Founded in 2018, The Bike Shop List has been serving the cycling community for over 5 years. At The Bike Shop List, we have been working in the industry, wearing many hats for a very long time. Perhaps not the List as we know it today but in the Business of Bicycles... yep. Christopher Georger, principal at TheBikeShopList.com, has spent his prior work life in virtually all levels of our industry. The Georger family has been in the business of bicycles since the 1880's in Buffalo NY. In the 100th anniversary of "American Bicyclist" there is a mention (page 112) of the passing of Alfred Georger as a member of the Buffalo Cycling club. Christopher has a leather bound salesman catalogue his great uncle used dated 1912 and his name was Howard W. Georger. Howard opened the Howard W. Georger Co. in 1937 and was a "Jobber" selling bicycles and other items to retailers. At the end of WWII, Christopher's father, Donald E. Georger, came to Buffalo from Chicago with his new bride ( Don's father moved there in 1915) to work at his uncle's business but Howard had passed before Don got there. The Howard W. Georger Co. was then being operated by the surviving aunt ( Genevieve ) and Don took over in 1951. The company was finding it's way after the war and settled upon Bicycles as the primary product and Schwinn Bicycle Company became the featured Brand. In the 1950's Don's sister and brother came to work there (Dorothy and Robert "Bob") and the company became committed to the Schwinn name and approach to bike shops. In the mid 1960's there were 44 "independent" distributors across the country with each having a defined territory and ours was upstate NY and western PA. During this time, Schwinn came under scrutiny for Fair Trade concerns when they were selling products to independent companies yet requiring specific retail pricing across states. (Now referred to Suggested Retail Price) .... Schwinn wasn't suggesting. A dispute occurred and the Supreme Court got involved and decided this business practice was struck down. But also during the 1960's Buffalo was having Urban Renewal and the Howard W. Georger Co. was forced to move away from Downtown and out to the suburbs. In late 1965 Donald traveled around the country to other Schwinn distributors too see what their operations and warehouses looked like. We needed to build something so let's find "Best Practice" in the bike business. During the Golden days of the 1950's and 1960's Schwinn had a dominant Market share and was moving towards "Schwinn Concept Stores" along with Schwinn Approved products ( accessories) and perhaps the only "Leading Brand". In November 1965, after one of one of these trips, Don fell ill and passed away at the age of 44. Bob took over (36 years old) but the decision was made that Schwinn could not continue the business model as currently followed. Schwinn began to open their own Distribution warehouses across the country and fazed out the independent distributors by naming them "Agents" and had a new business plan to work with the fair trade law and retain ownership and pricing through to the "Authorized Schwinn Dealer". We survived the move to the suburbs and in building the warehouse even included a "Model Store" named "Don's Schwinn Cyclery" as part of the buildout in hopes of retaining the Schwinn approval. Schwinn had other plans.The Howard W. Georger Co. was done for. We had aligned with a brand partner and now that partner was forced to end our relationship. The dealer network we had established was now no longer buying from us and we had to go to Non Schwinn shops to be able to continue operating. Then it happened. In the early 1970's there was a bike boom. The people buying bikes were no longer selecting USA made Varsity or Continental bikes but now lightweight lugged 10 Speed units from Europe. The Chicago made bikes were not the bikes the consumer was requesting and the 10 Speed was gaining favor. The Georger Co. was back in business since the inventory was so sparce, any tires and tubes and cables and saddles were sought after and bought from anyone who had them. The Schwinn distributors who were discarded organized into buying groups and going to Europe then Japan and Taiwan to source bicycle products. At the time, mid 60's, we still were acquiring bicycle product domestically and the scorned Distributors aligned with 1) Columbia mfg in Massachusetts or 2) Murray Ohio in Tennessee. As these groups matured with 5-10 small distributors, they also developed their brands of Bicycles. Spec'ing saddles and colors and cranks and offering these bikes to the IBD.All this happened in the 1970's but also there was the ebb and flow of demand and supply. Around 1975 all the bikes had to have reflective tires and the domestic makers (Goodyear and Carlisle) were slow to adapt but the imported product just wanted to comply with the regulations. Schwinn had moved to Asia for product since they could not domestically produce the kind of product that was demanded. As production moved to Asia so too did the component makers. Simple logistics dictates to reduce production costs, locate your suppliers nearby. USA suppliers were unable or unwilling to open new facilities so the void was filled by manufacturing in Taiwan or later, China. USA bicycle component manufacturers slowly ended their production or moved to other items to make. In the early 1980's a new category was emerging. BMX. Brands like GT, Redline, Mongoose etc were evolving into a growth market and IBD's was the buying center. Internet wasn't available and "Mail Order" was beginning to become an alternative. Christopher and his brother John began to observe the new trends and products and in 1981 went to and raced at a race in the Pontiac Superdome. At the race Greg Hill was a big winner and he was sponsored by GT bicycles and riding their frame and fork. Following the racing leader was obvious and Howard W. Georger Co. shifted their product offerings to satisfy the product requests. GT was named for Gary Turner and was run by Richard Long. Georger Company was still just in Upstate NY and PA but now had many of the items the dealers were seeking out for this new sport. By this time (early 1980's) Christopher started obtaining control of HWG. From breaking down boxes and sweeping in the 60's to picking and packing in the 70's he graduated with a degree in Business Management in 1973. Christopher was now the "next" generation for HWG... All the hats were in play and after warehouse worker through phone sales (1-800 numbers) he was going on the road. Selling parts and pieces to dealers all over the region. John Georger completed his education with a degree in Business Administration in 1981 and started on the ground running... a natural salesman. By this time Bob Georger was president but had health issues and handed over the control to Christopher (kicking and screaming). Going to shows in NYC, Anaheim, Philadelphia, Vegas and Reno greeting and representing the Howard W. Georger Co. He also was going to the BWDA (BPSA) annual meetings and was voted President of that organization in 1989.
In the mid to late 1980's the industry had introduced a new category. Mountain Bikes! It was a blending of the multispeed bikes with the BMX racing resulting in a trend that is still dominating today. GT Bicycles was poised to go to the next level. From frames and forks in the 80's to complete 20" bikes and domestic manufacturing to sourcing in Asia, the mountain bike was a natural. By this time, GT had distribution with independent Distributors servicing USA. But also national distribution was coming on. West Coast Cycle, Raleigh, Peugeot, Western States Imports, Fuji, Service Cycle, QBP and others joined Schwinn selling across the nation while regional distribution was loosing ground.