Three days after Hurricane Ian wrecked The Bike Bistro, the bicycle shop owner took stock of tasks he needed to complete to reopen. He did this while standing in several inches of mud and muck that entered the store with about 27 inches of storm surge.
Steve Martin founded the store at the Publix-anchored Sanibel Beach Plaza shopping center on Summerlin Road, not far from the Sanibel Causeway, on Nov. 5, 2012.
The 10th anniversary of the store motivated Martin to get it back up and running. He and his team of seven employees hit the Nov. 5 deadline they set for themselves. The combination bicycle store and coffee shop are back in business after being shut down for five weeks.
“For a while there, I didn’t think we were going to do it,” Martin said. His shop is one of three businesses at the shopping center that has reopened since Sept. 28. The others are Publix and Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, with everything else remaining closed because of required renovations.
“We had some setbacks as far as getting supplies and inventory,” Martin said. “The mechanics were great at pitching in and rebuilding.”
This is the third time in the past 10 years that Martin has rebuilt his life. More than a decade ago, he decided to leave his office job working in marketing to open the bike shop.
He created a business plan and gave himself 1,000 days to execute it, leading up to November 2012, when he finally opened The Bike Bistro. It sells and repairs all sorts of bicycles, including the latest craze of electronic bikes.
The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated business. During that time Martin had to rebuild his life again, this time not by choice. His wife, Angie Martin, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2018. She died in October 2021 after 31 years of marriage.
“I couldn’t work for two years,” Martin said of when he tended to his wife. “My staff took over for me. They just stepped right in without hesitation. They did everything they could for me.”
While seeing the devastation of his store “numbed” him, he also knew it wasn’t the worst-case scenario for him, having already lived through it. “I thought this was surmountable,” he said. “I thought we could do this. There was a starting point, and there would be an ending point.”
He couldn’t say enough about his staff. “They earned all of my respect,” he said. “I refused to walk away from them.”
Martin said he fronted at least $100,000 in rebuilding the store’s interior, filed insurance claims for the damages and applied for Small Business Administration loans. He has yet to see any of the money. The cash on hand came from his late wife’s estate.
“He drew a line in the sand and said Nov. 5,” said Troy Carr, the store’s general manager. “It was crazy.”
Leading up to that day, customers would come into the store anyway, thinking it was already open. Some of them even walked through the muck demanding their bikes get repaired. Carr said it tested the staff’s patience, but now the store has almost returned to normal.
Finn, Martin’s black Labrador retriever, greets customers, and fresh-roasted coffee is brewing. However, the weekly 30-mile ride from the store across the causeway and to the end of West Gulf Drive on Sanibel has yet to resume.
Martin and his staff also got lucky as their newest fleet of rental bikes had not yet been delivered, and their storage area containing other bikes, including those owned by their customers, escaped the storm unscathed.
“It’s such a diverse crowd in here,” Carr said. “The repair work is like a tsunami. We have more than 40 work orders right now in the system.”