It’s a cold, foggy day as I cross over the Lake St. Bridge into Saint Paul. Taking Summit up into the Cathedral hill area, I am struck at how much the area has expanded and grown. Having lived here just a year ago, the pace is surprising. As I wrestle with the bike, lock and snowbank (why are these still around?) I note the outside facade of Omnium and how fits it perfectly with it’s surrounding businesses. Inside, the shop is warm and inviting, with product laid out neatly and plenty of room to take a look around. A far cry from the ‘traditional’ shops full of nooks and cranny’s filled with forgotten treasures.
Dan Jacobsen offers me a free sample of Cheeky Monkey pastries, a sponsor for the new Omnium racing. After our discussion it becomes apparent that Omnium is well on it’s way to shaking up the shop game. If there is one word to describe his new endeavor, it’s this – class.
MM: So, how did the idea of Omnium come about?
DJ: I’ve worked for a local shop for about ten years. About three or four years ago, I started getting frustrated. I couldn’t move up any higher than I was, the product we were selling no longer represented what people were actually using and the shop had lost touch with local cycling. Even my boss was saying that I should try and look into starting a bike shop. About this time last year I was getting married and my father in-law, Martin Lacey, had always been talking about starting a bike shop. So last fall we looked into funding and that went really well and then we looked into leasing this [Shop Location on Selby] and that was pretty easy. Next thing I knew, we had funding and retail space and we were on our way to a bike shop. The big thing is that it’s a bike shop run entirely by people that give a shit about cycling. People that when you come in and say ‘I’m going to do a tour’ they respond with ‘Wow, that’s great! What are you doing, what do you think you need, etc…’ just really excited about cycling.
For example, I’m only stocking stuff that I stand behind and that I use. Due to that, I don’t stock Tri-bikes because I wouldn’t know what I was talking about. When I talk about a road bike, I know what I’m talking about.
MM: Why the location of Selby/Cathedral Hill area?
DJ: Martin and I both live in the area and didn’t have a local bike shop that met our needs.
MM: GP [Grand Performance]?
DJ: They do what they do really well, but I’ve never felt comfortable there. I never wanted to bring in my shitty commuter bike to get worked on there, just as I wouldn’t head into a commuter specific shop and ask for a 10-speed Campy chain. They’d probably just look at me terrified and not know what to do. In the immediate Cathedral Hill area there isn’t really an approachable shop that you can just go in and the staff are like ‘Hey, how are you doing?’. This neighborhood really responds to things like that.
MM: What is the rider/customer demographic that you’re going after?
DJ: Well, that’s part of the problem. With a lot of newer shops you see them really only going after one thing. We’re really looking for the serious, all around cyclist. People that really give a shit about bikes, [they] do everything. We really want to go after the high-end road market, the high-end commuter market. We really want to be the go-to shop for Cyclocross. We really want to be the top service shop. We want to go after all of those things and I think we can be all of those things. If you are racing yourself with all the local riders week in and week out, you understand what everyone uses and needs and can tell that to the customer. That’s what a lot of managers can’t do, because they aren’t apart of that. We’re all about the serious cyclist, and about making people into serious cyclists.
MM: Omnium Racing, the bread and butter. What’s sponsorship on your end look like, and what are the intentions of the team?
DJ: Literally I told everyone that I didn’t want a team this year. I wanted to have the shop first and then the next year expand into the team. Then Megan Kelly said, ‘I want to ride with you – don’t care about benefits just want a jersey’ and since she had all this energy I made her the president and she really took off with it. As far as sponsorship goes, a lot of the teams around the area get lacking support from their shops. It’s just another term for promotion for the shop, it’s not support in any way. Let’s say you crashed your bike on Saturday and wanted to race on Sunday – you’re shelling out a ton of cash to get that fixed and probably not even getting priority care from the shop’s mechanics. That’s the big thing was that we would offer real support to our racers, not just get them to buy things from us.
If their road bike has issues, I fix it right away. They get priority help and we get them back on the road. It’s not just a select few, anyone on the team gets the same help.
MM: Just what I understand from the strength of your squad, it’s no slouch. Megan Kelly, Anthony Kwan, Alex Matson, Ken Hum, the Cat 3 train of pain coming over from GP – you’re not just going to start this year, you’ll probably end up winning some races.
DJ: Yeah, exactly. I think that just says that there are a lot of local racers that aren’t happy with their current sponsorships. If it doesn’t cost me anything more, really, to get them back up and running and keep their bikes in top shape then it’s the least I can do. If they’re promoting me at the race but are unable to race due to mechanicals, what good does that do me? If they’re all set up and good to go they’re going to promote the shop better than they could otherwise.
MM: Three goals for the team? And what do you think of the St. Paul racing scene?
DJ: I think it’s really expanding. With the Capitol Criterium [put on by Shamrocks Racing] set up as the State Criterium Championship for the next two years, Omnium has come on to sponsor it to promote St. Paul racing. As far as the three goals, the first is to *actually* provide support for the team and it’s members. The second to be present at races and events as to promote local cycling and the third is just to make it fun (Good times).
MM: Just wrapping up, what do you think the future holds for Omnium?
DJ: World Domination. Seriously though, I really did want to shake things up a bit. There are these shops that have been around forever and there is a need for new shops to just come in and change up the game. That’s what we’re going to do.
Thanks Dan for taking the time to talk with the Musette. This is part one of a two part series on Omnium Bike, the second will focus on co-owner and founder Martin Lacey.
Omnium Bike’s grand opening will take place on April 16th, but is currently open for business at 520 Selby Ave St. Paul, MN