Learn about Florida Entrepreneur Al and Heather Goenner:
Surviving the one year mark in business is something worth celebrating. Being in business for a decade is an accomplishment very few can claim. Western Bike, now owned by Al and Heather Goenner, is celebrating four decades in business. Since 1978, when Joe and Caroline Goenner, Al's parents, and Alfred Goenner, Al's grandfather, first opened Western Auto, the predecessor to Western Bike, the Goenner family has been providing the residents of Naples with quality bicycles, rentals, repairs, trade-ins and a certain level of customer service you'd expect from a three-generation business spanning 40 years.
We spoke with Heather Goenner who shared the history of Western Bike and why she and her husband ultimately purchased the business.
"When Joe, Caroline and Alfred first opened the business in 1978, it was known as Western Auto," she said. "They always had bikes, but back then, they focused more on servicing and providing supplies and accessories for vehicles. When the Sears Auto Center came to Naples, they changed the name to Western Bike and focused exclusively on bicycles. As you can imagine, Al pretty much grew up in the business. When we bought the business eleven years ago, it was a pretty natural transition."
At the time, Al was a certified residential appraiser. Heather worked at a church day care. Al was destined to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and parents, but the residential market crash of 2008 was the real impetus for Al and Heather's decision to purchase the business. In 2010, Heather quit her day job with the church to help Al with the day-to-day operations of the business. Al and Heather have worked hard to preserve and build upon Western Bike's outstanding reputation, but they've also put their own touches on the business.
"A few years ago, we purchased the building directly across the street from where the shop stood since 1981," she said. "Prior to that we'd been renting. We wanted to own something and it gave us twice the square footage. It's also a free-standing building, rather than being in a strip mall. Trying to get approval for the commercial loan was a challenge, but we got through it. We recently installed new doors that automatically slide open when you approach them. Aside from that, we've increased our social media presence and, thanks to a story in ENcompass Magazine, we saw a spike in bike sales."
Heather, who works the front counter, does paperwork, sells bikes and serves as the point person for events, shared her feelings about being an entrepreneur and running a business. "It's super scary to start or buy a business, but the flexibility it provides you is priceless," she said. "We have three kids. Kids get sick a lot. The perks are that, if the kids get sick, they can come with me to work. It makes life a lot easier."
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