When John and Angela Harvey’s Green Machine opened last April in a storefront that formerly housed an antique shop, their bike and ski shop was one of the few new businesses to open in downtown Norway recently. Since then, the Bethel couple has had a big year, starting with a warm reception from the town followed by the birth of their first child and a conversion to a ski tuning shop for the winter. Norway’s new entrepreneurs spoke about their backgrounds in biking and skiing and why the couple, who met in Portland and live in Bethel, chose Norway for their business.
Name: John Harvey
Occupation: Co-owner of Green Machine Bike Shop
Are you from Norway? Actually, we live in Bethel. When we met, we both worked in Portland. We both worked in a lot of bike and ski shops. Back in 1998 I started working in a ski shop, so it’s something I’ve always had something to do with. Angela and I met working for L.L. Bean 15 years ago. I was a bike mechanic in the retail store and Angela was selling bikes and skis on the sales floor. We ended up going to Jackson Hole and ski bummed around there for a while. We ended up settling on Bethel as a nice ski town that was back in Maine where our family is. We’ve owned a construction company for the last 10 years. I’ve done timber frames and excavation and that kind of stuff. We had a really good time the first seven years, and the last three years it hasn’t been as successful. We figured, “What do we know how to do? We’re too old to learn to do something else.”
Why did you choose downtown Norway? We like the appeal of the history of Main Street here. And doing some quick demographic research, there seemed to be just enough population to support one little bike shop, in theory. It was just some quick math. We love Bethel. It’s a great place, but there’s so few people that actually live there it’s hard to support a year-round business.
How has the first year in business been? The first few years for any new business are hard, but it’s been good. Our philosophy here is that we’re all about the repair aspect of the business and the service end. We’re trying to build on that. I have a lot of experience in the bike and ski industries. The idea is to focus on quality work and that the sales will build. Sometimes I tell people we’re more of a repair shop that sells bikes rather than the other way around.
We have our repair area, which is where I spend most of my time in the summer. To keep with that theme, we bought this ski tuning equipment, a stone grind ski tuner set up here to do high quality ski tunes. What we’re doing to get our retail skis off the ground is we just bought a fleet of demo skis. We’re specializing in telemark and back country gear. There are a lot of tele skiers out there, but a lot of them are on older gear, so we want to get people on some of the new stuff.
You’ll be renting out skis? Yeah. We’re going to charge $40 a day to try out the latest, greatest tele skis. We’re going to have four different models available for women and men in the various sizes. And that $40 will go directly toward the purchase of skis. You can demo as many times as you want until you end up owning a pair if you wanted to. That will give people an opportunity to try them out and also let us get a little bit of buzz going.
How did having your first baby fit in to all of it? It’s been a great year. It’s been busy, but it’s been fun. The timing of having Anna was pretty good as far as it was toward the end of the bike season, so we closed up for a month. When we reopened, the plan was just to stay focused and get this ski business off the ground.
Has the plan always been to be a bike shop in the summer and a ski shop in the winter? That was our dream. It was about a year ago that we actually decided that we were going to start a bike shop. We were really totally focused on that the whole summer and getting that going. One of the first things we did was get the logo done. (The shop’s logo is a yin and yang, with the silhouette of a cyclist on one half and a skier on the other.) I definitely always had skiing in my mind, but at that time we weren’t sure what we were going to do in the winter, depending on what the success of the bike shop was. If it wasn’t that great, I was thinking I might have to get a job in the winter. We felt comfortable taking the risk of investing again. We’re lucky. The skiing’s great right now.