While other 18-year-olds were partying or trying to determine a college major, Brett Ardrey was becoming the owner of a bicycle shop.
The owner of Outspokin’ Bicycles at 1904 Walton Way has been in the bicycle business 35 years.
“I took accounting in high school and college, and then I got interested in riding bikes. I met a fellow named Richard Thompson who had a bicycle shop that he’d closed down, and he wanted to know if I’d go in with him to open it up again. I told him I’d give it a try,” Ardrey said.
It turned out that Thompson was a plumber and didn’t have the time or interest to run the bicycle shop. He offered to sell the store to Ardrey, who received some of the inventory and started out with only $2,000.
Ardrey took college classes in the morning and ran the store in the afternoon and evening. When he graduated, he moved the shop to Lumpkin Road and opened a second location on Central Avenue, but eventually closed both and opened a shop on Walton Way in 1985. The shops were named Breakaway Cyclery until he purchased a store in Columbia called Outspokin’ Bicycles and changed the name of the business in the 1990s.
Ardrey teaches cycling classes four days a week and recently became a certified bicycle instructor.
“I enjoy taking new people out on bike rides and helping them experience cycling in a safe environment,” he said.
Ardrey has five employees, including his oldest son, Connor, who works full time at the store.
Over the years, Ardrey wanted to create new markets and opened stores in Macon and Columbia, though he closed them after having a family so he could be closer to home. For eight years, he operated three stores. He has also owned stores in Aiken and on Bobby Jones Expressway.
As Columbia County continues to grow, Ardrey said that he is considering opening another location there. He and a friend are also starting a bike touring company.
They will take cyclists on semi-luxury tours and set up stays in bed and breakfasts in cities such as Savannah and Charleston, S.C. They will either transport the cyclists by van to the destination or allow them to cycle along the way.