Jeff Palter Shows the Way to Leave Cars for Bikes
By Matt Robinson | July 23, 2010
As a former Audi sales rep, Jeff Palter knows how to get around in style.
Unfortunately, what looks good on the road may not necessarily be good for the road (or for the people and other creatures who use it). Even with their high-performance engines and world-class engineering, Jeff's cars were not impressing him anymore.
"When I graduated from Babson," he recalls "I obviously needed a job." Having figured out that a traditional office job was not for him, Palter looked for a more entrepreneurial opportunity. He soon came upon a bike store that was going through transition. Unfortunately, this potentially fruitful endeavor was not at the right stage for picking. So Palter decided to put his bike aside and go for his second love - cars.
"I figured out which lines I could see myself selling, made a list of the local dealers, dialed for dollars, and put on my interviewing suit," Palter recalls. And though he got a lot of "no experience, no job" and "no job, no experience" responses, one savvy manager was willing to give him a shot.
"He went on the notion that a blank slate is sometimes better than a cluttered one," Palter suggests, "and the rest was history."
And what a history! By the end of his third month at the Audi dealership, Palter was topping the sales charts Despite his rapid rise and success, Palter soon had enough of four-wheeled products and began to look back at his previous goal.
"The stress wasn't worth the money," he says.
Retiring on top, Palter traded his chic black turtleneck for a zip-front nylon racing shirt and left the world of gas-powered motion behind in order to re-enter the word of people-powered motion.
Having ridden across New Mexico, Italy, and a bunch of other places, Jeff was well aware of the glory of a good ride.
"I always had bikes as a kid," he recalls, remembering a classic Raleigh with a banana seat among other favorite rides. Seeing a bike as "a masterful invention for movement of the human body," Palter waxes poetic about the sport and his participation in it. As he does so, it becomes clear how deep his passion is and why it made so much sense for him to make the change, even at the risk of his great success with cars.
Armed with his MBA and a lot of guts, Jeff took over the Cycle Loft in Burlington on January 30, 2006. While the first day of any venture is always exciting and unique, Palter reserves the right to comment on two "first" days.
"There was the first day that I was introduced to the staff prior to the closing of the acquisition," he says, "and then the day returning to the store with the acquisition having been finalized." Since that day (or those two days), Palter has assembled (though he admits to being not all that handy with tools) a team of fellow gear nuts and also a legion of devoted fans, many of whom arrive at 7:30 am each Saturday for the Cycle Loft's weekly ride.
"Most of them banded together well," he says.
Though he admits that everyone was naturally apprehensive during the negotiations for the sale of the store, Palter compliments his team on their dedication and resolve and thanks them for a great deal of the success he has had since taking over the shop. Realizing a store is nothing without customers, he also gives his devoted clients a great deal of credit and thanks.
"We have customers that range from toddlers for our juvenile bikes, all the way through every age, style and size of adults for our bicycle lines," he says. "We are a 'full range' bicycle dealer with bikes for virtually all ages, shapes and sizes."
Though many of Jeff's customers come for the great selection, he has also noted, especially in recent months, a new wave of new riders who come to follow his lead in leaving their four-wheeled vehicles behind for a new two-wheeler.
"The bike movement is now at its beginning," Palter suggests, "as people are understanding that there are other ways, whether it's bike or public transportation."
And while the immediate area may not be known for its commutable bike routes, Palter says they are coming and that interest is growing both on the consumer and administrative sides.
"We have several factors to overcome over time that stand in some peoples' way before this becomes the massive overwhelming groundswell that pundits predict," he says, citing such aspects as awareness, accommodation, and access. "They are not insurmountable obstacles, but the infrastructure certainly needs some work."
Cycle Loft, 28 Cambridge Street Burlington, MA 01803
(781) 272 0870