Former Australian Olympic team mechanic and national road team manager Frank Conceicao is selling his Albion Cycles store, which has been a feature in Sydney’s eastern suburbs for more than four decades.
Frank, who has also mentored elite cyclists and triathletes and ran coaching camps attracting top athletes from Australia and abroad, is looking to return to his roots in Portugal.
“At 71, I’m tired and want to finish my life in Portugal,” he said.
“I have a place in the south of Portugal and I’m going to live there once I sell the business.
“I go back there every year and I just feel that’s home. Everyone goes back to their home place sooner or later.
“As Portugese Australian, this country has given me great things in life. I came here when I was 14 but it’s time to move on.
“I do cycle tours in Australia and Europe and I’m about to do a tour in Portugal. I’ll continue to do those tours, for people to enjoy the food and drink and the riding we provide.
“They’re a passion more than anything else,” Frank said.
“Wanting to go back to Portugal was always my thing. When my mother died, we had nothing there, so I went back and bought a place to go back to.”
From Pools to Pedals
The Waverley shop had originally been a pool store when Frank bought it in 1979 and he had intended to keep it that way.
However, the elite road and track cyclist had been persuaded by a friend to stock a few bikes during his first winter in business and they proved to be more profitable.
Frank did a lot of research and transitioned the business into a dedicated bike store.
“It only took about six months to make the transition from a pool shop,” he said.
“These days you’d probably make more money in pools, but it’s been great being part of the bike industry.
“We used to make our own road bikes back then. We had two brands, Albion Cycles and Conceicao – and most of them were steel in those days.
“We had a few cyclists riding them at the top level but it just became too costly to make your own bikes.
“We were also importing bikes from Portugal.”
In more recent times, Albion Cycles has been a Trek concept store.
“We’ve been with Trek for a long time and it’s one of the best brands around,” he stated.
“Its warranties are second to none and there’s no arguments about who did what, so the customer is always satisfied.
“When a customer had a problem, we were always looked after. To me, the most important thing is you look after is your customer, before anything else.
“You walk into my store and it’s never ‘no’. If somebody wants something done quickly, we drop everything to help them. Always find a solution.”
Albion Cycles began life on the corner of Bronte and Albion Street and remained there for 20 years.
In 2000, it moved across the road to number 1 Albion Street, for another 20-year stint that included being in the spotlight during the 2000 Sydney Olympics road race, which sped directly past the store’s front door.
Rising rent and the sale of the building then prompted the business to relocate to Bronte Road for the past four years.
Frank briefly opened a second store in Rose Bay in 2013.
“I came to a conclusion two stores wasn’t the thing to do at that time. I couldn’t spread myself and the costs across the two stores and Rose Bay wasn’t the place for a bike shop,” he said.
“It didn’t work as well as we thought it would and we closed it down after only a year.”
As part of Frank’s multifaceted support for Australian cycling, he began a development road team a decade ago, then called the Subaru Albion Cycling Team. It has since been renamed Rauland Development Cycling Team but Frank continues to run the youth-orientated squad as part of the National Road Series.
Solid During Testing Times
He said while the industry currently faced testing times, his business was still in good shape.
The current premises, a downsize from 1 Albion Street, is a modest-sized metropolitan store, with around 60 road and mountain bikes on the floor.
“Our store is still going well. I certainly wouldn’t be selling the store if I didn’t want to retire,” Frank added.
“If it came to the crunch and the store didn’t sell, I would look at staying for another four years.
“Everyone is feeling a bit of pain right now but everyone needs to keep motivating themselves and find other things for their business.
“We sent out lots texts about repairs, when we were short of repairs, and that’s what kept the business going, pretty much.
“Everyone knows at the moment the market is not strong for selling bikes. But it is strong for labour and selling parts.
“Having the right people working for you, that’s one of the biggest things for a successful business.
“There’s three of us at the moment and I’ve always worked with no more than four other people.
“We’ve become more versatile, so everyone can do everything in the store.”