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Coates Cyclery owner has spirit of avid bicycle enthusiast

While it might be assumed that a perk of owning a bike shop is the chance to take a spin at leisure, it couldn’t be farther from the truth for Corey McCroskey, owner of Pomona’s beloved Coates Cyclery, located on the border between Pomona and Claremont. Kept busy managing retail, repairs and other duties at the Inland Empire’s largest—and possibly longest-living—bike shop, Mr. McCroskey admits he is lucky to be able to fit in one ride per week.

It’s part of the duty the avid cyclist and 11-year shopkeeper takes in stride as he looks to inspire the next generation of cyclists.  

“Bicycles were our sense of adventure. What’s over the next hill? What’s over in the next city?, I wonder what that park looks like,” he explained of his own childhood. “Technology has kind of taken that away from people, but there is still something to be said about being outdoors in the elements and the thrill of ‘where can this bike take me?’”

While the times have certainly changed since the era of paper routes, with the advent of Google Maps and other modern technologies, the beloved mom-and-pop remains much the same as it did nearly 50 years ago, the same historic sign welcoming its loyal base of customers to partake in the sport of cycling. Pomona resident John Finn, seen browsing the store Thursday afternoon, fondly recalled a story many locals share, of waking up on Christmas morning to find a shiny new 2-wheeler waiting under the tree.

“It was great,” Mr. Lynn said, recalling that he took his new ride out for a spin immediately. “I would love to just ride around and explore.”

It is by no mere accident that Coates, a Claremont/Pomona staple for decades, has made its way into the hearts of locals for years. The secret to their success lies in stories like Mr. Finn’s.

“It’s our selection, customer service and history that keep people coming back,” Mr. McCroskey said. “We have history here.”

Greeted by the familiar scent of rubber wheels that permeates the air and rows upon rows of Bianchis, Giants, Felts and Konas, customers get an instant warm welcome from shop employees, the owner himself or his mother Shirley McCroskey, who is often around to lend her son a hand.

“We all kind of chip in where needed,” he explains, jesting about his title as shop owner and head bathroom washer.

Employees of the cycling shop, many who have been with the company for years, don’t seem to mind the extra duties associated with their work.

“It’s a family,” said Mikey Lucero, employed at Coates for the last 3 years.

The close-knit fabric of the Coates staff is not lost on their customers. Just as Coates employees have a low-turnover rate, the shop boasts a series of regulars who have made the neighborhood bike shop a destination for decades. Customer Karl Thompson has been bringing his bikes for routine fixes at Coates since he moved to town in the 1970s.

“They do good work here...a better job than I do,” he said.

Mr. McCroskey takes pride in the experience of his staff and the quality of his products, maintaining a reputation that has preceded him.

Coates, named for the first owner Adair Coates, began its life as a lawnmower shop on Second Street in Pomona in 1934 before placing itself on cyclers’ radars as one of the premiere Schwinn stores in the country. While the Schwinn Bicycle Company now ceases to exist, the Coates brand continued. Mr. Coates passed on the business to Wes Roth, who opened several new shops, including the store locals have come to know and love on Foothill and Towne in 1963. Under Mr. Roth’s ownership, a young Mr. McCroskey first came to work at the shop.

“It was the heyday of cycling,” Mr. McCroskey recalls of working at the shop. “At Christmas time, we’d sell hundreds and hundreds of bikes.”

While Mr. McCroskey says the trend has slowly reversed as more people opt to play with electronics rather than wheel around on a new bike, staff says his dedication to the shop and passion for cycling contributes to why customers continue to come back to Coates.

“He is a great guy, the most generous,” Mr. Lucero said. “He takes care of his customers and has great experience.”

Since childhood, there was never a time that Mr. McCroskey’s life didn’t center on a bicycle. It was love at first bike for Mr. McCroskey, who fondly recalled that first little red Schwinn Tiger awaiting him under the Christmas tree at 4 years old.

“Bicycles have always been at the center of my transportation or what I did for fun,” he explained.

Mother Shirley says her son’s interest in bikes was fueled by a shared interest with his older brother, an avid motorcycle fan: “When we lived in Las Vegas they would always ride out together into the desert,” she reflected.

While Mr. McCroskey dabbled in different high school sports, it was cycling races that provided him with the most enjoyment. Mr. McCroskey took part in his first BMX competition behind the Upland water tank in 1976.

“I was tired of collegiate sports and the bureaucracy that comes along with it,” he said. “Watching those early Tours de Frances or reading about races in Italy and seeing Ironman [triathlon], those things kind of struck home with me from an athletic background. It was a challenge.”

Participating in BMX through high school, Mr. McCroskey began expanding his cycling to include dabbling in mountain biking, road races, triathlons, including the notoriously challenging Ironman races.

“I enjoy the challenge,” he said. “It’s my Olympics.”

Though he doesn’t get out to ride as often as he would like since taking over Coates from Mr. Roth in 2001, he looks forward to his “Customer Appreciation Ride” every Sunday morning. It’s his chance to get out there and exercise while engaging with Coates’s loyal fans. Rides begin at the shop at 8 a.m. and they usually end with a Some Crust pastry, courtesy of Mr. McCroskey.

When not engaging his customers on a bike ride, Mr. McCroskey continues in the Coates tradition of giving back to the community, donating bikes and helmets to the Claremont Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the Claremont Unified School District for kids in need. While he does so at his own expense, Mr. McCroskey hopes seeing that shiny new bike will inspire kids as he once was, ready to seek the next big adventure.

“I’m hoping in there somewhere is the next great Olympic athlete,” he said.

Coates Cyclery is located at 760 E. Foothill Blvd. Find out more about the bicycle shop by visiting www.coatescyclery.com.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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