TRI-BIKE ARUBA’s history in a nutshell
Recently expanded mega store and bicycle mecca TRI-BIKE ARUBA started out in a small shed behind the home of owner Gert van Vliet’s parents. Gert had studied in Holland and was trying to find a job as a physical education teacher while practicing for triathlons in the region. Tinkering with his bike and those of his friends became a consuming hobby: whenever he traveled to races he brought parts and accessories back with him. Soon the shed in Sabana Grandi became cramped and a 20 ft. container was added to create more space.
As cycling and mountain biking became more and more popular in the 90′s, there was a great demand for apparel, shoes, bikes and parts on the island, so that the area between the shed and the container was fashioned into a small store. Gert became the official Trek dealer on the island. “It was still a small business at the time,’’ recalls Gert. “Sometimes people would knock on my door for an inner tube at 10 pm!’’ Fortunately there were no cell phones at the time, otherwise he would never have had a peaceful night’s sleep.
In 1996 the move to Papilon was made. TRI-BIKE ARUBA, a word play of triathlon bike and `try a bike’, now boasted a warehouse with enough space for a good-sized workshop, rental bikes and storage. Bike owners from all over the island found their way to Papilon, where Gert, one employee and a few school kids helping out in the weekends, ran the business. Seven years further on, in 2003, even Papilon was too small for the growing demand for bikes, repairs and everything that goes with biking. A good-sized terrain in Macuarima on the main road of St. Cruz, close by the old location and of the National Park, was the solution. TRI-BIKE ARUBA flourished from the word `go’, branching out into swim- and sportswear.
The recent 3500 square feet expansion of TRI-BIKE ARUBA, which saw its official opening mid-June 2012, took a few months, but it was worth the hardship and the wait: the mega-store is now hosting a large repair area, a lounge area, a spacious shopping area with fitting rooms and even more parking space. Gert’s partner Annemarie Melchers, physical therapist and a great sportswoman herself, is the best model for the clothing line. She is founding member of the `Strakke Billen Club’, (the Tight Butt Club) a less hard-core counterpart of the `Dikke Buiken Club’ (the Fat Bellies Club). Both groups, often starting their training from TRI-BIKE ARUBA, consist of avid riders, who might or might not have started riding with fat bellies; nowadays it is just tight butts! Annemarie has been working full time in the shop since 2008.
Gert van Vliet, who participated in the Iron Man Triathlon in Hawaii in 1990 and 1991, is also an Olympian, as he formed part of the peloton in the 1992 Barcelona Cycling Road Race. Combining his hobby with his job has been a logical step in his life. He might have hung up his triathlon shoes by now, but the wonderful TRI-BIKE ARUBA shop in Macuarima is not the end of the line as yet. “I am considering opening a second location’’, he says with a big smile.