Bigfoot Bike and Skate relocated to Bay View under almost biblical conditions. Bigfoot owner Brian Curtiss and his wife, Maggie, had just put the last of their inventory on a truck when water rushed through the door of their old shop on Oakland Avenue during the heavy rain and flooding in July, 2010.
Working under a "strong feeling" about the approaching storms and because the intersection at Oakland and Edgewood Avenues filled with water the weekend before, Curtiss and his wife decided to pull everything out. The store flooded waist high.
They've been in the historic Avalon building, 2481 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., since September, 2010. The response from Bay View has been "phenomenal" according to Curtiss.
"A lot of people had already been asking if I'd move here to do a bike or board shop, and support from the bike and skate communities, as well as the neighborhood and the business association, has been overwhelming," he says.
Bigfoot Bike and Skate specializes in SE-brand bikes, derby, speed and "custom quad" roller skates for skate parks, longboards and retro boards. "Longboards" are skateboards that are over 36 inches long and have a special "truck," or chassis. Longboard wheels are kept on the ground and Curtiss says people use them for "downhill surfing" and as basic transportation.
Retro skateboards are wider, 1980s-style boards that can be "tricked out" and appeal to 40 year-olds like Curtiss, who grew up riding them.
Bigfoot has an extensive "quad skating" line – skates with four wheels – and does not carry inline skates. In addition to top-of-the-line Riedell skates, the custom quads and all safety gear, the shop carries tights, thigh-high socks, T-shirts and Derby Skinz brand pants.
Bigfoot Bike and Skate sponsors Brew City Bruisers roller derby and the newer men's derby club, Blitzdkrieg, and they outfit the "fresh meat" or the derby skaters who are in training.
The shop takes its name from Curtiss' roller derby handle. "Bigfoot" Curtiss has a big, hairy suit he dons for derby games, but the nickname actually started long before his sponsorship of local roller derby.
"I've had a size 15 shoe since I was 12 years old. People started calling me 'Bigfoot' long ago. And it stuck."
The SE bikes they specialize in have been a part of bike culture since the '70s. Bigfoot carries many of SE Bike's older model reissues and plus-size BMX or "Big BMX" bikes, which have 26 and 29 inch wheels. But Bigfoot will carry and repair all kinds of bikes.
"Some people call me a boutique, which I take to mean that I'm never going to become a full-blown sporting goods store. Stay true to what you're doing," says Curtiss.
Curtiss says most bikes at Bigfoot are economically priced between $300 and $500, but custom builds can run thousands of dollars. "People look for old Mongoose, Redline and Hutch bikes. We trick them out, give them custom paint and chrome," Curtiss says. "There is just as big a retro BMX culture as there is for classic cars, with swap meets, clubs, online museums."
Curtiss grew up a "local bike and skate kid" in Kenosha, where Jim and Carol Jake let him hang around their business, Ski and Sport Chalet, which is still operating after 38 years.
"I was there so much, they had me sweeping the floors just to be nice. After awhile they realized that I knew more about BMX bikes than they did," says Curtiss, who was employed by the Jakes throughout his teen and college years.
Although he repairs and custom builds everything, Curtiss prefers single speed bikes for himself. Curtiss says he has a small fleet of bikes, including a "giant BMX bike for a big boy," one of the SE bikes he specializes in.
"I keep it simple and focus on what I love," says Curtiss, who is in the shop seven days a week but keeps Mondays and Tuesdays appointment only to keep on top of repairs. "And I shoot for really high customer service."
Bigfoot Bike and Skate Shop will have a bike corral at the Bay View Neighborhood Association's "Chill on the Hill," every Tuesday from June 7 to August 20 near the Humboldt Park bandshell. Bigfoot will offer bike inspections, tune ups and "tweaks." People who stop by the corral will also get a coupon for a special rate on bike work at the Bay View shop.