words and photos by Ilenia Pezzaniti
A carnivalesque popcorn machine sits beside the counter. Crotch-shaped seats cling to the wall nearby. Rows upon rows of bikes hang upside down like bats. Some stand tidily, their front wheels wedged between metal rods that keep them separated. A “Beware of Killer Dachshund!” sign is tacked to a back wall, despite there being no actual dog in sight. Blimp City Bike and Hike Bike Shop, a family business that’s relied mostly on word of mouth by Akron’s citizens, has a sense of playfulness, embodying the adventurous nature they propose.
It all started with Akronite Andy Bixenstine “skibummin’” in Vail, Colorado. Home for the summers, he’d work at Century Cycles in Medina, fueling his love for mechanical apparatuses. He’d take home “dead bikes”, aka donated bikes, and fix them up. “Growing up, I loved Legos. Disassemble. Reassemble. Do it as you’re supposed to or do it your own way. That kind of tinkering kinda just kinda fits. Then it goes along with the fact that I actually like cycling as well,” Andy said. Andy has over 30 bikes of his own.
Ready to pursue his dream after working at other outdoor sports realms, Andy left his initial idea of combining a ski and bike shop, settling on two wheels. Now the General Manager, with the help of his stepfather and shop owner, Michael Purdy, they’ve been open for seven years. Michael, who worked as a North American sales rep traveling the country, “shopped around” bike shops the first few seasons. In October 2009, they found their first building. By Black Friday, doors opened in the Merriman Valley.
Andy and Michael are proud to be located in Akron and want to see the city thrive. “Akron has a lot of potential and it’s a little painful to see how slow progress moves in this area but at the same time, my enthusiasm for bikes, my enthusiasm for skiing- I have the same enthusiasm for the potential this area has. After living in a resort city like Vail, an area that’s pretty walkable, you come back here and, you know, we’re very auto-centric. We’re behind the times on that kind of stuff. My passion for Akron is to see it grow.”
With a small staff, the two of them plus a contracted mechanic, the guys can find busy season challenging, bringing in over 200 bikes, “Sometimes it’s a struggle to take care of everybody properly. And if you can’t do that, what’s the point? No matter how much money you make, if you can’t take care of people because they didn’t like your service they’re not coming back,” Andy said. “The nice thing is, it always works out. I think it’s because Michael and I make a good team. I keep it kinda enthusiastic, and he keeps it real. A good balance.”
Michael’s favorite part is interacting with the customers, “I love coming in here every day,” he said.
“The coolest part of the job? Well it’s just playing with bikes all day instead of calling it work,” Andy said.
May is their busiest month. Pay them a visit at their new location. Ya buy a bike, ya get a free t-shirt.
1675 Merriman Road
Akron, OH 44313