Sales and (Public) Service: Lance KoonsMay 22nd, 2010 | By Mike Schwartz | Category: Front Page, People
Lance was born and raised in Elizabethtown. After a 23-year career in police, security, and counseling, he changed course to pursue one of his passions – recreational bicycling. After a long involvement in sports such as football, track, wrestling and racing bicycles, the change was a natural progression in his life course. Additionally, repairing bicycles was a cathartic experience for Lance and furthered his excitement about making cycling a full-time job. Lance is the owner of Rails to Trails Bicycles in Elizabethtown. He currently lives in Elizabethtown with his wife Monica and his two children.
EJ: What led you to open a bicycle store and how long did it take the idea to incubate?
LK: I saw a need for a bicycle shop that catered to the recreational bicyclist. I wanted to find a commercial location as close to the Conewago Recreational Rail Trail as possible and ended up at my original location on Rt. 743 near Rt. 283. In 2004, after several years of planning and preparation, I visited other bike shops across the country to find out what made them successful and what challenges they faced. I trademarked the name RAILS TO TRAIL long before it became an everyday word. The business model for the RAILS TO TRAIL bicycle shop included the financial and service support of the trail on which the shop was located. It also allows for the local population surrounding the trails to commit to ownership and stewardship.
EJ: How long has the store been in business?
LK: The shop opened in November 2004 at 411 Hershey Rd. In May 2009 I moved the business and opened at 1010 Hershey Rd., beside the Conewago Recreational Rail Trail.
EJ: What is the general philosophy behind the shop? What do you hope to accomplish?
LK: We believe that bicycling is for everyone. We have customers from many walks of life: those who haven’t been on a bike for many years; those who are looking to incorporate exercise into their lives again; and those who are looking to be involved in a family activity. Our goal is to promote recreational bicycling on the trail and provide trailside services to trail users.
EJ: Your shop has a unique relationship with the Conewago Rail Trail and the County and Township Parks Departments. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
LK: It took us a few years to locate trailside to our current location. From the beginning we knew that it would be a great thing for our customers to have a bicycle shop located conveniently on the trail for information, repairs, snacks and refreshments, security and advice. We initiated support from the Lancaster County Parks and Recreation Department by requesting the resurfacing of the Conewago Recreational Rail Trail and additional patrols of the trail. We have also made a substantial number of donations to trail-related organizations and functions; these include our donation of a bicycle to the county park rangers and over $15,000 donation toward the development of the community’s newest park, Old Trolley Line Park on Beverley Road (adjacent to the shop and the trail). I am very excited about this project!
EJ: Your location on the trail offers you a great vantage point to see how the trail is being used. What best summarizes trail use and what role do you see it playing in the lives of local residents?
LK: The trail offers recreation of many types for area residents. Bicyclists, runners, and walkers benefit from this resource, and not only physically; the mental health aspect of the community is strengthened. I see high school teams using it for track and cross country practice, and see people taking alone time to deescalate themselves from their busy days. It provides a safe location for exercise clear of traffic. It’s also great to see Scouting and volunteer groups providing community service on the trail through clean- up programs. I would like to see all trail users be responsible for how they use the trail. Cleaning up trash and animal waste is required; trail use is not a right but a gift. Keeping it green will be the biggest challenge for future generations; development and sprawl threaten its beauty on a daily basis. Various species of wildlife are sustaining themselves on these small strips of land, including foxes and deer, and the area is also conducive to bird migration patterns, but each time we approve a housing development adjacent to the trail we kill off any chance of recovery. My building location, even though new, already existed in a previous building footprint along with a self contained septic system designed to have little or no environmental impact to the area. Yes, it’s more expensive upfront, but is advantageous for future generations.
EJ: From your unique perspective, what does the future hold for recreational opportunities around the trail?
LK: Recreational trail users can walk, run or bike 28 miles from Elizabethtown to Lebanon City by using the Conewago Recreational Rail Trail and the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. Future trails within surrounding boroughs and townships will provide even more access to these trails in the future, linking local municipalities to these trails. In addition the new park will be a great addition to the community.
EJ: What advice do you have for a novice who is interested in cycling?
LK: “Just Do It”! Cycling is a great cardio workout with minimum impact. You will be amazed at how your body will change in just a few weeks with three 20-minute rides per week. We love to educate customers about the options they have available when considering a new bicycle so stop in and see us!
EJ: Any final comments?
LK: I would just like to thank my wife, son, daughter, relatives, friends and customers that have helped the cause and believed that the business is just not for profit but a way of life that benefits humanity.
EJ: Thank You.