Bicycle business expanded in 2010 by going back to its Providence roots
CHAIN OF COMMAND: Caster's Bicycles and Fitness owner Reed Caster, center, is the third-generation owner of the shop. He's pictured above with salesperson John Schmidt, left, and mechanic James Groh.
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
By Michael Souza PBN Staff Writer
Caster, the owner, is proud about the history of the shop. And why not? The business was started by his grandfather, who at first sold Henderson, Excelsior and Indian motorcycles and Schwinn and Raleigh bicycles.
“In 1919, the store was on Broad Street in Providence. This was when downtown Providence was the commercial-retail district in the state,” he said. The store stayed at that location for the better part of 40 years, but by the 1950s his father, Ken, ran the company and could see the spread of suburbia radiating out of the city.
“That was at about the time the Midland (now Rhode Island) Mall was built,” said Reed Caster. In 1965, his father decided to move to Warwick, where he built his own store, then later moved to a different Warwick location in 1975.
In 1981, Caster’s father died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 58, leaving the son, who was graduating the University of Rhode Island, to tend to the shop with his mother and sister. By 1990, he purchased it outright.
After spending 46 years in Warwick, the company’s return to its roots in Providence began just recently, when Trek Bicycle Corp., of Waterloo, Wis., was looking for a presence in Providence.
“My wife and I … talked about having another location in the past. We thought about Providence for a while before we decided to toss our hat in the ring,” Caster said. He also believes the location on the upper East Side of Providence is an advantage, although he didn’t think that at first.
“It was 2009-2010 and people thought it was a gutsy move, opening a second store in a difficult economy. At the time, Rhode Island was vying with Michigan for the highest unemployment rate in the country. We not only survived but saw an increase in business because of the store’s location,” he said.
“We have extended our reach. We now draw people out of Swansea, Seekonk, North Providence, Pawtucket, Lincoln and Smithfield. Now when people look to see our location they realize it’s much closer than Warwick,” Caster said.