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Cycling through: Emmaus entrepreneurs adjust

Emmaus entrepreneurs Chad and Heather Balliet have been dealing with the pandemic-induced challenges faced by many Lehigh Valley small businesses. For them, it has disrupted their South Mountain Cycle & Café shop in contradictory ways.

Business has increased significantly for the bicycle shop, but the Balliets decided to shutter the café until it is safer to reopen that part of their enterprise. In the meantime, as a measure of community spirit, they refer their café customers to another local coffee shop.

Founded in 2013, the Emmaus-based South Mountain Cycle now provides curbside service in front of the building they purchased a year-and-a-half ago. The broad sidewalk also provides them with an outdoor showroom for the road, mountain, hybrid and BMX bicycles they have for sale. According to the Balliets, they have products for professional cyclists, as well as for families who are interested in bikes for recreation.

The shop owners and employees trot out several bicycles for sale around a pop-up canopy where curbside customer service is transacted. The bikes get wheeled back into the building at closing time to be sanitized and readied for the next day’s business. This is where customers will drop off bicycles for tune-ups and repairs.

Face masks are encouraged for the couple’s curbside service area.

The Balliets express frustration with the “new normal” routine, but figure it is less disruptive than having to disinfect the entire showroom and café area inside on a daily basis.

Chad explains that the greatest challenge they are dealing with is a huge world-wide increase in demand for bicycles, while the supply chain struggles to keep up. Both are symptoms of the pandemic. With many commuters fearful of using public transportation or workers now working at home for their employers, purchasing a bicycle for work or exercise is an attractive option. This is especially true for those who have had their fitness centers shut down.

For clients who are waiting for bicycles on backorder, “We’ve made it a point to make sure that we follow up with every customer,” says Heather.

Heather related that on the plus side, while both their businesses were shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, they found the time to teach Melvin, their 4-year-old son, how to ride a two-wheeler.

When they are not working at the cycle shop, accompanied by Diesel Rose, their 10-year-old chocolate lab, Chad serves as an Emmaus Borough councilman and Heather is a board member of Emmaus Main Street Partners and Friends of the 1803 House.

“We love our town,” says Chad, as he mourns the difficulties plaguing neighboring small businesses brought on by COVID-19.

South Mountain Cycle & Café, 318 Main St., Emmaus, Hours: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday, Closed Sunday. Information: www.southmountaincycle.com; 610-967-4490

PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIER Chad and Heather Balliet inside South Mountain Cycle & Café, along Main Street, Emmaus.