Andy Zivinsky and Diane Cutler were determined to move to the mountains.
Their passion for all things outdoors was making the Raleigh area increasingly ill-suited to the type of lifestyle they wanted.
“We were only taking an outdoor trip once a month and it wasn’t enough. That was only 12 fishing trips or 12 backpacking trips a year, and we wanted that to be the main part of our life,” Cutler said.
Between mountain biking, bird watching, hiking, camping, rock climbing and fly-fishing, they couldn’t get it all in during weekend trips consumed by driving back and forth across the state. Last year, they spent a week of vacation backpacking and fishing on Hazel Creek in the Smokies and romping through Joyce Kilmer.
But it was a trip into Bryson City that sealed their fate.
“It was a kind of fluke. We had been backpacking for four days and thought ‘We could use a shower and comfortable bed,’” Cutler recounted. “When we got into Bryson City our jaw dropped and we were like this is where we want to live. It is small and it wasn’t real polished. It wasn’t yuppie.”
Cutler said it had just what they were looking for: lots of outdoor recreation every direction you turned.
“Some people look for good schools, some people look for great restaurants or art and culture, but our thing is outdoor recreational activity and this place has everything — paddling and hiking and biking and fishing and bird watching,” Cutler said.
Zivinsky was also impressed with how unpretentious it is in Bryson.
“We decided, ‘Wow this was just the best place in the world.’ It wasn’t built up and over exposed,” Zivinsky said. “We tried to find jobs and that didn’t exactly happen so we decided to make jobs.”
In the Raleigh area, Zivinsky worked at a tire store and Cutler worked for a non-profit energy efficiency firm, which she has stayed on with as a consultant.
But “Andy had always wanted to have a bike shop,” Cutler said.
So the couple could hardly believe their luck when they not only stumbled into the town of their dreams but found it lacked a bike store.
There are already two bike stores within 15 miles: Motion Makers in Sylva and the NOC bike shop in the Nantahala Gorge. But Cutler and Zivinsky think there is enough market share to go around.
“We don’t want to come in and step on anybody’s toes,” Cutler said.
Motion Makers in particular has a long-standing and loyal clientele. Cutler sees their Bryson City bike shop catering to a different type of customer, however, citing their emphasis on mountain bikes and bike rentals versus the more serious road biker.
The new bike shop owners want their store to fill a void for the greater Swain County biking community as a gathering place. They hope the shop will serve as a home base for bike riders new to the area looking for routes. The bike shop will have free trail maps and directions to trailheads, as well as a computer for riders to print out maps of their choosing.
“You can waste an awful lot of time trying to figure out where to ride and which direction to ride,” said Zivinsky
“Even people who have been coming here for years had no clue there was anywhere to ride other than Tsali.”
As jacks-of-all-trades when it comes to outdoor recreation, they know how hard it can be to stuff all your gear for a trip into one vehicle. Between kayaks and climbing gear and backpacks and tents and coolers, a bike rack thrown into the mix, especially for a whole family, can be the breaking point.
So the bike shop will rent bikes of all sorts, including all the gear from helmets to a repair bag.
“It is turnkey,” Zivinsky said. “You get everything you need.”
It will also be good for novice riders who might not think to travel with their bikes, but once here, would like to ride.