Bicycle Bob’s owners retire after nearly four decades of serving the Santa Barbara area
It’s been a good, long ride for Bob and Julia Zaratzian, who recently retired after 39 years in business as owners of Bicycle Bob’s in Goleta.
The Zaratzians opened Bicycle Bob’s in downtown Santa Barbara in March 1983. They expanded their business with the opening of the Goleta store in 1988.
Nine years ago, they consolidated their stores at the Goleta location at 320 S. Kellogg Ave.
The couple have sold their longtime store, which is near the State Route 217 on- and off-ramps, to Trek Bicycle.
The sale comes after Mr. Zaratzian’s lifetime of working with bicycles.
“My father owned bike shops before I was born, and I grew up in bike shops where I learned the business in a small town in Orange County,” Mr. Zaratzian told the News-Press. “One day my dad decided to sell the business.
“On our very last day in business, an attractive woman and her mother came in, and I asked her out for a bike ride,” he said. “I later moved to Santa Barbara where she was attending UCSB. She later became my wife, Julia.
“I got a job working in a bike shop but realized I could do it better than these powerhouse shops. I borrowed some money, opened my shop, and things evolved from there.”
Mr. Zaratzian spoke about what his business means to this community.
“I have tried to be involved with nonprofits and schools in both Santa Barbara and Goleta,” he said.
“We have donated to various schools in the area, and we have worked hard with Trek Bicycles to cut pricing to get kids on bikes,” Mr. Zaratzian said. “Lots of schools now have cycling as a physical education activity. Some schools have purchased 12 to 30 bikes from us for kids to use during physical education. That’s a big deal.
“We have always given donations; we have given to schools and nonprofits,” he continued. “About 18 years ago, we decided not to spend money on advertising and put the money toward donations to nonprofits and schools. It made us feel better about how we were spending money, doing more good for the community and in the long run doing better for us business-wise.”
He explained that instead of specializing, Bicycle Bob’s tried to meet the needs of all kinds of bicyclists, including commuters and everyday recreational riders. He noted the business won the reader’s poll every year in the News-Press.
“You could walk into our shop and be treated honestly and fairly,” he said.
The News-Press asked Mr. Zaratzian why he is passionate about cycling.
“We all have experienced the increased volume of cars on the road,” he said. “For a lot of people, it’s not very difficult to run to the grocery store or ride with their child to school. It is better for the planet, better for your health and saves money over driving.”
He includes himself in the category of recreational riders, who he noted have the option of riding with others or riding alone. He noted bicycling provides “the brain space that is created by seeing wildlife in a very nice and relaxing way, taking away from the stress of the day.
“You can go for as short or long as you want, and it is a great physical and mental exercise,” he said.
Mr. Zaratzian spoke about the legacy he hopes he is leaving behind.
“I think potentially getting the door open for more people to realize how fun bike riding can be. The excitement and freedom of getting that first bike we see regularly in the shop with adults and the joy that riding brings. We remember how much fun it is to get on a bike. The joy and excitement are still there.
“Getting that joy and excitement from riding is pretty cool. That and the customer service is what I hope people associate with me. I love dealing with people and talking and interacting with customers that are hands down my favorite parts.”
“I would still be doing this if I wasn’t 70 and have grandchildren with whom I want to spend time,” Mr. Zaratzian said. “I enjoyed being in the shop daily and working with the staff we had. It was an awesome staff and working with the public in general. My life has changed, and my job description has changed since children have been a huge source of joy in my life; now I get to enjoy my grandchildren.
“Additionally, caring about kids was why donations went primarily to elementary schools. We all know that our education system needs help, and that was a way we could help.”