out how to do it myself. I spent one summer at a local bike shop-it’s not around here-but honestly, this business and doing the literal thousands of bike tune-ups that I’ve done has really taught me a lot more and made me much faster,” says Oestreich.
The one part of his business Oestreich kept questioning last year was how he would make it work during the winter. He thought about using that time to plan for the next year.
But then he decided to take his shop to Arizona after talking with a friend, where he fixed approximately 200 bikes last winter. Oestreich says he is planning to do the same thing this winter.
“I’d love to be a twenty-seven-year-old snow bird. That’d be outstanding, but we’ll see. It kind of remains to be seen,” says Oestreich.
Oestreich prefers having one year planned. He feels anything beyond that point will derail and then all that planning will have been for nothing.
“First two years: Scottsdale and Phoenix. I don’t like to plan more than a year in advance, because, you plan more than a year in advance your plans are going to change. And then you did all this planning and all this work and you realize, ‘Oh, wait, given this past year it now is kind of all bunk.’ So, I have one year planned: Scottsdale and Phoenix and then I’ll be back here next year. Beyond that, I don’t know. And I don’t want to know, honestly. I think planning further out into the future is more stress than it’s worth,” says Oestreich.
Since Oestreich started his business during the pandemic, he has not tested it under non-pandemic circumstances. He says there may be some adjustments, as routines shift again.
Certain days of the week may not work as well, and neighborhood pop-ups may not work as well when people return to the workplace. Oestreich says he might try more workplace pop-up shops.
This reporter asked him what path he plans to use for sustaining his business.
“Continuing on the same path I’m on. It’s been working so far. The Curbside-or the neighborhood pop-up bike shop model is something that doesn’t really exist. So, that’s a new model and it’s been killing it, so I’ll continue that and, you know, maybe expand into working with more businesses in the future,” says Oestreich.
But Oestreich is not alone. He hired an employee to help him with the business so he could expand, and an intern to help him with social media. Much like his current employee, he will let future employees hang with him at first to see how the job is done.
After that, he will have them do pop-up shops on their own and touch base with him through phone or email.
He does not plan anything more than a year in advance. But he expresses his hopes and goals for the foreseeable future.
“Permanently, start another branch in another city. I think that’s the most salient goal right now. Next year if I could have two employees brought on that’d be awesome,” says Oestreich.
Photo, audio and story courtesy Danielle Kronau/WORT News.
[This article was updated to hyperlink the date to The Cap Times.]