PORT HAWKESBURY: Earlier this month, the ribbon was cut to officially open Highland Bike Shop in Port Hawkesbury.
Owner Matthieu Fraser said he and his staff are happy to bring their expertise to Cape Breton.
“Port Hawkesbury is a funneling spot for anyone looking to come to Cape Breton, and the island is a big area,” Fraser said, taking a break from bike repairs to chat with The Reporter last Wednesday afternoon.
“There’s been a lot of initiative from the town itself to get people and small businesses going. The hope is that we can extend our range out even more: Margaree, St. Peter’s, and Baddeck.
“We’re not too far from our main location so that we can still get product back and forth. And it’s a beautiful place.”
Fraser wasn’t joking about the beauty. From his store front, located at 3 Water Street, he has an expansive view of the Port Hawkesbury waterfront.
The Antigonish shop has been open since 2013 and owned by Fraser since 2016. He started there as an employee, following an eclectic background that saw him work in retail, assemble bicycles at Canadian Tire, lobster fish, and cycle across Canada.
Fraser recollected that his cross-country bike trip was truly an experience to remember, and it all started with a flight to Nanaimo, B.C. He cycled back from there.
“It took me a good couple months – just under two months – and it was one of the best experiences I even had,” he said. “I got to see all of the country. You get highs and lows every day, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
He noted that, in some ways, the trip was not unlike business ownership.
“There are a lot of ups and downs with business ownership, and the bad days can be tough, but the good days have you talking to new people and making friends,” he said.
“It’s controlled chaos, but it’s at least all based off what I can do.”
The Port Hawkesbury location offers customers the opportunity to have bikes repaired, to buy new bikes, and to check out cycling accessories and clothing. With that, Fraser is hoping to roll out bike rentals next month.
The store will be open until October, but the plan is to reopen in the spring.
A good working relationship with the folks at Keppoch Mountain allows the Antigonish location to remain open 12 months straight. Activities like hiking and snow showing at Keppoch allow Highland Bike Shop to offer additional services.
Fraser has three people working with him, divided between the two locations. His staff members, Fraser said, know their way around most anything bike-related.
He added that staff members, himself, and all others attending the May 5 grand opening had a great time. The day included a visit by Strait Area Chamber of Commerce members, hotdogs and cake, and a bike ride through town for youngsters.
“You have to have a community-based outlook to be successful,” he said.
Having Highland Bike Shop coming to town is a good fit for Port Hawkesbury, especially considering the planned changes to the area, said Eirinn Fraser, the project coordinator for Destination Reeves Street.
“With the mention of Destination Reeves Street, we’ve had a great deal of interest in this community,” Eirinn said. “Matt had heard about the fact that we were putting an active transportation lane on Reeves Street, and the initial contact was for Matt to get some information about that.
“It’s wonderful to have the bike shop come in, the active transportation lane coming, and the Town of Port Hawkesbury being chosen for the Blue Route. The combination of all of that goes together well.”
The Blue Route is a province-wide initiative to create a continuous network of bicycling infrastructure.