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Business Happenings - October 2002

Poison Spider Bicycles and Nichols Expeditions
Specialize in Fast & Friendly Service

by Annabelle Numaguchi

Chuck and Judy Nichols, proprietors and main guides, imbue Poison Spider Bike Shop and Nichols Expeditions with their easy-going, genuine and friendly personalities. Both companies run smoothly and efficiently, while at the same time customers and employees find a down home warmth usually associated with a mom-and-pops business. That’s because Chuck and Judy are downright nice people who have managed to create two successful businesses out of their passions for biking and traveling.

The Nichols started running their expeditions twenty-five years ago while still living in Colorado. They found themselves running many of their river trips out of Moab and moved here in 1988. They opened the first bed-and-breakfast in the area, called Canyon Country, and used it as a headquarters until two years later when they opened a tiny bike shop on the north end of town. The rental fleet consisted of six used bikes. Since then, they have kept the same location, but on the suggestion of their first store manager, Kevin Dwyer, they razed the shack and have built a first-class repair and retail bike shop, which also functions as the headquarters of Nichols‘ Expeditions. Dwyer christened the shop with the name Poison Spider, in honor of the gnarly Moab bike trail.

The rental fleet has since expanded to 70 top-of-the-line bikes, mostly Gary Fischers and Treks, and the staff includes fifteen to twenty people year round. The bike mechanics are exceptional, some Barnett’s Certified, and all are passionate about their sport. Current manager Scott Guzman-Newton describes the staff as a team that works and plays together, and adds, “this is just a fun place to work.“ They ride Moab trails off duty which makes them very knowledgeable about the area. The staff can speak first-hand about the trails they recommend to visitors to the area and often find themselves doing a little environmental education on cryptobiotic soil and other anomalies of the desert.

Part of the reason Poison Spider attracts such excellent mechanics and friendly personalities is the way Chuck and Judy choose to run their business. They offer unusually great benefits for a bike shop, including health and retirement. As an incentive to get people commuting on non-motorized transportation, they pay employees a $1 a day for walking, biking or skateboarding to work. They reimburse a portion of funds used for educational purposes, which has allowed employees to pursue language classes as well as bicycle-related courses. Scott displays real earnestness when he says, “I’ve never worked for anyone so nice.” And reciprocal sentiments are expressed by Chuck who explains that, “We trust them all to do their best and they rise to a high level of performance.”

Poison Spider also caters to other types of bicycling, such as BMX and road biking, as evidenced by their sponsorship of the Skinny Tire Festival in early March. Last year, the festival raised $10,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer. The shop sponsors a team for the 24 Hours of Moab, and they also contribute in hosting the Fat Tire Festival. This October they will host the downhill and free rides and hold the Awards Ceremony at the shop. The Nichols are interested in encompassing every type of rider and support local residents as well as visitors to Moab.

One of the distinguishing features of Poison Spider is their quick turnaround time on repairs. The mechanics realize that most visitors who bring their own wheels have only a few days in which to enjoy the trails so they pride themselves in adjusting and repairing bikes on the spot. For people choosing to rent bikes, they have a wide selection of front suspension, performance and high end demo bikes that all come with helmets, pumps, spare tubes, and repair kits. But, the best part of shopping at Poison Spider is the friendly, efficient treatment customers receive.

The Nichols’ passion extends beyond biking, and Nichols Expeditions offers trips throughout the world, from Canyon lands to Costa Rica. Chuck and Judy guide practically all of their expeditions and only choose trips that really spark their interests. Chuck explains that their philosophy on guiding is, “We like to take the same group of people on a different experience,” rather than offering the same trip over and over again to different groups. The Nichols add three or four new trips, which include features like sea kayaking, wine tasting and hiking, every year. They have clients who have taken over twenty trips with them.

After spending time or traveling with Chuck and Judy, it’s no wonder that they have such a loyal following. They are warm, friendly and fun, and always seem genuinely interested in whomever they are talking to. As Suzie Stengel, manager of Nichols Expeditions notes, “They have a fantastic memory for names and faces and seem to remember everybody.” The Nichols have also perfected their skills at putting incredible itineraries together that combine adventure and relaxation, which explains why many clients also choose to charter Nichols Expeditions to run private trips.

The most recent charter trip that Chuck and Judy ran was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime gift an Idaho husband offered his wife for her fiftieth birthday. Upon walking into a restaurant in Florence, Italy, the lady was surprised to find her fourteen closest friends and an itinerary for a ten day biking tour of the country she had been so interested in visiting. The Nichols had conspired with her husband and friends to pack the woman’s bike and gear, all unbeknownst to the birthday girl. Judy says the trip was simply “magical.“ Which is the perfect word to describe the atmosphere Chuck and Judy create on their trips thanks to their exuberance for travel and the outdoors that they enjoy sharing with others.

Poison Spider Bicycles is located on the north end of town at 497 N. Main Street and can be reached at (800) 635-1792 or (435) 2597882. Business hours start daily at 8:00 a.m. and close at 6:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Nichols Expeditions can be reached at (800) 648-8488 or (435) 259-3999 and their web address is www.NicholsExpeditions.com.

 
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