The Roanoker - May/June 2020 - 32

RIVERS AND ROADS PHOTOGRAPHY

It's early afternoon
at Downshift,
a bike shop on Campbell Avenue in the heart of
downtown Roanoke. Owner Steve Ambruzs is helping
one of his repeat customers with questions about her
bike's chain. Customers are ordering coffee and craft
beers from Downshift's bar. Many take their drinks
to the tables and chairs scattered about the store,
in-between bicycles and gear for cycling enthusiasts
hanging on the wall. It gives Downshift more of the
feeling of a cafe than a store that specializes in selling,
customizing and repairing bicycles. That's exactly the
point, Ambruzs says.
" What we offer to new cyclists and people who have
been biking for a long time is a place to meet up, get
acquainted and get advice and support. We wanted
to create a really low-pressure environment. We're
not trying to sell them a bike, we're trying to build
community. "
Many of Ambruzs's clientele are chatting with
each other with a warm, relaxed familiarity that
shows Downshift's philosophy is working. It is clear
this is more than just a store for them, it's become a
destination.
" We didn't know how well the cafe would do for us, "
Ambruzs says. " It has been doing really good. We're kind
of like Cheers, we know their names. "
There are more names to learn every day. Bicycling
is growing in the region, as a hobby, as a business and
as an alternative to the car-commuting lifestyle. There
have been bike businesses in the Valley for a long time,
AT RIGHT:
Downshift owner Steve
Ambruzs.
FACING PAGE:
You can grab gear or
take a breather
inside Downshift's
storefront.

32

MAY/JUNE 2020

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The Roanoker - May/June 2020

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