Few things complement each other as well as bikes and coffee. The crew at Laguna Cyclery have mastered this concept. However, don't show up expecting to enjoy a "mocha frappa whippeo" while bumming some Wi-Fi. Quite the contrary. Laguna Bikes is the kind of bike shop with decades of nostalgia decorating the walls and a passionate, knowledgeable, friendly staff.
More and more, the bicycle retail experience feels cookie-cutter and sterile-- a bit like a Crate and Barrel with bikes and the smell of rubber. The creative and individual shop style has been replaced with fancy counter tops and gallons of white paint. There was a time not too long ago when shops separated themselves from their competition by putting a professional foot forward presenting themselves with a streamlined appearance and miles and miles of slatwall. Somewhere between 1993 and 1999, this became the look everyone strived for and now, there's a backlash that has given the shops of yore a warmth and charm that sets them apart from the crowds.
Laguna Cyclery rests a few steps from the Pacific ocean. The golden glare of the midday sun taunts those from places east, as the sobering realization takes hold that Laguna Beach's weather is ideal for cycling 12 months a year.
When I step out of the hot western sun and into the doors of the shop, the initial sensation was that I had been whisked thousands of miles away, into a remote dry goods shop in Vermont. The charm of Laguna Cyclery's aged wood, exposed and lofty attic, and plank-covered walls give the shop the feeling of an old-world barn, a classic simplicity one would find in New England. And a feeling that is just as warm as the golden sun.
When visiting shops there is no formula that equates to bicycle retail greatness, so I look for shops that motivate me, stir memories from my cycling journey, and enlighten me to see the sport from new aspects and vantage points. In bike shops, often a great experience for me is driven by the attitude of the staff, the decorations on the wall, or the bikes and products they choose to sell.
To a cyclist, Laguna Cyclery holds hidden gems everywhere. Dig into the nooks and crannies and there before you resides a treasure trove of machines and gear from days of old, stuff that you have ridden, wished you could have ridden, or items currently residing on your "if I only had a few extra bucks" list. Look more closely and you are sure to find at least one, "I never should have sold that" item. This shop is passion from floor to ceiling, adorning the attic and atop benches. When you visit, do yourself a favor and allot ample time to take in the entire experience and completely absorb the shop's subtleties.
There is a clear PRO influence at Laguna. Their main frame lines represent the best of the best: Pinerello, Colnago, Willer, Cervelo, and Time. If you stroll through their blog, you see a smattering of each marquee built in various forms and price points...some SRAM, some Shimano (even a Di2 kit way ahead of the Shimano production schedule). When in the shop, however, the team's love for Campagnolo is undeniable.
There is no question, the gear inside the shop is top-notch and qualifies Laguna Cyclery as a PRO shop, but stopping there would only scratch the surface and highlight the superficial aspects of the shop. Need to know a great riding route? Advice on selecting a training tire? Need an opinion on SRAM vs. Shimano? The crew here has it and they will take the time needed to make sure your riding experience is better when you exit the shop than when you entered it. The entire staff in the shop is passionate about our sport and as friendly as they are approachable.
Laguna Cyclery's products are not limited to exclusive high-end kits. Laguna offers bikes at price points that suit everyone from beginner to PRO. Beyond pricing, what Laguna does so well is treat each rider, no matter the experience or budget, like a fellow cyclist. It's this approach to cycling that separates great shops from good ones and builds a wicked local riding scene that endures. Laguna has been around since 1971 and, without question, has helped shape the area's cycling scene.
I mentioned at the start of this post that I don't employ a formulaic approach when highlighting shops; however, there is one business formula that I have seen deliver success time and time again: Foster the love for cycling in all of your customers. This formula is simple and basic, but crazy when considering how often it's overlooked.
Drop by Laguna Cyclery, bring your sunscreen, and your passion for bikes. Look deep inside the shop and talk to the staff. If you are a local to the shop, drop by and buy a tube, introduce yourself, and see what the excitement is all about. If you're lucky, maybe they'll offer you an espresso while you take in the sights.
240 Thalia Street
Laguna Beach, CA
The photos featured in this post were shot in February 2009 just prior to a massive renovation but, rest assured, the passion and the feel of the shop remain firmly in place.