In a cookie-cutter box-shaped building off Ventura Avenue, there sits a bicycle shop known as Shigy’s Bike Works. Wheels of varying sizes and girths hang from the ceiling in the front window; frames are stacked in various stages of assembly along the walls. Alongside the chains and gears, packages of Shigy’s Roast await a good grinding and brewing. The craftsmanship exhibited in owner Shigy Suzuki’s custom bikes and coffee have garnered the man and his business a cult following in Old Town Ventura that far exceeds the size of the shop.
“There are supermarket bikes and then there are good bikes,” said Suzuki, who has owned and operated Shigy’s Bike Works for close to four years. “There are many types of road racing bike: team racing types, individual racing types, beach cruisers. I don’t ride beach cruisers.”
Shigy prides himself on his minimalist marketing technique. A quick Google search will show a listing for Shigy’s, but no Faceboook and no Twitter. Rather, Shigy is unique in a modern world of technology — he gets by on word of mouth.
“Fifty percent of my customers, we know each other. Other half, they come here for some reason — by chance or someone told them,” he says. English being his second language, he maintains his Japanese accent.
Most of the bikes in Shigy’s shop are assembled and ready for purchase, though a few sit in boxes waiting for his touch. All are unique — tires are slim or wide for off-road or on, frames are slim to become more aerodynamic or braced by suspensions for mountain trails. All are hand-built by Shigy himself.
“The bicycle industry is really strange. Huffy, in the 1980s, make nice bike,” says Suzuki. “Same as Schwinn. Their quality was really high. Once they went bankrupt, the quality was determined by the owner. Schwinn was an American product, but it was sold to China and they make junk bike. Now it’s sold to Costco and big supermarket. They don’t have any experience, just part-time kids assembling and selling.”
Suzuki came to the U.S. in 1994 from his home in Tokyo. As a chef in Thousand Oaks, Shigy became entranced with biking as a way to get and stay fit after his company began a bicycling program.
“I was kind of chubby, I was smoking and I was living not good lifestyle,” said the slim Suzuki. “Eventually, I wanted to join race for a healthy lifestyle.”
Part of that healthy lifestyle included becoming a picky eater and drinker, as is apparent with Shigy’s own personalized line of coffee. In the window sit several packages of Shigy’s Coffee available for purchase, roasted personally for Suzuki by Moore Roasters on the Avenue.
“I like eating. Same as sports,” said Suzuki. “If we like to eat, we tend to be more picky. Naturally, we want to get better quality food or coffee. In the early ’90s, I was so happy about Starbucks, but recently people cannot drink nice coffee because their business is more cream, sugar, mixed stuff,” he says with a look of contempt. “Please, just pure coffee.”
Suzuki began his search for local roasters to please his evolving palate.
“Most of the coffee shops don’t do it. Now I don’t buy coffee, I drink by myself.”
If becoming a member of Shigy’s cult following is the goal, Suzuki offers a bit of advice.
“Most people want to go next step to next step, but there is a lot of work,” said Suzuki. “Sports is not only equipment. We will train harder and harder to reach our next goal, but we have to be determined.”
Suzuki’s history of training for triathlons and various races has given him a unique perspective on riding, and an unrivaled work ethic.
As a customer walked through the door, Suzuki greeted him as a potential member of the fan club. “Quality job at a reasonable price.”
Visit Shigy’s Bike Works at 454 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura.