Bike trails become vehicles for booming McKeesport-area business
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 7:08 p.m.
A McKeesport business catering to bicyclists outgrew two locations in four years.
Mike Kostyzak of West Mifflin had an idea for a repair shop to serve those using the Great Allegheny Passage.
“In 2009 we opened in a glorified basement at 3731 Walnut St.,” the owner of Zak's Bicycle Shop said. “Nine hundred fifty square feet. It was basically an experiment at that point. I didn't know if the community was going to accept a bike shop, never mind one operating out of a basement.”
It became a case of “if you build it, they will come,” and he moved in 2010 to an old TV repair shop at 5020 Walnut St.
“This location we were up there for two years,” Kostyzak said. “Through feedback from the customers they wanted us to move into a place that had parking. (At 5020) parking was just horrific.”
So in November 2012 Zak's moved to 3014 Walnut St.
“I've got both doors swinging from about April till about the beginning of September,” Kostyzak said. “I have two doors on the place. It gets crazy but it's great. I love it.”
During the busy season he may get a couple hundred customers a week. Off-season it's 60-80 customers.
“I've had people from South Africa come into this store,” Kostyzak said. “We've had a couple Canadians who came here specifically to ride the rails to trails.”
It's a one-man show but Kostyzak is training another to be a bike mechanic.
There's two columns at Zak's. One's a regular line that can be done in one or two days. The other is for emergencies.
“If you are in distress, if you are a commuter you get bumped to the front,” Kostyzak said. “We kind of cater to the guys that are riding their bikes to work every day, or are on the trail with the wife and kids. This shop is really set up to help the working class guys who are going to work on their bikes.”
More details about Zak's can be found at zaksspeedshop.com or by calling 412-751-5278.
Joyce MacGregor, secretary of the McKeesport Trail Commission, pointed to Benito's at 2714 Walnut St. as another business seeking cyclists.
“Benito's has a new sign that they put on the trail outside the back of their restaurant,” MacGregor emailed.
As of Nov. 2, “if everything goes well,” future owners Joe and Brenda Osinski will have a grand reopening of Benito's with a new name, Puzzlers Restaurant and Lounge. The Osinskis are buying Benito's from John and Jane Marino.
Osinski sees cyclists all day long going up and down the trail on the McKeesport side of the Youghiogheny River.
“If they come in we will be more than happy to fill their water bottles for them,” Osinski said, “and offer them half a sandwich and a drink at a discounted price.”
Benito's can be reached at 412-672-2111.
Those who seek to sack out need go a little further down the trail.
“We do not have a lodging facility in McKeesport yet, but hope to turn the trailside building in Gergely Riverfront Park into a hostel,” MacGregor wrote. “Plans have been drawn up and a building fund has been started. Discussions are under way.”
There's trailsidetreasures.com on the Internet that illustrates Ralph and Barb Stahley's business in Boston.
Trailside Treasures offers guest rooms, bike rental, and a refreshment area with beverages, ice cream and snacks at 1910 Donner St.
Barb Stahley “was so nice, telling us where to eat,” Valerie Lumby of Twinsburg, Ohio, recalled. “She was so helpful.”
Bicycles can be rented on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., weather permitting, for $5 an hour or $20 a day.
Single rooms are $55.86 per night, double rooms $78.66.
The Stahleys said their guest rooms have private entrances, private baths with a dressing area, a coffee pot, refrigerator, microwave, cable TV and WIFI access to the Internet.
For room rentals or other details call 412-414-4380.
Lumby was traveling between Elizabeth Township and Pittsburgh with her friend Mary Smith of Twinsburg, following the path of friends.
“My neighbors did it from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., taking the B&O trail,” Lumby said, referring to the old railroad route now used by cyclists from Cumberland, Md., into the nation's capital.
“We've been wanting to do this Great Allegheny Passage bike trail for years,” Smith said. Their base of operations was the Pump House in Munhall, from which they went east to the Boston area, then west to Pittsburgh.
A quarter-mile from the trail and Boston Bridge is Yough Shore Manor, 1403 Boston Hollow Road, Elizabeth Township. On the state's official tourism website, Yough Shore Manor touts “seven unique guest rooms, decorated in a fun and unique theme; each with a refrigerator and microwave.”
There also is a dining room and “squirrels nest” deck area, a game room and “ample parking for guests to use during their stay and to park a vehicle for a longer term while enjoying the bike trail.”
It can be reached at 412-754-0440 or youghshoreinn.info.
“You also may camp out at Dravo Campground,” MacGregor wrote. The Allegheny Trail Alliance describes what also is known as Dravo's Landing Primitive Campground, a free site six miles south of the Boston trailhead and one and one-half miles north of the Buena Vista trailhead.
ATA cautions that it is not accessible by car and spaces are first come, first serve. There is room for several tents, two fire rings and two picnic tables, as well as permanent restroom facilities and a pump for well water.
In June more than 300 riders and support staff took part in the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's 11th annual Greenway Sojourn in June.
The conservancy said $117,000 in direct local spending took place on the trek between Cumberland and Pittsburgh. Each rider plunked down an average of $575:
• Bike supplies, clothing, sleeping bags and camping equipment added up to $224 in Pennsylvania and $152 in Maryland.
• Accommodations ate up $132 in Pennsylvania, $116 in Maryland. Nine out of 10 riders took an overnight stay.
• In addition to prepaid, catered meals, participants spent $47 on food in local communities.
“Capturing data like this is critically important in helping make the case to state and federal governments for why they should invest in trails systems,” said Tom Sexton, founder of the Sojourn and director of the conservancy's Northeast regional office.
“Sojourners” came from 25 states and Canada. Riders ranged in age from 6 to 86.
More than one out of every five riders had done the Sojourn before. Four out of five riders said they would return to specific towns or special attractions.
The trail itself drew a 4.3 score on a scale of 5, but 43 percent of riders said the trail needed better signage to towns and local attractions.
The conservancy effort updated a 2011 survey done by the Trail Town Program in partnership with Allegheny Trail Alliance and Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.
Volunteers went to 11 locations between Cumberland and Homestead, collecting nearly 1,200 surveys.
They found nearly 800,000 trips, with 21.8 percent of respondents visiting the trail for the first time. Just over half are in the 45-64 age range.
The Trail Town survey found that visitors were likely to spend about $17 daily, mainly on snacks, beverages and restaurants. Groups traveling together were likely to spend $51 a day in the same places.
Also, 28 percent of respondents reported an overnight stay, with 29.6 percent of the overnighters going to campgrounds, 27.5 percent to bed-and-breakfasts.
On average, they spent $114, similar to that Maryland figure in the conservancy's poll but up from $98 in a 2008 Trail Town poll.
Lumby and Smith didn't stay along the trail. They spent $131 on a room at a hotel in the Allegheny Valley.
“It was less expensive than a night here,” Lumby said. “We probably spent $160 on dinners and $75 on ... lunches, water, drinks and maps.”
Ninety-one businesses also were surveyed for the Trail Town study. On average, 30 percent of their gross revenues were attributed to trail business, with 25 percent reporting gross revenue of more than $250,000.
Thirty percent had plans to expand, with about half saying trail traffic affected that decision. Of 88 that answered the question, 23 businesses close for more than two weeks, most commonly in the winter.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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