Ross Horsley had a passion for bikes and cycling long before opening up his own bike shop. Middletown seemed like a great location to open his shop and after careful consideration, he made the decision to open Middletown Cycling in 2012 as an outlet for all things cycling.
He was confident in his ability to succeed, given that he had previous experience and success working with and selling bikes.
“In retail, it’s not necessarily all about the best and the brightest,” Horsley says. “I’m a good sales guy because I’m honest.”
He readily admits that salesmen often get a bad reputation as being pushy or obnoxious. According to Horsley, those kinds of salesmen are the ones who don’t admit when they don’t know something.
“If you don’t know the product, you should admit to that,” he says. “Tell them you don’t know but that you’ll find out for them.”
When clients come into the shop, Horsley starts by asking what they envision doing with their bike. He then presents them with three options, invites them to take test rides, and asks which bike they see in their garage.
“I just make it simple for people because if I don’t simplify it, someone online will,” he says.
He’s found that most customers appreciate the salesman taking charge.
“They want you to make their problem your problem, and I don’t mind leading the ship,” Horsley says. “I’m way more into people than things.”
That attitude was born 21 years ago when he spent the turn of the century in Africa. He was 13 years old at the time, and he recalls interacting with various tribesmen during which he learned a thing or two about human interaction. Even now, more than two decades years later, he has vivid memories of watching tribesmen haggle with customers when selling their spears and jewelry. The image stuck with him as he opened his cycling business.
“One of the things that separates Middletown Cycling from other shops is that I make sure that on higher-end stuff, we offer the best deals,” Horsley says. “Therefore, I spend a lot of time negotiating so we can bring the best value to people.”
The shop’s initial size was 1,000 square feet until Horsley expanded it by acquiring the space next door. Now he’s up to 3,600 square feet, allowing for lots of room for inventory. This means he’s able to sell youth, pre-owned, hybrid and comfort, road, and electric bicycles, among other kinds. In addition, the shop sells apparel, shoes, helmets and gloves, as well as accessories including bells, baskets, bottles, pumps, saddles, locks and more.
The store also offers full-service repairs. Quick repairs do not require a scheduled appointment. Not only do they sell both new and used bikes, but they also include a one-year maintenance package on all new bikes purchased.
Besides being a salesman, Horsley is also an entrepreneur at heart and was eager to get involved in other projects. He recently opened a pawn shop called Middletown Trading Co., which offers customers new items every day. He asked Nira Kinkhabwala, who relocated to America from India, to be his business partner, as she had previously acted as store manager at Middletown Cycling. Recently the pair opened a new bike shop location called Middle of Town Cycling.
Horsley is happiest when he has his hands in many different pots. That’s why he’s also part owner of a shrimp farm in Florida – the biggest producer of breeder shrimp worldwide.
“I was raised egalitarian,” says Horsley, who admits that though many people thrive on structure, he finds rules stifling.
“As the company gets bigger, that’s not scalable,” he says. “I want to get bigger and make more money, but I also want to love what I do every day, and I love my customers.”
One reason he’s eager to make more money is because he’s committed to sharing the prosperity. He does a great deal of charitable giving to entities like Big Brothers Big Sisters and Little Hands, Little Feet gun safety program, among other area organizations.
“Pretty much anyone who comes in and asks for help, I’ll give it if it’s a positive thing,” Horsley says.
For example, he donates to a group that protects ferrets that are abused as they are used to train attack dogs. He’s also an advocate of “Keep Louisville Weird,” a slogan that has been adopted locally to encourage folks to support small area businesses.
“My big thing is to put your money where your mouth is,” Horsley says. “If I’m going to ask people to support me, I want to support them as much as I possibly can.”
Though the cycling business is a relatively small industry, the pandemic served to propel sales in way Horsley never thought possible.
“I didn’t see that coming,” he says of the sharp increase in business.
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t prepared. Prior to the lockdowns, he was heavily stocked on inventory compared to most retailers.
“Before the pandemic, I had 300 bikes in stock under $500,” says Horsley, who worked for 90 days straight without coming up for air. “I was so stressed out, but at the end of the day we put a ton of bicycles out and made a bunch of people happy. Honestly, I think we came out 10 times stronger as a store.”
“It’s been unreal,” adds Kinkhabwala of COVID-19 sales. “E-commerce has been good to us as we’ve taken our business online. We have changed because people have changed their buying habits.”
For instance, if a customer can’t find the bike they are looking for, Horsley and Kinkhabwala are often able to provide it.
“We are a pro dealer with Giant so we get dibs on inventory,” Kinkhabwala says. “We’ve always had a lot of inventory, but we were happy to get our hands on so much great merchandise.”
Horsley, who has three children with his wife Coury, is focused on providing a store for everyone, whether you’re a customer who is price-conscious and in the market for a used bike to take a spin around the neighborhood, or whether you want to race in an Ironman triathlon.
“There’s something for everyone here,” Horsley says. “Our goal is for everyone who steps inside to find a bicycle that fits their needs and improves their lifestyle.”
Middletown Cycling is located at 11519 Shelbyville Road, and Middle of Town Cycling is located at 2140 Gardiner Lane, in Louisville. For more information, call 502-384-0770 or 502-882-2453, and visit middletowncycling.com.