Bellingham was still an undiscovered gem in 2004. Galbraith Mountain’s trail system had yet to experience the global spotlight and was still a playground for 26-inch bikes and their body-armor-clad riders. Long-time residents Mark and Kathy Salisbury were actively involved in the mountain biking scene, with Mark being a member of the group that brought Galbraith’s beloved SST trail to life. Kathy was an integral member of the cycling community, bringing female riders together and sharing the sport at a time when it was highly male-dominated. Their son Kyle was just as obsessed as them, pushing his riding through regional racing events. Given the atmosphere, Mark and Kathy saw it as the perfect opportunity to open a bike shop that could better serve their family’s needs and those of the local community.
Their vision for Fanatik Bike Co. was to have a storefront that could stock and provide the small but dedicated scene with high-end, mountain-specific inventory that wasn’t readily available in town. Situated in a small garage space on James St, the Salisburys never anticipated that less than a decade later, Fanatik would be not only Bellingham’s premier mountain bike retailer but also a world-renowned presence in the sport.
A Family Business
“We were passionate about biking and wanted to be immersed in the culture. When Fanatik started, Galbraith and biking weren’t as popular as they are now. There were fewer trails, fewer riders, and less trail maintenance, but the desire was there. We helped satisfy a craving for mountain biking in the community," said Kathy Salisbury.
Starting as a literal mom-and-pop shop, Fanatik was supported by a group of mountain bikers passionate about sharing the sport with others. It was all hands on deck with their son, Kyle, working for Fanatik from the get-go.
“I remember unpacking the first product shipments and stocking the shelves. I was even there for the first-ever sale! Fanatik had five or six employees, with everyone doing everything as needed; you wrenched, worked the sales floor, and stocked the shelves,” said Kyle.
During those formative years, Fanatik grew in tandem with the community of Bellingham. As the area’s residents fell further into a mountain bike frenzy, Fanatik supported them by any means possible.
“Our access to great trails is unparalleled and continues to fuel a community of passionate riders. In turn, they inspire and motivate us in many ways. From ensuring we have the products and parts to keep people riding to volunteering at events such Ski-to-Sea, WMBC’s Shoot the Trails, and even helping get bikes for kid’s programs, Bellingham has played a role in making Fanatik a premiere mountain bike shop,” said Kathy.
As the city of Bellingham evolved, so did Fanatik. Backed by an ambitious team, Fanatik ventured into e-commerce for the first time. What started as an attempt to move dusty inventory became a way to support a more extensive and diverse product line for all our customers, both locally and nationally. Around the same time, Fanatik began to find its identity in creating custom bike builds.
Over the following decade, Fanatik’s knowledgeable staff, vast inventory, and capacity to create custom builds set it apart from a typical bike shop. Despite that, it has maintained the small-town bike shop relationship with local customers and visitors from out of town. By bringing that attitude and compassion to the national stage, Mark and Kathy eventually found themselves running a bike shop not only ingrained in the local community but one that resonated with mountain bikers from all over the world.
The Next Chapter
After eighteen incredible years, Mark and Kathy have decided that the time has come for them to step away from an ownership role at Fanatik. Over the years, the business has grown in ways they could never have imagined. As Mark and Kathy withdraw from the helm of Fanatik, they do so with a deep appreciation for everyone who has played a role in the company’s development.
“We owe so much to so many people. Thank you to members of our team, past and present, who have shared their knowledge and enthusiasm. Your passion has pushed Fanatik to the forefront of the industry; we deeply appreciate you. Thank you to our Fanatik community for your business, trust, and confidence. It has been our pleasure to be along for the ride with you,” said Mark and Kathy Salisbury.
When it came time to transfer ownership, Mark and Kathy already knew the best people for the role. Kyle and his wife, Brie Salisbury, have stepped up as the next generation of Fanatik’s ownership. Brie has a critical understanding of the business, having been in an accounting role for many years. Kyle himself had not only helped inspire Mark and Kathy’s love of mountain biking but was, in fact, the shop’s very first grom, making the two a natural fit for the position.
“Keeping Fanatik in the family was very important to us. Having Kyle and Brie take over the store brings things full circle. Kyle got us into the sport; he was there initially and always involved from afar. Brie had been working for Fanatik for years and enjoyed it. We knew they had the passion and intimate knowledge to carry Fanatik into the future,” said Mark.
Brie and Kyle have a comprehensive knowledge of Fanatik and the business savvy required to take on such a role. Before moving into this role, Brie had accumulated seven years of experience in an accounting position for Fanatik. Kyle has been involved with Fanatik since its inception before stepping away to take on other ventures in the construction industry, giving him a unique perspective on the company’s development from an employee and customer point of view.
“It was fun to see Fanatik’s growth as a customer. For years after I no longer worked there, I would go into the store, still knowing everyone, and would be treated like an employee. Over time the business grew, and people took new positions. I slowly became a real customer and enjoyed going into Fanatik and seeing the level of customer service that the team is passionate about,” says Kyle.
The two will continue to prioritize the consumer trust on which Fanatik has built its reputation. As a mountain-specific shop, they intend to focus on being the go-to source for anyone interested in putting tires on dirt, whether they’re new to the sport or have been here since the beginning. In addition, the shop will continue efforts to connect with its communities, both local and otherwise. Fanatik will reinvigorate efforts to give back by bolstering relationships with local organizations like the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition and Vamos Outdoor Project. Galbraith’s beloved SST trail will stay under Fanatik’s watch, with trail maintenance on the horizon to get it in pristine condition for this season’s Whatcom World Cup races.
“We want to continue to be a destination shop; be the shop you can count on to get you riding in a pinch. People come from all over to ride Bellingham and are often in a mechanical predicament when they arrive; we want to help them to enjoy their time in Bellingham and experience why we love it here,” said Brie.
The Future of Fanatik
Fanatik is a small-town bike shop that has worked hard to build a worldwide following. Despite having evolved dramatically over the last eighteen years, the shop has maintained its roots here in Bellingham. Developing into a mountain-specific shop with a reputation for customization and expertise, Fanatik takes pride in having a diverse selection of the latest mountain biking tech to a global audience while still nurturing relationships with its immediate community.
“Fanatik is a small town brick-and-mortar store that likes bikes. Located in Bellingham, people from all over the country and beyond look to the PNW region to see what we are riding. Although Fanatik has national recognition, it will always be a humble small-town shop selling bikes. Fanatik is a tool to share what we love about the PNW and sport with the rest of the country,” said Kyle.
With the guidance of Brie and Kyle Salisbury, Fanatik looks forward to a new decade even better than the last. Driven by the same passions that made it successful in the first place, Fanatik will maintain the same ethos that has made it the community staple it is today. During its time, Fanatik has grown in stride with the community and industry standards. From 26” wheels, to 29”, to mixed-wheel bikes, the shop has been steadfast in its commitment to supplying the best products and knowledge available. No matter what new cycling standard and technology lies around the corner, the Fanatik family will continue to help customers navigate it.
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