“How in the hell did I end up in retail?”
Mike Librik discovered recumbent bicycles in 1994 in the European cycling magazine Bike Culture Quarterly, which he found on the rack at Freewheeling Bicycles in Austin. BCQ is no longer with us (nor is Freewheeling), but just look what it all started.
In early 1996, Mike’s friend and future business partner Amy was severely injured going over the handlebars of her bike. They began a search for a safer alternative, and quickly turned to recumbents specifically for their safety advantages. They found recumbents in Austin at Recumbent Ranch, a small part-time operation. Recumbent Ranch was closing at about that time, so Mike bought it and called it Easy Street, based on his philosophy of cycling.
After 11 years of working on a limited scale out of his house, Mike quit his day job and moved Easy Street to its current storefront location in late 2007. He was initially worried about paying the rent, laying in a large store of peanut butter and Beanie-Weenie, but with a storefront location his business jumped 7-fold in the first year and has steadily increased. Next came staff, which made rent look cheap.
With customers coming in from all over the state, Mike was constantly asked when he’d have another store open. Some time around 2013 he started taking this idea seriously, but a complete lack of business background and a tendency to plodding perseverance left this idea brewing for 5 years. In 2018 the pieces were in place and ESR expanded to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, the new shop managed by his assistant Micah.
Starting in 2016, other recumbent specialists had started to open around the state, and revenue leveled off. The COVID-19 epidemic was something of a boon to Easy Street, and business held up though supplies became hard to come by. But by 2022 Mike felt that Easy Street had run its course. It is cliche to say that the bike industry runs on passion, not profits. Mike had been doing recumbents for over 25 years, and while he cared for his customers he didn’t care that much about the product. He’d started with the idealistic intent of helping people reduce their car use through the simple beauty of human power. But the pressures of the growing operation and the market it served found him loading electric tricycles into the backs of pickup trucks. Mike at 50 was not Mike at 25. Who is, anyway? In 2023 Mike switched his Austin business back to appointment only and divested himself of his inventory, supporting his existing clients with mechanical service. Micah took over the Fort Worth operations, and continued his career development as a bike shop owner, having worked in the industry steadily since he was 19.