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Life Cycles

By Mary Gottschalk

With Hyland Family Bicycles, the operative word is family.

Bill Sr. & Bill JrFor its five decades, the Willow Glen-based business has been in the hands of the Hyland family.

Jim and Francia Hyland started the business in 1963 at the corner of Foxworthy and Cherry Avenues. Their children, Bill, Mike, Jim, Marty and Peggy, grew up in the store, first accompanying their parents to work and eventually working there themselves.

"All of us were raised in the bike shop, and then some of us went off and did other things," Bill recalls.

Bill did as well, but he soon returned to the shop, becoming partners with his father and working alongside him for 30 years before Jim Hyland passed away.

Now Bill is partners with his son Bill Jr., whom he calls BJ.

"My five kids have all worked in the bike shop at one time or another," Bill says.

"Melanie worked for me for years, and she just got taken by a headhunter; Jennifer is good in sales and she's an insurance broker; son Kevin has just moved back to San Jose, and he's working in sales at Nordstrom; Grant is going to school and helping out in the shop as well; and BJ is my business partner.

"I loved working with my dad. It was a lot of fun working with my dad, just like it is working with my son now.

"I'm a pretty lucky guy to have my son as my business partner. He takes a lot of stress off me with the work he does.

"We're a lucky family; we spend a lot of time together."

Bill Hyland, Sr., (center), with his children Melanie and Bill, Jr., at their shop,Bill has particular praise for his wife, Justina, a facilities manager at Adobe Systems, who also pitches in at the shop when things get really busy.

Additionally, Justina and Bill host a potluck family dinner every other Sunday, which often includes as many as 25.

BJ represents the third generation of the Hyland family to work in the store, now located at 1515 Meridian Ave.

Of his siblings, BJ says, "We've all kind of worked here off and on after school, but once they found something they were more passionate about, they went with that."

Asked if his passion is bicycles, BJ quickly responds, "Absolutely. I've ridden bikes my whole life. It's something I enjoy doing with my friends."

BJ, who lives in the Cambrian area, says it's a 5-mile ride from his home to work.

"If I'm pressed for time, I come straight down Meridian, but after work I'll go on a 10- to 15-mile ride home and wind down from work," he says.

His father Bill, now 60 years old and a Rose Garden resident, also cycles to work each day.

Both father and son have watched the bicycle business change and grow over the years.

"Technology has changed over the last 10 to 15 years," says Bill. "There's the computer my son sat on my desk, and I didn't know how to turn it on or off. Now bookwork is easier than it's ever been."

Along with technology, the bikes themselves have evolved.

"Bicycles have changed from where you took kids to buy a bike for Christmas or mom and dad having a simple three-speed to ride around the neighborhood. Now we have $5,000 mountain bikes, electronic shifting and things we never even dreamed of as kids," Bill says.

BJ says they are careful to keep up with trends with their inventory.

"Everything we keep in the store we turn over on a regular basis. If we bring something in that isn't working out, we phase it out," he says. "We sell a pretty wide variety, from a kid's first bike to racing road bikes and high-end mountain bikes. We tend to have a big following in the BMX community, and we have specialized brands for them.

"We sell a lot of the cruiser bikes for everybody that just wants a bike to cruise around the neighborhood with their kids or they want something simple that has character," he adds. "Most recently it's been the fixie bikes."

Bill Hyland, Jr. (left), works on a bike with employee Tim Bengard, at his family's business,BJ estimates that 90 percent of their sales of the fixed-gear bicycles popularly known as fixies is to "kids in middle school, high school and college. A lot of people show their personality by customizing them, which is pretty easy."

Both father and son acknowledge that one major change in the business of selling and repairing bicycles is increasing competition.

"We have the big corporate stores opening up around us, and every store takes a little bit of your business," says Bill. "The corporate stores are a sterile environment, and we're not. Over the years, raising my kids in the business, my first rule of thumb is when you walk out on the floor to help somebody, you treat them the way you want to be treated.

"If you go somewhere and they don't treat you well, why give them your hard-earned money? Find someone who will give you their time and energy and enjoy talking to you."

BJ agrees. "The competition is always getting more intense, but we're fortunate to have a good history and track record in the community and we have a lot of return customers," he says. "Since we're family owned and operated, we take pride in service. It's a different experience between our shop and a big chain store."

Hyland customers are loyal and enthusiastic about the store, as is obvious by the comments on Yelp and the store's rating of 4½ stars.

There are about 113 reviews, and many include anecdotes about visits to the store and ways the staff went out of their way to help them.

One of the things that Bill says he gets pleasure from is seeing "the third and fourth generation of customers coming in to buy bikes."

Jared Tranberg works on a children's bike at Hyland Family Bicycles in Willow Glen.With 10 employees, there's no shortage of staff, but the fourth generation of Hylands are all too young yet to know if one or more will join the staff.

In the meantime, BJ says, "We're going to continue to do what we're best at. Our repair services are solid and very reliable, and we want to continue to grow.

"Last year we were able to expand our store by building a warehouse that gives us more depth, and we can have two or three of our most popular bikes in stock."

As for retiring, Bill laughs.

"My dad worked until he was 82 and died six months after he quit working," he says. "I've got more years and as long as BJ enjoys me working with him I'm here."

BJ says, "I was lucking enough to work with my grandfather and my dad at the same time. They taught me a lot about work ethics, the expectations of owning and running a business and working here.

"I feel really lucky to work with my dad every day and get to see him."

Hyland Family Bicycles, 1515 Meridian Ave., 408.269.2300, Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday until 8 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.