Nothing signifies a Minnesota winter like a good snowfall, something shop owner Steve Phyle is still waiting for this year.
“The lack of snow has definitely hurt us this winter,” Phyle said about his business this year. “There is a guy buying gloves right now who didn’t need them until the middle of January, and we definitely need snow for people to be excited about skiing and snowboarding.”
As a result, Phyle has already started discounting his products– winter equipment is 25 percent off and winter clothing is 35 percent off. These are sale prices he says you usually wouldn't see until the end-of-season sale.
“People who are serious about skiing and snowboarding are still out there on manmade snow or are traveling, but it is the recreational side of the business that is hurting us.”
On the other hand, the shortage of snow has brightened up his bicycle business during this time of year.
“A lot more people are still riding their bikes because of the weather, so we have been bike repair and sales all winter long,” Phyle said.
Tonka Cycle & Ski opened at 16 Shady Oak Road South last March after closing the previous Glen Lake location in January, but Phyle has been in the business since the ’90s. The family bike shop offers a range of recreational products and services for bicycling, skiing and snowboarding. From boot-fitting to ski and board tuning, Phyle aims to be “service-oriented.”
“We try to educate people to make an informed decision and tell them what they need to know, not what we want to sell them,” he said.
At the entrance of the shop, customers are often met with a warm welcome from Wesley, the Phyle family dog they rescued from a shelter a few years ago.
“He hangs out some days in the shop and loves to greet people at the door," Phyle said about his canine charmer, who just contributes to the laid-back feel of the shop. "The mailman and Fed Ex driver are so used to seeing him that they usually bring him treats."
Every year, Tonka Cycle & Ski hosts several events including a ski and snowboard swap in the fall and a bike garage sale in the spring to support recycling equipment and get the word out about their shop and services. Tonka also sponsors a variety of organized rides and has developed a few local partnerships, including the G Team snowboarding team, the Twin Cities Bicycling Club and .
“It’s an opportunity for our members to get high quality equipment and services at great prices,” said Jennifer Lewin, who is a co-owner and director of Blizzard with her husband Jeff. “We approached [Tonka] about it because they are well known in the community, and we are really excited to be working with them.”
In addition to adding the shop as one of the bus stops on a weekend route for Blizzard school members, Lewin said Tonka Cycle & Ski will have a presence at upcoming events including their Parent’s Day festivities Jan. 28 and 29 at Trollhaugen in Dresser, WI.
Phyle enjoys skiing and biking, but says he really loves his job because “it’s a fun business to be in.”
“There’s nobody who comes into the door because they have to,” he said. “Our customers are generally in good humor and are here buying something that they enjoy. Really, all we sell is fun.”