Harrison’s Cycle Haus: Cycling through seasons
-September 14th, 2017
Teri and Russell Riberich have set out to ride a path to economic vitality with the small community of Harrison, Idaho, on the southern shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
The Riberiches, owners of Harrison Cycle Haus Corp., which does business as The Cycle Haus Bikes & Brews, say activity in their small town is rising. They point to an increase in visitors in recent years and an initiative to market Harrison, population 267, as a year-round destination.
With winter approaching, the Riberiches are promoting a “we’re open” attitude for the coming snowy months in this off-the-beaten-path lakeside community.
Since purchasing Cycle Haus bike shop, pub, café, and espresso bar in March of 2016, the Riberiches have made significant renovations and have added to their Bavarian-themed menu.
They’re also capitalizing on the nearby Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, the 72-mile paved bike and pedestrian path that spans the Idaho Panhandle, between Plummer at the west end and Mullan to the east.
With backgrounds as teachers, the Riberiches were looking for something to supplement their educator income when they moved to Harrison from Colorado in 2003.
“We were dirt-poor kids trying to figure out how to make extra revenue on top of our teaching careers,” Russell says. That’s when they struck up a conversation with the former owners who decided to sell the business, located at 100 N. Coeur d’Alene, which is on the town’s quaint main street.
“We saw that there was a steady decline in the business,” Russell says. “We decided we could reinvent the business. The overall idea was that as the trail became more widely known as a destination, to use that to our advantage.”
Today, Teri’s teaching career is on hiatus while she focuses on the couple’s business interests, while Russell teaches government and history at nearby St. Maries High School.
Russell, who also has a construction background, says he’s a “silent partner” who focuses on maintenance and upkeep, not the daily operation.
The Riberiches have six full-time employees during the peak season—three bike mechanics and three barista/tap tenders. They believe that’s an impressive workforce for a Harrison establishment.
“Our employees are like family,” Teri says.
Cycle Haus bike mechanic Jerry Lebsack, a retired Vietnam veteran, concurs.
“I’ve lived in Harrison 12 years, and last year was the first time that I felt a sense of community and belonging,” Lebsack says.
Harrison Chamber of Commerce President John Phiele says business owners like Teri and Russell are making a difference to the economic health of the town.
“The willingness to gamble on Harrison and invest in our future like Teri and Russell have done is tremendously important,” Phiele says. “It contributes to a thriving future to make Harrison a wonderful and vibrant destination. We are seeing growth and great things in our town.”
The Riberiches plan to keep Cycle Haus open through the winter, joining only a handful of Harrison businesses that stay open during the off-season.
The couple will have to scale back their staff, however, and they expect to operate their business mostly on their own, with Teri mostly holding down the fort.
“Our goal is to create Harrison as a ‘we’re open year-around’ community,” Russell says.
Adds Teri, “We were amazed last winter at how many people are still traveling through.”
While they decline to disclose sales figures, they say their growing business is paying the bills.
“We’re not walking away rich by any means,” Russell says.
Teri notes, however, that the business is still in its infancy.
“What we noticed is the genuine joy people experience in discovering us, and they can’t wait to share our business with their friends,” she says. “We know that will not only help our business to grow but Harrison to prosper as a whole.”
Word-of-mouth advertising attracts business from within the community, but the Riberiches also bask in their location near the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, which attracts visitors from across the country and around the world, Teri says.
“We’ve had people passing through on cross-country trips. One lady was (cycling) from Portland to Boston,” she says. “We had another family from Holland and another family from Germany. They’re people from all over the world that are attracted to the trail and the lake.”
While Cycle Haus caters mostly to bicyclists during the warmer months, Teri expects a good mix of visitors “just passing through” over the winter, looking to dine, drink a hot latte, or enjoy a craft beer.
Referring to the food menu, Russell says, “We try to keep our menu German flavored—from Bavarian pretzels to German ’dogs; it’s a cultural experience.”
The Riberiches advocate a strong sense of community and a desire to contribute to its economic growth.
Teri, a volunteer at the Harrison Chamber of Commerce, initiated and oversees Music in the Park, a weekly summer event that hosts a diverse roster of musicians and often attracts hundreds of people.
The couple also started Oktoberfest a decade ago, a fundraiser for the Harrison Chamber of Commerce.
The Bavarian-themed event initially attracted about 200 people. Last year, it was attended by more than 1,500 festival goers, making it one of the biggest revenue raisers for the small chamber.
“That’s huge for Harrison,” Teri says.