Since I recently wrote a brief history about Hubbub for our Facebook presence, I figured it’s a good addition to our “about” details here…
Hubbub was founded by Diane in 1997 with the publishing of her book, “The Hubbub Guide to Cycling,” a manual to help cyclists prepare for an extended bike tour. The original store location, a boutique “pro shop” in Cleveland Heights, was intended as a fulfillment center for a mail-order catalogue featuring carefully curated cycling products, with a lean towards touring and exploration.
Diane’s experience goes back to 1974, as a principal in two other shops of Cleveland’s past: LBS Bicycles, and City Bike. Her background and interests are in art, journalism, advocacy, event management, and retail business.
Brian joined in 1998 as the permanent technical half of Hubbub’s 2-person partnership. As the internet’s expansion accelerated, the paper catalogue never made it beyond manuscript form, and we were busy fitting, building, and servicing northeast Ohio’s finest bicycles. At this time we were selling a great deal of Waterford Precision Cycles and Calfee Design, plus a few Ibis and Klein. In spring of 1998 we began working with Burley Cooperative and Co-Motion Cycles for tandems, and started riding a tandem ourselves. Later in 1998 we partnered with Seven Cycles, rounding out our selection perfectly to serve nearly every request.
Brian’s experience goes back to riding and working on bicycles in the mid-80’s, working in a bike shop – called The Bike Works, in Johnstown NY – while attending engineering school in the mid-90’s. He still has notes, sketches, and CAD designs of ideas from his early teens. His background and interests include marine and wilderness activities, elegant design, and mechanical ingenuity. A little archeological digging uncovered these artifacts:
Adjusting our name to “Hubbub Custom Bicycles” in 1999, we found that by deepening our role in the bike’s design process, while still relying on the vast backgrounds of our skilled builders – mostly Waterford, Seven, Calfee, and Co-Motion – the three-way team we formed with a client greatly improved the buying experience and final product.
Diane completed her yoga teacher training in 2002, and began by teaching classes on the floor of the bike shop showroom a couple evenings each week.
Recognizing that the majority of customers were traveling more than 50 miles to visit, often much farther (occasionally flying in)… Wanting to thin out the inner-city service business a bit, provide a better experience (traffic, parking, quiet, better roads, one-on-one attention) for incoming clientele, and expand our offerings… We decided in 2003 to build out a new complex, combining three business models, out in Chesterland, Ohio. Starting from scratch, we built out an entire space that included a gourmet coffee shop (a popular idea now!) called High Peaks Coffee, a beautiful new yoga studio for Diane, called Daily Yoga, and a freshly designed retail and service center for Hubbub Custom Bicycles. Both yoga students and cyclists could come in and enjoy the finest organic coffee while they shopped in our store.
Making the move in 2004, some elements of this worked, even brilliantly, but too many parts of the concept failed.
1.) In hindsight we clearly made some enormous errors in judgement and planning. The coffee shop took some time to complete the build-out, equipment, hiring and training, and to perfect the product. We were also on the wrong side of the road for morning traffic, and arrogantly felt our product would be good enough to overcome an absent drive-thru window. Perhaps this might have worked in a more sophisticated area, but it’s poor business planning regardless.
2.) We were lied to repeatedly about what opportunities would be afforded for quality signage, discovering the truth much too late. Eventually we fought through to erect what were always ineffective signs, with fierce resistance from the “city,” but it was too little too late.
3.) Some might point out that our move away from the city caused the coming years of hardship, but that part of our plan worked perfectly.
2004 proved to be an immensely difficult year, as Hubbub fought to keep two brand new businesses alive, in a new location, long enough for them to grow towards self-sustainability. At one point we laid everyone off and closed down, but after three days mustered the energy to come back out swinging.
In 2006, while the businesses were still slowly climbing out of their holes, Brian developed an illness that proved to be another tremendous setback. In short, his esophagus stopped working, permanently. As he slowly deteriorated from undernourishment, work performance suffered accordingly, including relationships and perhaps results. Somehow, through Diane’s famously endless energy, Hubbub and Daily Yoga continued to improve, and High Peaks coffee held on with a small but solid reputation.
With the financial crisis of 2008, when some caring customers would ask, “How are you faring?” Our response, “We don’t feel it. We’re coming from such a low, we’re still climbing up through the recession.” Hubbub was even named the most successful dealer in the country for a couple of its bike makers, and voted “Best Bike Shop in the Great Lakes Region” in the League of American Bicyclists.
In 2009 we finally shuttered High Peaks Coffee, converting the space to a lounge for Hubbub and Daily Yoga.
In early 2010 Diane began hosting a 1-hour live weekly AM radio show called “Bicycling Today,” out of Youngstown, Ohio. On Labor Day weekend that year she switched to creating her own radio broadcast, called “The Outspoken Cyclist” aired weekly by WJCU, FM-88.7 out of John Carroll University. Always available as a podcast, it continues to grow all these years later. (update: as of mid-2021, the show is no longer broadcast over the air, and so not restricted to 60 minutes; and as of early 2022, publication is less regular than “weekly”)
In 2011 Brian’s illness was diagnosed and he underwent a successful surgical procedure. The resulting health and energy brought in 2012, and Hubbub in one season was able to recover from seven years of hardship. Having finally fulfilled all past obligations, we were overdue for another major change.
Beginning in 2013 Diane moved her Daily Yoga Studio to Highland Heights, where it remains, providing regular classes. (update: as of February 2022 all classes are on-line)
Having liquidated all clothing and most accessory inventory, Brian moved tools, parts, and equipment to an industrial space in Kirtland / Willoughby Hills. The plan was to complete a lengthy backlog of small “always wanted to…” type projects, including some prototyping new products, in-house frame-building jobs, provide past bike customers with service, and continue building custom bikes through Calfee, Seven, and Waterford.
In 2016 Diane and Brian finally were married.
In 2018 Brian announced publicly his willingness to build brazed steel bikes for customers in-house, under the name, “b.w. Jenks”
From home Diane maintains our Hubbub on-line store and projects like our Hubbub Helmet Mirror, as well as arranging bike-fitting services. She also produces, records, engineers, and publishes “The Outspoken Cyclist,” weekly podcast (and 1-hour broadcast), by herself.
From his 2000 sqft commercial workshop Brian has since 2013 provided house-calls, pick-up & delivery service, and all the same full in-shop service Hubbub has always had. He remains a dealer for Waterford, Gunnar, and Rodriguez. Services have expanded to include welding, machining, bead-blasting, and other fabrication – occasionally on non-bike projects like turbocharger pipes for the neighboring auto mechanic, or repairing a giant stainless mixing bowl for a local bakery.
I was driving home, after my college teaching day this past Tuesday. Which also includes working at the LBS from 3-6 P.M. Kingston Cyclery. I was listening to your interview on NPR. You were speaking my language!!
I love working at a LBS. I use to hang out at one growing up in Pennsylvania. I fell into a salesperson position one day, after someone quit. I sold four bikes on my very first day on the job. The owner won’t let me leave. In fact, he keeps asking me when I plan on retiring from my day job! My wife said that I’m obsessed with it, which is true. But it’s so much fun. I’m learning wheel building, with the help of master builder, Bill Mould.
If I’m ever traveling west of new York state, I will stop by. Your shop sounds great! Plus, your philosophy on the bicycle business is on point. P.S. i’ll be at Kingston Cyclery this afternoon!