By Heather Stone
Tucked behind Metropolis Coffee on South Broadway is a beacon of hope for any late-night cyclists who might find themselves in a bind. Totem Cyclery, owned and operated by Ryan Santoski since 2015, has the city’s only 24-hour bike part vending machine. Totem provides everything from expert repair to hair-tuned custom wheel building, and if an incredible bike comes to you in a dream, Totem will work to make that dream a reality. The Denver VOICE spoke with Santoski about managing a small business (literally — the shop is less than 500 square feet) in the ever-changing Baker neighborhood.
Denver VOICE: How did you start the cyclery? Do you have previous shop-owning experience?
Ryan Santoski I took over ownership of the shop when the previous owner closed the business. The space was formerly a satellite shop with limited service and I expanded it to offer more services and products. This is my first business ownership endeavor.
DV: Baker seems like the perfect neighborhood for Totem. How do you build a customer base? Is it mostly word of mouth?
RS: Baker is the perfect neighborhood for Totem! I am grateful to be here surrounded by many like-minded residents and businesses. Word-of-mouth has been a strong component in building a customer base. I don’t do much (if any) marketing other than social media. I’ve found that recreational and hardcore cyclists alike are always asking and answering the question ‘Where is a good bike shop?’ The sheer number of commuters and enthusiasts in Baker lends itself well to that.
DV: What gave you the idea for the 24-hour bike part vending machine?
RS: The vending machine was here before I took ownership of the shop. I was given the option to keep it or sell it, and I chose the former. Again, it is perfect for the neighborhood and is a good conversation piece. Everyone who walks by stops to check it out.
DV: Running a small business is obviously challenging in many ways, but what were some problems you’ve run into that you didn’t expect?
RS: I wouldn’t call it a problem, but staying relevant is a constant challenge both in the bike industry and on a local level. It’s often not enough to simply be here; I have to find ways to stay fresh and be informed about constantly-changing trends. It’s nice to be here for patrons when necessity arises, but ideally people will be drawn to the shop by desire and interest. ■