Conte’s Bike Shop, Developed by Hampton Roads, Continues National Expansion

The sons of the late Charles Conte Sr. turned the family name into an enduring brand by building on the legacy of their father’s bike shop.

Charles Conte Sr. opened his small neighborhood bicycle repair shop in 1957 in Newport News. A week and a half before Conte Sr. died in December 1992, two of his sons opened a location in Virginia Beach.

Today, Conte’s Bike Shop footprint includes stores in Chesapeake, Williamsburg, Newport News, Falls Church, Richmond, Arlington and Alexandria. There are also three in Washington, DC, three in Southeast Florida, one in Charlotte, North Carolina, and one in Marietta, Georgia. Additional locations in Decatur, Georgia, and Lexington, Massachusetts will open this year.

The business expands to Italy, where Conte’s offers cycling vacation trips.

Conte’s sells a wide range of bicycles, including road, mountain, electric, cruiser, hybrid, and fitness bikes, as well as accessories, bicycle components, and apparel. Its services include the repair, sale, rental, exchange and adjustment of bicycles. Conte’s also offers its own bike brand 19fiftyseven, which will soon expand to accessories.

“There are so many cycling choices you can make, from recreational to enthusiast rider,” said owner David Conte, son of Conte Sr.

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Humble beginnings

The late Conte family patriarch was the son of Italian immigrants working as a master machinist when he decided to use his love of bikes and his “ability to fix everything” to start the business.

At one point, Conte Sr. opened an additional location in the Denbigh area, but David Conte said his father did not see the positives behind several stores at the time.

“My dad loved children, families and had a knack for fixing and fixing things; he got into the bike business and never looked back,” Conte said.

From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, a new inventory of bicycles joined the mix of used bicycles at Conte’s.

“My dad had one of the biggest bike showrooms on the East Coast,” Conte said. “It’s still there today and it’s still a bike shop, but it’s not a Conte bike shop.”

Over the years, his seven children worked in the store, but it was his son David who finally took over ownership in 2010, buying out his older brother, Charles Conte Jr.

“I was probably 8 or 9 when I started working there,” he said. “I was taught the craft and had fun playing with bikes.”

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“A change of generation”

In 2014, Wayne Souza, a longtime friend and retired family lawyer, partnered with Conte to form Conte Bicycle Group.

“From that point on, we started to really explode our growth and follow the trajectory that we’re on right now,” Conte said.

Headquarters moved to Laskin Road in Virginia Beach in 2002, but the partners took things a step further in January 2020, leasing a 22,355-square-foot warehouse on Virginia Beach Boulevard to house the company’s administrative offices and bike storage. business.

In December, they bought the building for about $2.86 million, according to real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer.

“We build almost all of our bikes for our company there, truck them out to our stores, and they put them right on the racks,” Conte said.

The change in business strategy came after Conte said he realized the volume was too high for each store to receive their preset inventory.

This tactic has not only helped Conte’s, which has about 160 employees across the company, survive through the pandemic, but also thrive.

Industry-wide, Conte said he’s seen more change in the past five years than in the previous 30 years.

“There’s a generational shift,” Conte said of store owners lacking a transition plan and unable to keep up. “And a supplier shift where specialty bike companies are aggressively buying independent bike shops…it’s cheaper for them to buy than trying to organically open more shops.”

On top of that, Conte said that due to the pandemic there has been a ton of change and a major shift in the industry on the independent bike dealer side.

“A lot of dealerships have either closed because they couldn’t have inventory, or their stores have expanded and are now selling to manufacturers,” he said.

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The popularity of cycling is growing

With that comes the opportunity for bike shop owners such as Conte and Souza.

“The pandemic really kickstarted the bike industry because when people were locked down they wanted to get out and exercise and cycling was one of the best ways to do that,” Conte said. “We’re seeing a lot more people staying healthy and exercising because they’ve found a love of cycling. We see a bright future for bicycles…”

Rich Artese has a collection of nine bikes for his family, from beach cruisers to high-end road bikes from Conte’s.

“They helped me with selection, fittings, adjustments, adjustments and ultimately service, which ranges from scheduled maintenance to emergency repair before or after the ride,” Artese said.

A loyal customer for 16 years, Artese said the dedication to making every customer love the bike is what keeps him coming back and why he thinks the store has been and will remain a success.

Virginia Beach’s Bruce Mimran agreed, “They have the best brands of bikes out there, they have the best mechanics, and they always put the customer first.”

A competitive cyclist, Mimran now owns five bikes, all purchased from Conte’s. He remembers buying his first bike from Conte Sr.

David Conte is working to preserve the company’s neighborhood workshop legacy and using the lessons he learned from his father to move the company forward into the future.

“I think he would be absolutely super proud of me and want me to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “You have to take risks, you fail sometimes, but you pick yourself up and keep going. That’s what my dad always taught me.

Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836, [email protected]