Bike shop owner sees lots of potential in Orleans as tourist draw

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Chris VanDusen opened Trailside Bicycles on Canal Road in Hulberton on June 3.

HULBERTON – Chris VanDusen has pedaled his bike through Germany, Quebec, France, the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes. They all have great bike trails with interesting towns to explore.

VanDusen thinks the Erie Canal Towpath and the communities along the journey have tremendous potential to draw cyclists. The canal already pulls in many cyclists, but it could attract more touring riders with better promotion, including bike loops of nearby attractions.

VanDusen on June 3 opened Trailside Bicycles at 16271 Canal Rd., a stone’s throw from the Hulberton lift bridge. He has spent two years working on the 4,000-square-foot structure. Many of his friends wondered why he’d pick rural Hulberton for the business.

“People say you’re in the middle of nowhere, but I’m in a strategic spot,” VanDusen said today. “I’m the only cycle shop between Buffalo and Brockport.”

The building was constructed in 1890 as a boarding house for quarry workers. About half of the building has been mostly untouched from those early days. VanDusen wants to clean up the space and turn it into a hostel, preserving the historic integrity of the living quarters.

VanDusen sees cyclists stop and ride by the business every day. Some of them are on long-distance self-guided trips.

VanDusen can repair bikes and sell parts. He has snacks, beverages and ice cream for sale. He wants to expand the business, renting out kayaks, planning bike loops, and leading tours of local sites.

He wants to develop loops for the Kendall barn quilt trail, local cobblestone homes, and Medina sandstone structures, as well as other local historical attractions.

“This county is a diamond in the rough,” VanDusen said. “It has the history and it’s along a fantastic corridor with the Erie Canal.”

His address should be on some of the bike loops because of its history. VanDusen researched the abstract detailing the property’s past. The building was put up in 1890 by the Medina Sandstone Company. The building was originally a boarding house for immigrant Italian quarrymen. That portion of the house is largely unchanged. VanDusen wants to clean it up, preserve its historical character and turn it into a hostel for traveling cyclists.

“We’re going to keep it authentic,” he said.

The Medina Sandstone Company built the site at 16271 Canal Road as housing for the Italian immigrants who worked in local quarries. The small partitioned rooms haven’t changed much since then.

VanDusen has had a love for bikes since he was a kid, learning to repair them when he was 8. He worked at a Brockport bike shop beginning at age 16. He has stayed in the industry since then, leading guided bike tours in foreign countries and in New York.

The cycling business is on an upswing, he said.

“The Baby Boomers are putting away the golf clubs and picking up bike riding,” he said. “They want something that is more active. It’s good for their health.”

The county could better capitalize on the canal with maps, trails and more businesses close by with lodging, cafes, outdoor seating and art, VanDusen said. The travelers want an experience that includes the local flavor.

“The corridor is right here,” he said. “It’s just giving people a reason to stop.”

Trailside Bicycles is open seven days a week. For more information, visit VanDusen’s web site by clicking here.