Cathie Anderson

Folsom bike store caters to women who ride

At Folsom Bike, co-owner and co-founder Erin Gorrell just opened a boutique showroom that makes you wonder what bike shops could look like if women were more of a force in this male-dominated retail sector.

Walls in soft hues of lavender and pink cheerfully lure in customers and make the bikes and gear stand out. Once inside, they’re greeted by photos of women riding, posing, joking around and triumphing on bicycles. As they leave, they pass under a light gauze sash and back into a more masculine interior.

Before Gorrell transformed this area of Folsom Bike into a 1,000-square-foot feminine oasis, it was where customers came to shop for their road bikes. Yet, Gorrell said, as longtime customers have come into the store over the last few weeks, they pause and ask: “When did you open this space up?”

“It’s been funny,” Gorrell said. “I had a male customer come in the other day, and he said, ‘Erin, it even smells better in here.’ Then he looked at me and said, ‘So, what about us, Erin?’ I put my arm around him, spun him around and said, ‘Hello, turn around there, buddy.’”

Besides the boutique, Folsom Bike has roughly 5,000 more square feet of retail space, including a coffee shop tucked away in the back corner. Within that expansive showroom, Gorrell has also created opportunities for warmth and community, with club chairs in one section and bar stools near the service counter. The coffee shop has tables and chairs both inside and outdoors on a patio.

Since the store opened in 2009, Gorrell said, she and her business partner, husband Wilson Gorrell, have trained their predominantly male staff to treat women and men with equal respect and courtesy.

“I wanted to create a place where everybody feels welcome when they come in to get a bike,” Gorrell said. “I don’t want women to feel like they need to bring a male figure with them. I want them to feel comfortable to come in alone. No question is a dumb question.”

Back before Gorrell owned the bike shop at 7610 Folsom-Auburn Road, she said, she often went shopping for gear and bikes alone. She got a dose of all the worst ways to treat a female customer, with some men talking to her chest rather than her eyes and others assuming that she didn’t know anything about bicycles.

“Our store has always catered to women,” Gorrell said. “We’ve been known for that, and I feel like we’ve done a good job with that already in the cycling community. So, for me, the boutique was just about taking it to the next level.”

Gorrell created the “I Ride Like A Girl” campaign last September to celebrate the strength, fortitude and exuberance she sees in the women who love the sport. She has T-shirts and other gear emblazoned with the catchphrase. She also has filmed videos of women and girls talking about their first bikes, their cycling experiences and what “riding like a girl” means to them.

At some point, Gorrell said, she may also add a women’s boutique at Town Center Bike & Tri, the couple’s second store located in El Dorado Hills Town Center, 4420 Town Center Blvd. Just like the main showroom, the Folsom Bike boutique holds a variety of gear for the cyclist – from bikes to bike stands, from gloves to shoes.

“I really am trying to get more women excited about cycling, more passionate about it and making them feel like they have a home when they come into the shop,” Gorrell said.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee