Young and Killing It : Shop Owners Win U35 in BRAIN Magazine
The Santa Cruz, Calif., area was a crowded retail market when former NORBA downhill racer Shawn Wilson opened Epicenter Cycling a stone’s throw from the legendary Aptos Post Office Jumps in 2009.
“We have a lot of stores here, but I saw opportunity on the customer service side and the brand side [with Trek]. I really built my whole business off of customer service. That’s a big focus for us — positive people stoked on riding and getting other people healthy,” said Wilson, who opened a second Epicenter location in Santa Cruz in 2012.
Serving the local riding scene has also been a principal focus for Wilson and fiancée Kazia Pennino, donating funds to the new Soquel Demonstration Forest Flow Trail and working with events and projects including Santa Cruz Open Streets, Bike to Work Week, Surf City AIDS Ride, Trek Dirt Series Camps, Girly Ride, Share the Love Kids’ Bike Drive and Epicenter’s own Ladies’ Night.
The couple also helped advocacy group Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz launch the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival, which draws thousands each April for a weekend of jump jams, bike demos, skills clinics, a poker ride and races on the pump track Wilson built on a vacant lot behind Epicenter’s Aptos location.
“We’d rebuild the pump track every year so we had a fresh course for people to race during the mountain bike festival. We’d bring the tractors in and give the community something new to ride,” Wilson said. That tradition ends this year with the festival’s sixth edition — the pump track, which served as an inspiration for other tracks developed around Santa Cruz, and the Post Office Jumps were both demolished by the property owner in February to make way for a new residential/retail development. Locals, including Wilson, are hopeful that the public park planned for the new development will include something for mountain bikers.
The pump track “was a good example for the community. I get people calling all the time asking how we did it. People wanting advice from all over Oregon and Washington — the East Coast even,” Wilson said. “We got a lot of exposure and people now visit Aptos for mountain biking. So hopefully we can keep something permanent in Aptos village for the long term.”
In the meantime, Wilson is awaiting regulatory approval for the planned Velocity Bike Park in nearby Felton, where Epicenter will be the official retailer.
“It’s going to be a huge thing for the bike community: one of the only bike parks open year-round,” he said.