WILLIAMSBURG — Bikes Unlimited, the oldest bike shop in Williamsburg, has announced that it will be closing down this fall after 48 years of business.
Bikes Unlimited has been in operation in the City of Williamsburg since 1973. The current owners, Barry and Jan Herneisy, took over the bike shop from the original owners, Russel and Elke Ramey, in Dec. 1998.
“We stumbled upon the shop when I was down here for a conference when I was in the Marine Corps,” said Barry. “I was stationed up in D.C. and I told Russel that when I got out of the military, I wanted to get into the bike business. He said, ‘Well, you can buy this shop. I’ll be retiring soon.'”
Barry then spent three years prior to taking over Bikes Unlimited in Okinawa, Japan where his passion for cycling developed. After almost twenty-three years of serving in the military, he and his wife returned to Virginia and helped take over the local business. They have continued to run the shop’s daily operations for the past twenty-three years.
“When I was over in Japan, I bought a bike to go see the sights. I realized I forgot how much fun biking was, and it was a great way to maintain fitness and get around. So, I said, ‘This is want to do’.” said Barry.
Barry noted that their yearly back-to-school business has transformed over the years into mainly a repair shop for the local college community at William & Mary. This coincided with more and more students purchasing their own bikes online. Sometimes those online orders are direct from the suppliers. Additionally, margins have been slimming due to the pandemic and growing local competition.
“My wife and I are both in our mid 60’s. I’m 64, and she’s 63. Our lease expires in April, and when the commercial realtor called me up and said, ‘how many years do you want to go for, three or five?’ I made a quick addition in my head and said ’67, 69, I don’t know if I really want to go that long.'”
Barry and Jan have been grateful to serve the Williamsburg community all these years. They’ve been involved not only in repairing and selling bikes to the community, but they’ve also participated in many local biking events over the years, including, the Tidewater Mountain Bike Challenge.
“Since I’ve shared the news on Facebook, I’ve got all these nice comments from people saying that they met the best friends of their lives from cycling and hanging out at the shop,” said Barry. “I’ve known a girl who used to work for us in the college that owns a bike shop now in Italy. It’s kind of gratifying reading all the nice words that people have said about how much we’ve meant to them.”
Barry has advice for all those community members who are thinking about getting into cycling but may still be on the fence.
“My biggest regret is that I waited so long. When I was stationed in Hawaii, I was running. I used to meet every weekend in the park with friends and we’d go for a run. There was a group of cyclists that would meet and they’d go for a ride.” said Barry. “I would always be checking out the bikes and I was always intrigued by it. My only regret is that I waited so long. It’s been a lot of fun.”