Gary Santiago’s passion for cycling goes back to his childhood.
And what started as a “hobby sport” for him has turned into a 35-year career.
“He’s been in the bicycle business since he was 22,” said his wife, Bernie Santiago.
Today, the Santiagos are the owners of Skagit Cycle, with locations in Burlington, Anacortes and this summer, Oak Harbor.
Santiago said he’s long wanted to have a store in Oak Harbor and in recent years saw an opening for a bike shop in Oak Harbor.
“We saw a need for the market,” Santiago said.
The new shop will sell “all the hottest brands under one roof,” provide repairs and eventually offer rentals.
Santiago said he already has an ongoing relationship with Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and has periodically provided bicycles and repair services to the base’s recreation center.
“We see there’s growth here,” Santiago said. “There seems to be a lot of positive things happening in Oak Harbor.”
The hope is to provide a local hub for Whidbey cyclists who currently travel all the way to Anacortes or Burlington for repairs, as well as draw in new cyclists.
“We have a really dedicated clientele,” Santiago said.
When deciding between locations on State Highway 20 and Pioneer Way, Santiago said he took everything under consideration.
Santiago said he was aware that Pioneer has historically struggled to maintain businesses long term.
He said that he was initially concerned that parking might be an issue and that the location may make it difficult for customers to unload their bikes.
However, the Santiagos said they believe in downtown Oak Harbor and want to support it.
“Any slight negatives would not deter us from moving into an old historic building downtown,” Santiago said.
He hopes to keep the building, known by most as the “old pawn shop,” as “rustic as possible.”
Ultimately, the Santiagos hope their Skagit Cycle shop in Oak Harbor will become a big part of the community and its events.
“That’s really important to us,” Bernie Santiago said. “We really want to have that community feel.”
They added that they’ve been encouraged by the community’s response and said the city has been “very accommodating.”
Another bike repair shop was opened recently in Coupeville by former Island County sheriff’s deputy Mike Beech, who expressed concern that the Skagit Cycle shop may business from him.
Beech said he had originally planned to rent a retail space on Front Street but decided to “put the brakes on” and open in his garage until he could see how the market plays out.
Santiago said he doesn’t consider them as competition because “it all has a place in the bicycling industry” and that Coupeville’s cycling needs will likely be different than those of Oak Harbor.
“It’s all promoting cycling,” Santiago said.
The stores are different in that Coupeville Cycle and Sport will focus on repairs, rentals and selling refurbished bikes. Skagit Cycle specializes on higher-end bicycles and repairs.
Plus, Santiago said, “I would rather people come to one of us than go to a big box store.”
For more information, visit skagitcyclecenter.com