After years of managing Muskoka Bike Pro Shop, Dale Wenger along with his wife Emma Schofield have become its new owners.
Twenty-three years ago, Fred and Caroline van den Bulk purchased the Muskoka Bicycle Pro Shop after moving to Muskoka from the Netherlands. Caroline was a teacher and Fred was a bike mechanic and the pair always dreamed of owning a store in a community with beautiful nature.
While they loved running the store, the van den Bulks are excited for what the future holds and say they couldn’t be happier with Dale and Emma taking over.
“To be able to run your own business is great, but not needing to work anymore is even better,” says Caroline. “We want to enjoy life because you never know what is going to happen.”
Fred and Caroline plan to travel across Canada while doing what they love most: biking and hiking. They are excited for time off in the summer—they couldn’t be away from their store during their busiest season.
“In the last year, Dale was able to run the store on his own and was always eager to learn more,” says Fred. “With his experience and personality and the help from his wife Emma, they will be successful. Customers love him!”
Dale’s mother, Nancy Wenger, owns the Nutty Chocolatier. He learned his customer service skills in her store and grew to love the day-to-day interactions and forming relationships with patrons.
“It wasn’t until a cycle touring trip in college that I refound my love for bikes and wanted to enjoy them more,” he says. “Who doesn’t smile while riding a bike? My favourite time on a bike is when there is no destination or time crunch, just riding in one direction and seeing where it takes me. Gravel roads and trails are my favourite, which luckily for me Muskoka has lots to offer.”
Dale took an outdoor-related, post-secondary business program where he studied the tourism economy and the benefits outdoor recreation has on local economies. After college he began working at Muskoka Bicycle Pro Shop.
Six years later, he’s its owner.
“Helping anyone out is a pleasure, but the biggest joy is seeing the familiar faces,” says Dale. “From customers who are only here in the summer and you see when they return in July to the locals who are around almost weekly. It is the community that really drives me. Growing up in a family business I definitely gravitated to the idea of working for myself, and downtown Huntsville was top of mind.”
As the conversation of Fred and Caroline retiring came up, so did the possibility of Dale and Emma purchasing the store.
“A conversation that Fred and I had had many times on early summer mornings while working on bikes led to the eventual transition of ownership, although I had my hesitations at first,” says Dale. “It wasn’t until a sunny January day when Emma and I spent the afternoon chatting and the discussions really came to life. It had been a conversation between Emma and I over the years but for some reason on that day it had a different feeling. By the time we got off the couch, we knew.”
Emma works full-time as an educational assistant and runs the before school program at Riverside Public School but will still be heavily involved in the shop after school, on weekends, and during the store’s busy summer season.
“Working in schools over the past several years has taught me a lot about caring for our community. I look at MBPS in the same way that I do the families I care for. I want the people I spend the majority of my time with to trust me and know that I will always have their best interest at heart,” she says.
MBPS offers a full range of bikes and accessories including children’s bikes, mountain bikes, fat bikes, road/gravel bikes and hybrids, pedal-assist bikes that have a motor built in, helmets, cycling specific clothing, casual wear, and eyewear, as well as services including tuneups, overhauls, bike cleaning, and storage. They pride themselves on quick turnaround times.
“The idea of pouring my heart into something alongside Dale, working as a team, and growing from it together, is exciting,” says Emma. “We bring different things to the table in our marriage, our relationships, and in every other area of our lives. The store will be a perfect depiction of both our strengths.”
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