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Success Stories

Local bicycle sales and service keep riders moving

Michael Frye
Economic Development
Small Business
Bicycles outside Berry Fast Bicyclles in Madison, S.D.

As warmer temperatures approach, bicyclists are making plans to hit the roads and trails to enjoy the great outdoors. For residents living around Madison, winter is their time to bring in bikes for tune-ups so they aren’t losing valuable riding time in the summer. Thanks to Berry Fast Bicycles service, just like summer, is just around the corner.

John Berry works on a bicycle in his Madison, S.D. business
John Berry, owner of Berry Fast Bicycles in Madison, S.D., assembles a bike in his repair shop.

“I started a repair shop out of my garage after the bike shop in Brookings closed,” said John. “As Madison people heard about me, I needed more space, so I bought a van to add mobile service and it just snowballed from there.”

We asked John how he came up with the name of his shop. “Well, it isn’t as creative as you’d think. My last name is Berry, my wife’s maiden name is Fast,” John joked. “It just worked.”

And the bicycle shop just works. In 2022, John and his wife purchased a historic storefront in downtown Madison to sell and service bikes. John credits the success of his business, in part, to organizations like Lake Area Improvement Corporation (LAIC) and Heartland Consumer Power District. “I would have probably done things a lot differently without getting hooked up with those groups,” John said. “I probably would still only be doing the van thing, but having a store opened up a lot more opportunities.”

A row of new bicycles for sale at Berry Fast Bicycles
Berry Fast Bicycles was able to expand their business to include a storefront and repair shop. John continues to operate a mobile repair van for events and door-to-door service.

Clark Guthmiller is a loan specialist with Rural Development’s Business and Cooperative Services program. He’s been with USDA for 38 years and works closely with intermediary lending partners like Heartland and LAIC. The two organizations each provided lower-interest loans to Berry Fast Bicycles’ expansion in 2023 through the Intermediary Relending Program.

“The intermediaries really help us carry out our work,” said Clark. “USDA certainly doesn't have the staffing power to be the bank of over $60 million dollars in business lending power, so we rely on our intermediary partners to carry out that work for us.”

Clark said Rural Development’s staff is still available to help them understand the rules and regulations for this and other programs, but then they work one-on-one with the businesses that benefit from Rural Development investments and put them to work.

“We have three intermediaries in Madison, and they are all very active in our relending programs,” said Clark. “LAIC, Heartland and Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) each received new investments in 2023, so they’re very busy, which keeps me very busy.”

To put this investment into perspective, Clark said the IRP funding across the country in 2023 was around $18 million. The three intermediary relenders in Madison received $3 million of those funds.

Brooke Rollag, Executive Director of LAIC, said it’s more than just providing loans for Madison businesses. “Being able to be a small piece of their story and seeing their dreams come true means so much to us,” said Brooke. “These business owners have risked a lot. They’ve poured their blood, sweat, tears and time into starting and growing their businesses. Because of the relending program, we can help keep interest rates down and put local businesses in a better financial situation.”

Brooke added that working with staff like Clark can make the difference in navigating the Rural Development applications. “He understands the complex programs and puts it in layman’s terms,” said Brooke. “The work Clark does helps get funding into local businesses, which helps the entire community thrive.”

As for Berry Fast Bicycles, John said there’s more to come.

“I’m not sure what’s next. We need to get settled in with our storefront and mobile business, then see where we go from there,” said John.

The shop continues to offer service out of the van, supporting many organized ride events like Ride Across South Dakota (RASDak), the very popular Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) and many others. John is already booked to support six different week-long bike tours in the summer of 2024.

A group of bicyclists in front of Berry Fast Bicycle's mobile repair shop.
Berry Fast Bicycles supports many week-long bike rides during the summer months.

“It’s a little chaotic in the summer, but we get three to six months to really crush it with bicycles,” John said. “Whether it’s 30,000 people or 300 people, I’m just out helping people have fun.”

Berry Fast Bicycles received an Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) loan from Heartland Energy Consumer Power District and Lake Area Improvement Corporation. Rural Development offers many programs to support rural businesses like IRP loans and more. Learn about all our programs at RD.USDA.Gov/SD.

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