It’s always sad to hear of a pub closing, but the Seven Stars on East Street, Farnham, which closed its doors back in 2011, is being reborn this weekend as the next best thing: a bike shop.
Hoops Velo opens on Saturday October 26 and is the brainchild of Gary Bird, who owns nearby East St Cycles. But while East St is a general bike shop, Hoops Velo will concentrate exclusively on road bike, which even in the Age of the MAMIL makes it unusual.
Gary says the idea is to provide an inviting, thoroughly modern shop that offers great service from properly trained staff, personal advice, bike fitting, spacious changing rooms with lots of mirrors, and a ‘dream bike’ custom building service. And free coffee, which makes up for the premises no longer serving beer.
It doesn't hurt that Gary's making a point of being good at things that you can't get from an online retailer, but he says that's not the sole aim.
"The brief I gave the design team was that I wanted people to almost consider visiting this particular store as an event. Like you would Hamleys or Selfridges for example, albeit on a regional level," says Gary. "The shop looks terrific and certainly all the sales reps who've visited pull out smart phones and start snapping away.
"You can visit Hoops, drop your bike off for a quick tune up for the weekend century ride, catch up with work on our wi-fi, and have a cup of coffee while the Tour is on in the background on TV. This you cannot do online."
Gary says he and his team are also making an effort to properly serve women riders. "Considering the massive increase of women cycling we have to be female-friendly. We've included a range of carefully selected female apparel and we're sensitive to the fact that many women find bicycle shops to be intimidating and staffed by patronising staff."
The shop will stock bikes from Felt, Cube, Cannondale, Bianchi, Legend, and Volagi, plus clothing and accessories from Mavic, Castelli, Giro, Bont, 3T, BeCool, Catlike Helmets, Continental, DeFeet, Prologo and lots more.
And if free coffee weren’t enough of an incentive, the first 100 customers through the door on Saturday will get entered into a prize draw to win a £175 Gore Bike Wear Power GT AS jacket.
For more about Hoops Velo check out the Hoops Velo Facebook page.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.