Island Cycles | Avon, NC
Island Cycles, a bicycle sales, rental and repair store, was started 19 years ago in Avon, North Carolina by John Lettieri. The idea for the store first came to John when he learned that his pastor at church had to go all the way to Nags Head to get his bike fixed. A light bulb went off and the business was started with just five bicycles and a handful of accessories. All sold immediately, tourists came in for rentals, and things took off.
The atmosphere of Island Cycles is friendly and customer-focused. John’s personal and professional customer service has been a driving force, and he often works late repairing bikes. “People are only here for a limited time on vacation. I am either doing a customer’s repair or working on our rentals,” he says.
“Most people don’t bring their bikes with them on vacation and we’re the only place in the area that offers a variety of bikes for rent – not just single-speed beach bikes,” adds Jill, John’s wife. “Even if people bring their own bikes, they often need a repair or an accessory. We have customers from around the country who only bring their bikes to John for service.”
Island Cycles was referred to the SBTDC through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) after Hurricane Irene hit in August 2011 – a crucial time for seasonal, tourism-focused businesses. A portion of highway 12 was lost in the Outer Banks, making it impossible to access Avon. John and Jill had evacuated, but it was more than two weeks before they were able to get back to Island Cycles to assess the damage.
The business did indeed suffer physical damage, as well as significant economic injury in lost sales due to the hurricane. The SBTDC’s Michael Twiddy assisted Island Cycles with preparing the application for an SBA disaster loan, and together they developed a loan strategy.
After submitting the loan application, the Lettieris needed to submit a letter of good standing from the NC Department of Revenue. “It takes 45 days to get this letter saying you are current with your taxes,” says Jill, “but the SBA application would expire in 14–21 days.” With much persistence, a call to the governor’s office, and help from Michael, Island Cycles received its letter in just 2 days. The business was approved for special SBA disaster financing. “The Governor did an excellent job through all of this disaster. I wrote her a letter thanking her for her support.”
Working with Michael and the SBTDC has allowed the Lettieris to feel more confident after enduring the hardships of Hurricane Irene. “Michael helped clarify the process, walk us through the steps, and ultimately survive the financial disaster,” says John. “We can look at our books and understand what all of it means. He put a lot of things into perspective.”
Now, equipped with the peace of mind that the SBA disaster loan provided, the Lettieris are faring well through the slow season and are ready for business to pick up in the spring. “Budgeting and planning is key,” says John. “With a seasonal business, it’s so important to have emergency funds. You never know what could happen.”
Story originally featured in the SBTDC’s 2011-2012 Annual Report.
More Client Stories from the Elizabeth City Area
[staff-directory cat=10 orderby=name order=asc]