40 years ago, Colorado salesman Eugene Kiefel — eager for a career change — was faced with the decision to either operate a Dairy Queen franchise or purchase a bike shop. Unbeknownst to Kiefel at the time, this seemingly routine career dilemma would set the course for not only the remainder of his own life but also for the lives of generations of his family members.
Luckily for the Kiefel family, Eugene chose the bike shop, investing a little under $5,000 to purchase the 750-foot store in the west Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge. Working side by side with his wife and three kids, Eugene steadily grew the shop over the next several decades — eventually transforming it into one of the largest and most successful bicycle retailers in the entire country.
Today the shop — Wheat Ridge Cyclery — is run by Eugene’s youngest son Ron, who took over as president and general manager after retiring from his career in professional road racing. Ron’s two sisters, Erlinda Stafford and Leona McCormick, are also partial owners and Eugene still plays an active role in the company.
The shop, which now occupies a 30,000 square foot facility, sells thousands of bikes every year and has used its successes to give back to the cyclists in its community.
Along with being members in several state and national cycling non-profits and advocacy groups, including Bicycle Colorado, the Colorado Mountain Bike Association and the Colorado High School Cycling League, Wheat Ridge Cyclery rewards its employees for participating in advocacy and community work. Specifically, staff are paid for up to 16 hours of volunteer work ranging from trail building to attending meetings to advocate for policy change to improve their community’s bicycle infrastructure.
The shop, which has been a Polar Bottle customer for years, has also been involved with the Ride the Rockies bike race since it started 25 years ago and sponsors several local cycling teams like the Colorado Cycling Team.
Part of Ron’s commitment to using his role at the shop to advocate for cyclists and improve the bike infrastructure in his community stems from the impact the shop and biking in general has had on his life.
“If it were not for my father buying that little bike shop, I might have never known I could become a successful pro athlete,” Ron said.
After earning enough money working at the shop to buy his first bicycle, Ron said he spent his adolescence exploring and adventuring by bike, which set the course for a racing career that eventually earned him medal in the 1984 Olympic Games and landed him a spot on the 7-Eleven Cycling Team — the first American team to race the Grand Tour of Europe.
“I was just enjoying the riding, but all that saddle time was honing my fitness in ways that became clear when one of the shop mechanics took me to my first race,” Ron said, explaining that doing well in that first race hooked him for life. “I don’t know if all this could have happened had my Dad not bought that bike shop!”