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Go-Bent Bikes moves, adds powered parachutes.

Then: Hazel and Jim Baxter opened Go-Bent Recumbent Bikes in 2002 at 353 Malaga Highway. In the summer of 2002, Jim Baxter held free demonstrations and bike tunings at Riverfront Park to help generate interest in the recumbent bikes, which position the rider in a sitting position with the pedals out in front. A traditional bike lets the rider push down on the peddles. A recumbent allows the rider to push out.

The company soon went online and began to attract the attention of people across the Pacific Northwest.

Two years later, the business outgrew the Malaga location and the Baxters moved their shop to the Riverfront Center at 1 Fifth St., Wenatchee.

The new location gave them broader exposure and offered enough space to display more of their products and branch out into bike rentals. With the new shop, the Baxters added exercise equipment to the stock and expanded the bike tuning end of the business.

Jim Baxter said the new location also brought some validity to the store. A professional space adds to the quality of the product and service, he said.

Now: Go-Bent has a new location with more room and a new product line, Powered Parachutes.

The shop is now located at 1111 Walla Walla Ave., previously occupied by Mountain Air Gear before it closed in January.

The new space, more than 4,000 square feet, is triple what Go-Bent had at its Fifth Street location and the rent is less than what Baxter was paying before, though he didn't say what that was.

Baxter said he expects the number of casual shoppers visiting the store to drop at first, but sales should remain the same or increase because it offers a better setting for those interested in trying out the bikes.

The new shop has plenty of room inside to display products and room for an inside practice track, Baxter said. The spot also has a large parking area that can be used for those who want to practice outside.

He said many people were reluctant to be the lunch entertainment at the Riverfront location, with all the people on the trail.

Baxter said he and his wife began the search for a new location when the city of Wenatchee announced the pending construction of the new Riverside Drive, which will limit access to the Riverfront Center. The Baxters couldn't afford to be blocked off from their customers.

A new road, once it's finished, can help a business with traffic issues and increase the ease in which customers can find a store, but the construction of those roads though can kill a business, he said.

Walla Walla Avenue construction wrapped up in the fall of 2007. Baxter said he should be pretty safe from any further road delays at the new location.

But the move is a tradeoff.

Being off the main part of the trail likely will cut down on the number of bikes Baxter rents to people wanting to ride the loop trail. The advantage of the new space is it provides the space to add a new line of Powered Parachutes.

The machines come in one- or two-passenger models. A small engine powers an enclosed propeller for propulsion and a parachute is used for loft.

Although the two products seem very different, Baxter, who is also a pilot, said the two attract a similar customer base. Recumbent bikes and Powered Parachutes attract similar age groups, mainly the adventuresome baby boomers, Baxter said. Neither product is cheap, with the bikes now starting at more than $1,000 and the Powered Parachutes costing more than $5,000.

The Powered Parachutes could also open up the possibility for a new branch of the business, Baxter said. He plans to sponsor flights and currently works to establish the area as a good place to come fly the ultralights.

While several people in the area fly the ultralights, the area isn't known for its ultralight venues.

He hopes to work with local land owners or airfields to help sponsor events.

Along with sales and sponsoring specific flight days, Baxter plans to service the equipment as well.

Recumbent bikes and the Powered Parachutes are destination products. Almost 90 percent of sales of the recumbent bikes he sells are to people living outside the area, Baxter said. Most of the sales occur inside the shop, though. People usually know they want a recumbent bike, but want to ride it before buying it. Go-Bent is set up to sell online and the Baxters also put products on eBay and Amazon, but most of their sales are to customers who come in the store.

Baxter said the gas price spike in the summer of 2008 became the perfect storm for bike stores. High gas prices coupled with peoples growing concern for the environment and their own health got a lot of people on bicycles. Gas prices may have dropped, but interest in Baxter's products has not.

He said peoples' habits continue to change.

Looking to the future of the business, Baxter said he looks for Go-Bent to become known as the hub for recumbents and Powered Parachutes in the area. The first shipment of the ultralights arrived at the end of January. As people become aware that the store carries the equipment, Baxter plans to hire another employee.
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Title Annotation:UPDATES
Author:Bentley, Ryan
Publication:Wenatchee Business Journal
Date:Feb 1, 2009
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