Photography by Dan Austin
When professional wakeboarder Stewart Mackie began to face some unexpected ailments and injuries due to the sport, he didn’t throw in the towel. Rather, he picked up a bike, found a growing community of bikers, and opened The Bike Shop of Winter Haven. Since the shop’s opening in 2017, Mackie has encouraged a love of the low-impact sport throughout the city and has recently relocated, along with the addition of the new cafe N+1. Just another reason to swing by this beloved bike shop.
249 3rd Street SW, Winter Haven, FL 33880
In the heart of downtown Winter Haven, a 30-year-old institution known simply as The Bike Shop of Winter Haven has found a new home. Formerly located on Cypress Gardens Boulevard, The Bike Shop of Winter Haven is now located at 249 3rd Street SW (catty-corner to Grove Roots). The pulse of our town is changing, thanks in part to entrepreneurs Meghan and Stewart Mackie.
Neither Meghan nor Stewart are strangers to business ownership. Meghan impressively has owned and run M.Marie, a fashion-forward boutique on Central Avenue in downtown Winter Haven, for almost 10 years. Originally from England, Stewart first came to Winter Haven through his professional wakeboarding career. He began visiting the area several years ago, simultaneously coaching wakeboarding and competing. It was on one of his trips that Stewart first met Meghan. The next year, they ran into each other again, began dating, and Stewart quickly realized he needed to make Winter Haven his permanent home.
The sport of wakeboarding can be very hard on a person’s body. Most wakeboarders end up with severe knee injuries due to the impact of their body hitting the water. In addition to the knee injuries, neck and back problems can also be common among this group of athletes. So, about six years ago — after dealing with a few of these common complaints himself, Stewart took a step back from his professional wakeboarding career (while still the owner of a wakeboarding school back at home in England) and began coaching. It was around this time that he began exploring cycling as a hobby.
Sparked by her husband’s growing interest in the sport, Meghan, along with her good friend Deanna Tanner, had the idea to start a local cycling club in January of 2017. At first their goal was to simply improve to their husbands’ levels, but quickly they realized they gained so much more. The Winter Haven Cycle Club has grown to a group of over 60 cyclists who meet each weekend for group rides. The club provides a tough Saturday ride and an easier Sunday ride geared toward beginners.
“Cycling has changed both of our fitness levels,” says Meghan. “It is low impact, and good for both your physical and mental health. I’m extremely lucky that Stew introduced us to this lifestyle.” Both Meghan and Stewart do CX-Racing (several laps around a short course of varying terrain, that sometimes requires the rider to carry the bike), and Stewart does road and TT (time trial) racing. Meghan impressively just completed her first Iron Man triathlon (no small feat!). She credits the sport of cycling with not only improving her competitive lifestyle, but boosting her social life as well, through the Winter Haven Cycle Club. It was also through WHCC that the Mackies first learned the former owner of The Bike Shop was interested in selling the business.
Once the sale of the shop was decided in September of 2017, it was always the Mackies’ intention to move it to a new location. Meghan says at first people thought they were crazy to move such an established business, but the customer base is loyal. As are the employees: Matt, Andy, Kris, Ed, Tristan, Jerry, Jessica, and Michael — who together have put in over 50 years at The Bike Shop and all of whom stuck with the Mackies through the transition from the previous owner. The Mackies say they are proud to be constantly learning from them.
Not merely a retail destination for serious cyclists, The Bike Shop is so much more. A variety of bikes are available, including cruisers and custom bikes. The shop employs three mechanics and a bike builder for service and repairs. Be on the lookout for informative clinics and special events that also take place in the space, truly making it a home base for the cycling community.
The Bike Shop is part of the big picture to grow the town, says Meghan. Six/Ten (a local commercial real estate developer) played a big part in securing the new location. Six/Ten has long been interested in having a bike shop in the area due to another exciting addition coming soon to downtown. Over the next few years, Winter Haven will become a destination point along the Florida Greenways and Trails System plan. As a part of this plan, a bike trail through downtown will join an existing statewide system of bike trails. Some of the appeal of biking along these trails are the destinations such as cafes and restaurants that cater to the cycling crowd and provide respite along the way.
Playing perfectly in to this idea, The Bike Shop is also home to N+1 coffee. The coffee bar is run by Stewart’s friend Shawn Gravitt. Gravitt has long been interested in starting a café, so the addition of N+1 to the shop provided the perfect opportunity for a collaboration. Among the cycling crowd it is common to meet up for a shot of espresso before a ride, and then another coffee after the ride is complete. A café like N+1 can also provide a stop or destination during a long ride. Not exclusive to cyclists, N+1 provides a relaxed coffee bar perfect for a friendly get-together or a relaxed meeting. The name N+1 comes from the Velominati The Rules, a book of cycling rules to live by. Specifically Rule number 12. “Rule #12: The correct number of bikes to own is n+1. While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned.” Right now, the hours of the coffee shop are limited to Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eventually it will be open the full operating hours of the shop.
Future plans for The Bike Shop include a variety of rentals for the serious or casual biker to be able to enjoy part of the statewide trail system. Another possibility for future growth is for the shop to become home to an indoor training studio. The studio would be for cyclists to come into the shop and learn power with the ability to do indoor interval training on their own bikes using a mounting system.
Even to a town that has seen so much growth and energy in recent years, the addition of a cycling community is thrilling. The impact of the new trail is already off to a great start, and the ground has barely been broken. To the Mackies, whose hope is to see Winter Haven become more commuter friendly, bringing The Bike Shop home to downtown was a perfectly natural fit.
The Bike Shop of Winter Haven is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information about the Winter Haven Cycle Club, including events and membership, can be found at whcycleclub.com.