History of First Flight Bikes
In high school, one of the local dads in Jeff’s Boy Scout troop “donated” Jeff a large pile of bike parts. Out of those bike parts, Jeff built a couple of bikes and the dynasty was born. Soon he was fixing bikes for folks all over town.
Jeff takes a job at a bike shop near his college campus in Columbus, Ohio. Here he purchased his first mountain bike, a Raleigh Seneca.
Jeff graduates from Ohio State University with a computer engineering degree. With no job prospects in that field, he and some friends spent a week traveling through NC, SC, and GA checking out bike shops. When he noted that Charlotte seemed to be an underserved market, he moved there. Jeff soon began working with Bruce, who was the owner of an established bike shop in Mooresville.
Jeff becomes an equal partner with Bruce in Cool Breeze Cyclery. They opened a second store location at 1814 E. Broad St, Statesville.
The Statesville location outgrew its 1250 square foot building and moved across the street to 1811 E. Broad St. with 3000 square feet.
The owner of Pro Cyclery in Hickory had contacted Jeff and Bruce about buying out his business. They soon added this 3rd location.
Jeff and Bruce decided to split the business. Jeff became the owner of the Statesville and Hickory locations. He decided a name change was in order and after much deliberation, decided on “First Flight Bicycles” for its parallels to the Wright Brothers story (who started out in a bike shop in Ohio and later came to NC for the first flight).
The downtown Statesville location moved to 216 S. Center St. with a 5000 square foot location and 2 stories for the growing bike collection. In both the Statesville and Hickory locations, the shop specialized in selling Trek, Specialized, and Cannondale. The Cannondale line was eventually dropped in 2000.
Construction began on the Itusi Trail at Lake Norman State Park. This was also the first year of Crossroads Festival where we held a vintage bike swap meet.
A Trek representative bought out the Hickory store in December. It reopened as Rock N’ Road under the new ownership on January 1, 2004.
The Crossroads Festival this year featured several vintage mountain bike “celebrities” including Ross Shafer, Jacquie Phelan, Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster, Paul Thomasberg and Joe Murray of Shimano, and Maurice and Thanita from Dirt Rag. The road ride was cancelled and the festival concentrated on mountain bike riding instead.
Around this time, lots of people were calling into the store trying to upgrade their old bikes with newer components but having difficulty with compatibility. After some discussion with folks from the festival, it was agreed that using an established name brand would be a good idea for making “old school” mountain bike frames that would accept modern components. Soon, First Flight had acquired the Mountain Goat brand and started working on bikes.
The Gary Fisher line was added to the bike lineup.
The store’s exterior was updated, including a paint effect where the previously white-painted brick was painted again to look like brick. The project was awarded the “Best Façade Improvement under $10,000” by the NC Main Street organization.
First Flight was awarded our first nationwide award of Top 100 shops in America by Bicycling magazine.
First Flight was chosen as one of the Top 100 shops in the US by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (out of around 4,200 shops in the US).
The Salsa line of bikes was also added to the store.
Awards this year included being voted the #7 shop in the country by The Active Times and a “Best Bike Shop” by the NBDA.
In April, the first Itusi Homecoming was held to celebrate those who were instrumental in the making of the trail.
The Hi-E line of bike components was added to the store.
Trek acquired the Electra and Townie lines, so those began to be sold in the store.