For Robert Braun, the purchase of Elmira Sports has given new meaning to the cyclical nature of business. Braun’s father, Willard, was working for his father in Kitchener alongside Lorne Martin in 1949. Martin eventually left to start his own cycling business in Elmira. Decades later Martin would become the landlord to his former bosses’ sons as they have acquired Elmira Sports which will become Braun’s is Bicycles in Elmira.
“It is so great to see everything come full circle,” said Robert Braun sitting in the middle of the sporting goods store.
The purchase has been a positive transition for the company. Former Elmira Sports owner Patrick Kyte will be staying on as the store manager, running the day-to-day operations at the Elmira store.
“I have always wanted to get into bicycles and when I started this business I couldn’t afford to get into it right away so I just stuck with what I knew, which was sporting goods, and I have been doing this for eight years,” said Kyte. “Over those years there wasn’t a day when someone wouldn’t come in here looking for a bike part, a tire or to buy a new bike. Everyone knew this place as a bike store.”
The time was just right for Kyte. Through a friend working at the Guelph Braun’s is Bicycles, he was put in touch with Robert Braun whose company was looking to get into selling hockey gear.
“It has worked out really well for both of us,” said Kyte.
What today is Braun’s is Bicycles began in 1925 when Kitchener’s Gordon and Grace Braun bought a business that sold and repaired bicycles and other assorted items. The couple worked hard and soon developed a very important business principle: “treat your customer as you would want to be treated.” Now 85 years later their business still carries on this heritage.
Over the years the business has grown to include three locations, with Elmira becoming the fourth.
“Where we are based now, our central hub is south of the downtown of Kitchener, we also have locations in Cambridge and in Guelph and this Elmira location sort of squares it off,” said Braun. “Elmira is a great community and deals with everything north of Kitchener and can feed off of north Waterloo as well.”
Braun said that when they’re considering adding another location to the business, he and his brother Roger do not just look for a great location but are interested in the people who work there as well.
“(Kyte) is a great guy and we wanted him on our team to manage up here and his experience in sporting goods and his knowledge of hockey, specifically, really caught our attention and he fit in with our team,” said Braun.
Expanding into hockey over the next year Braun will be relying on Kyte to help them grow their hockey expertise in the other stores.
“We started a little bit at the tail end of this last season and we will be doing a substantial amount of hockey next season,” said Braun. “We will be leaning on (Kyte) to help us grow that part of the business.”
Customers will not see a lot of changes to the store aside from a name change.
“Of course we will be bringing more bikes in. We are essentially taking what (Kyte) did and adding the bike component. That will be the biggest change to the store.”
Becoming a Braun’s is Bicycles, the Elmira store now has the ability to access $1.5 million of inventory.
“We import stuff from all over the world, some very unique stuff, and that is just not (possible) for a small store to do, but in our organization we have the infrastructure in place to handle it. It is all about synergy. We deal with the local strengths of staff and a lot of the times our staff move between stores which brings some community back and forth.”
This has been a very busy year for the business as both the Kitchener and Guelph locations have recently moved, creating flux.
Braun admits purchasing a new store during this time was not that easy.
“We’re nuts, there is no doubt about it,” he laughed. “But the opportunity was there, we knew we wanted to get into hockey and this store became available and (Kyte) was interested and the timing was just right. We are lucky to be able to take advantage of (Kyte’s) expertise and have him join our team and we are lucky that we get to stay in this corner of the world and operate here.”