The east side bike shop has become a Milwaukee institution.
Mountain bikes, hybrids, cruisers, bike locks, winter biking gear, you name it. The array of inventory you encounter at Crank Daddy’s Bicycle Works is impressive, with everything to accommodate your biking needs. Located at 2170 N. Prospect Ave just south of North Avenue, this high-end bike retail outlet is now enjoying it’s 10th year of serving cyclists needs.
Eric Kuhagen, a Mequon native, started the business about a decade ago, saying he had a passion for bicycles and retail since he was a boy.
“Every summer I would tear my bike apart three or four times and put it back together. It was a BMX style bike with high-rise handle bars and a banana seat,” Kuhagen reminisces. It was a Huffy, the cool style then and many of his friends rode the same style bike around their neighborhood or at courses they put together. “I always liked going into bike stores and seeing what new products were available.”
Kahugen started the business “from scratch” with one manager and a couple people who helped out around the store. He decided to open the store after his wife Kathy graduated from Marquette Law School and got a job in Milwaukee. The original location was just a couple of blocks away on N. Farwell Ave, before moving to the current location a few years ago.
He started selling used bikes out of the shop, before taking on Specialized as the store’s primary brand. It’s one of the three largest selling bikes in the country, with Trek and Giant being the other two. Specialized is still the main brand sold at Crank Daddy’s, though Kuhegan has added smaller brands like Electra and Moots over the years.
Several styles of bikes are sold including mountain bikes, road bikes, children’s bikes, cruisers and hybrids. Kahugen says the hybrids have become the most popular, because they are really good for riding in the city.
Prices for these high quality bikes range from $700 to $2,000. After purchasing a bike, the crew at Crank Daddy’s provides the service of fitting and adjusting the bike to each individual customer through a process known as body scanning that was developed by Specialized. Body Scanning is a computer program that takes into account arm and leg length and what type of riding style is best suitable for the cyclist. All employees at the store are trained in this program so they provide the best service as possible.
They also repair bikes and handle tune ups.
“One of the big things that makes us unique is our service department, compared to a big retailer like WalMart where that is not provided—you need that to survive in this specialty market.”
Besides bicycles, all accessories are sold including helmets, locks, lights, cycling shorts, floor pumps and hand pumps. Commonly needed parts, like tires and tubes, are also sold as well as car racks and trailers that can either be attached to a bike or pushed by runners as a stroller.
Year-round cyclists can purchase the necessary winter clothing and accessories—like goggles and gloves and Patagonia and North face coats, sweaters and socks — to make it through the often brutal Milwaukee winters. Typically there is a selection of Patagonia items that are marked off 30 percent because they are promotional items.
A unique aspect of the store is visible as soon as you enter the warehouse-sized retail shop. “Trainers” are set up in front of a couple TV’s and a projector. This program is designed for people who do not like to bike in the winter, but want to stay in shape as biker. People are able to bring their own bikes in and set it up on a trainer. These are hooked up to a computer program set to provide an individual experience, with the right kind of hills and wind, or whatever conditions are preferred by each cyclist.
“It’s a great way for cyclists to keep up or even improve their strength during the cold months. We have a lot of people who take advantage of the program.”
This relates to the overall mission of supporting a healthy lifestyle through cycling that is exemplified by the charities and programs supported by Crank Daddy’s. “We sponsor the bike fed and a lot of health clinics at corporations. We go in and show them the benefits of cycling as well as do a lot of giveaways to different charities—service items or products to generate money for their charity like bike tune-ups, the ride center and gift certificates.”
The favorite charity is the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Southeast Wisconsin chapter; Crank Daddy’s donates money and participates in bike tours to support the charity. A decade after starting the store, Kuhagan is still looking for ways to better serve the biking community.