Peter Kern said growing up, he never had any intention of taking over his father’s bicycle store. Now, he owns two bike shops.
“I didn’t change my mind until the summer before my senior year in college,” Kern, 27, said. “I went to St. Louis for an internship with Edward Jones, and I realized I didn’t want to wear a suit every day for the rest of my life. I was working at a bike shop there on the side and I loved it.”
Rick Kern, Peter’s dad, originally opened The Bicycle Hangar near its current location on Brooks Street in 1980. When he came back to town, Kern talked with his father about opening a new branch of the shop in another town near Missoula. Instead, Rick said he wanted to retire and transition the business over to him.
After taking over the management of The Bicycle Hangar in 2009 as part of a deal to buy the business, Kern became the owner of the shop earlier this year. Now, he’s expanding the company by opening a new second location inside the MSO Hub building in downtown Missoula.
“This location is such a huge opportunity for us and the cycling community to go to the next level,” he said.
Nationwide, Kern said statistics show that the bike industry has been relatively flat for the past decade, but that in his experience, he thinks cycling is a growing trend in Missoula.
“We have an awesome community for it, and great support from local officials and groups. Even people who aren’t dedicated riders are supportive of bike lanes and trails and having people be active,” he said.
In addition to continuing to sell bikes for all ages and skill levels, as well as apparel and repairs, Kern is adding bike rentals as a new service at the downtown shop, which will open on Friday, Nov. 28. When visitors come to town and see how bicycle-friendly it is, from just getting around town to heading out for some trail riding, he wants them to be able to pick up a bike and experience it first hand.
The downtown location also has historical significance for the Kern family. His great-great-great grandfather Frank Kern and his brother Henry Rupert “H.R.” Kern first came to Missoula in the 1870s after arriving in Fort Benton by steamboat and walking across the state.
H.R. opened a bicycle and typewriter repair shop, Yankee Repair, on Main Street, two doors down from where the new Bicycle Hangar location is. Behind the counter Kern has a framed copy of an old newspaper advertisement from his great-great-great uncle's store.
“That’s the future of the company right here,” Kern said, picking up his 2-year-old son Hank as they walked through the new shop space inside the building at the corner of Higgins Avenue and Main Street downtown.
The window of the new store looked in on a row of kid’s and women’s bicycles, and Kern said something that has been at the core of the shop since it started was to be a “family bike shop” where everyone would find the ride they were looking for.
“If you get a kid on a quality bike when they’re young, they’re going to enjoy it and make cycling a part of their lives,” Kern said. "I love talking to people about what they want to use their bike for and putting them on the right one."