Call me ‘Big Poppi:’ Local bike store earns national honor

Big Poppi Bicycle Company, a small locally owned bike shop in Aggieville, was named one of America’s Best Bike Shops for 2013 by the National Bicycle Dealers Association. The store, owned by Jeff Koenig and Aaron Apel, does more than just fix and sell bicycles; the staff strives to treat every customer with care and help create a healthier public.

Big Poppi got its start five years ago and has grown in impact and popularity ever since.

“We were originally three partners who ran into each other and decided our community could use another bike store,” Koenig said.

As Big Poppi has grown, the owners said they have worked to do more for the Manhattan community.

“The biggest impact we have on the community is public health,” Koenig said. “As we know, the obesity rate is rising. As a result of the group rides we do and the advocacy, we’ve gotten more people on bikes.”

The store does all repairs in-house, sells and builds several different types of bikes and advocates for a more bike-friendly community. While their staff is diverse, they have a common interest in bicycles as well as a desire to serve and listen to customers.

“The key is that we do the simple things, like return phone calls, take special orders and take time to understand customers’ goals,” Koenig said.

Big Poppi went through several steps to be named one of America’s Best Bike Shops, including encounters with mystery shoppers and an application describing the shop.

“We were nervous at first because this new program is rigorous,” Koenig said. “Secret shoppers called us and one came in. That counted for a lot of the points. Everyone has a bad day and we were just nervous about making sure we treat everyone well.”

The staff, a group of individuals with a wide range of interests and personalities, has been known in the community for their outstanding service.

“Our staff really represents the people that we’re serving,” Apel said. “We aren’t full of guys who are really gung-ho about racing. We have commuters and campers as well.”

The store serves what they identify as three distinct markets: students, military and long-term Manhattan residents. Students from K-State said they go to Big Poppi for repairs or to buy a bike and enjoy the friendly individual treatment the staff gives them.

“They treat you one-on-one and make you feel at home,” Rebekah Shirley, freshman in nutrition and kinesiology, said. “It was good customer service and the quality is awesome.”

Big Poppi’s management said they are looking forward to organizing more group rides, developing new trails and hosting public events. But the one thing they won’t change about the store is their customer-friendly philosophy.

“There’s a sign in our store that says, ‘We will listen’ kind of says it all,” Koenig said.