SMF Cycles gears up for the future
by Clay Neely
Chris Schreiber never shies away from a question.
While he maintains an approachability and openness toward anyone who may walk through the door at SMF Cycles, he’s not one to mince words either. Honesty is the best policy in Schreiber’s eyes.
“While you might not like the answer I give you, I’m going to give you the right one,” said Schreiber.
Schreiber formed SMF Cycles eight years ago after deciding that his days of commuting to Alpharetta were over. He had been selling commercial insurance for restaurant franchises in New York before relocating to Fayetteville 16 years ago.
“A childhood friend and I had started this insurance agency up there (New York) and I had a securities background. This was around the time they started busting a lot of firms for high pressure phone sale tactics, of which I was trained by a guy named Bill Mecca, who Ben Affleck played in the movie ‘The Boiler Room.’ We got offered by a company down here that wanted me to do the same thing. They offered me 50 percent ownership. As the partners got older, they moved the company up to Alpharetta, so after eight years of that, I said, ‘You know what? I think I’m gonna cash in, guys.’ ”
Schreiber opened up shop in Tyrone, where SMF Cycles was born.
“I’ve always loved motorcycles and I had always been doing work on the side for friends. When I moved down here, I became friends with the president of Triumph at the time. We rode together and he introduced me to other people,” said Schreiber.
When Schreiber opened SMF Cycles, he had his mind set on how the business needed to run. For Schrieber, accountability would be paramount.
“I make the point of being here. Always. I’ve never hidden from anybody and I personally think it’s an important thing. If there is one thing that annoys me, it’s an absentee owner. I like my customers knowing who I am and where they can find me or anyone that works here,” said Schreiber.
“We get customer complaints just like everyone else does. But take a look around. We’re a small shop, and if you look in the back you can tell we’re an overworked small shop. So there’s a lot of vehicles here and we’re trying to get them all done,” he said. “But look at our Google reviews. Reading those reaffirms that we’re doing good work and that makes me proud.”
Schreiber runs the business with his wife, Georgette, and strives to maintain a “family business” style of operation with his employees. In the back of the shop, you will find SMF Cycle’s techs, Matt Spiroff and Becky Whitman. However, it’s not uncommon to see them at the front counter as well.
“I think it’s good business for customers to have the ability to interact with the people that are working on their bikes,” said Schreiber. “Matt and Becky’s knowledge is superb. So it doesn’t make much sense to have them quarantined in the back of the store. I’m proud of the work they do and I like it when they can assist with any problem that might walk in.”
Spiroff is originally from St. Louis, where he grew up loving street bikes.
“I was 16 when I bought my first street bike, much to the chagrin of my parents,” he laughed. “I can race ‘em and I can build ‘em.” “I just moved to Atlanta this year and originally applied for a job at a different shop, but it didn’t come through,” said Spiroff. “However, the cycling community is A pretty close-knit one and Chris caught wind that I was seeking a job. We met and everything just fell into place.”
Working alongside him is Becky Whitman, a native of Odessa, Texas, who moved to the area 11 years ago. While she was never formally trained as a mechanic, she has been fixing her children’s ATVs for more than 10 years now, simply out of necessity. Riding ATVs is a family activity for the Whitmans. Her youngest began riding at age 3.
When she began frequenting SMF Cycles for parts, she unassumingly displayed her breadth of knowledge and Chris ultimately asked her if she wanted a job.
“I was hesitant at first since I have four children, but Chris lets me work at my own schedule. I’m home each day by 2 p.m. so it’s a perfect fit,” said Whitman.
Because of their respective backgrounds in street bikes and ATVs, both Whitman and Spiroff complement each other perfectly in the garage.
“We both work to our strengths,” says Whitman. “I’m a little more fluent in ATVs while Matt is an expert with street bikes. We both work independently, for the most part, but neither one of us is shy about asking for help from each other.”
“It really is like a typical family around here,” said Spiroff. “We have to be open and honest with each other. Chris wants our customers to be satisfied completely and in order for that to happen, accountability is the key.”
“If something is done wrong, we talk about it very openly. There aren’t any hurt feelings around here and we check our egos at the door. In the end, we’re all working for the same purpose: to bring customers back and to constantly be improving our own skill set,” said Spiroff.
Both Whitman and Spiroff are extraordinarily proud of the work they do and the roles they play in the success of the company.
“I’ve been able to turn my passion into a paycheck,” said Spiroff. “I’m incredibly fortunate.”
Schreiber elaborated on the variety of work of which SMF Cycles is capable.
“We can and will work on every brand. This is how we built our business,” said Schreiber. “In this day in age, you have people in your store with their smartphones out, trying to compare prices. You have to be able to compete with that somehow. To me, the best strategy for repeat business is exceptional customer service. If I want people to keep coming back here, I have to give them a reason.”
Since moving to Newnan from Tyrone, business has been growing for SMF, despite the economic realities that have been the norm since 2008.
“That’s why we came to Newnan in the first place. We were in Tyrone for a year but we kept getting all this business from Newnan. We didn’t know why but we just figured this was the place to be. Turns out we were right. We quickly outgrew our Jefferson Street location because people were coming in left and right,” said Schreiber.
Since moving to their new location on Bullsboro Drive, business has remained steady, with both old and new faces coming through the door frequently.
“People walk in the new store and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t know you had all this stuff.’” Well, we did on Jefferson Street but no one ever really walked into that building,” said Schreiber.
The new SMF showroom is packed with a variety of makes and models — street bikes, dirt bikes, ATVs, scooters and side-by-sides.
“That might be one of our shortcomings,” admitted Schreiber. “Since we’re a jack-of-all trades, we don’t really have an identity or target audience. We deal with everything.”
Dealing with everything is just what Schreiber has been doing his whole life.
Just two months after opening SMF Cycles, Schreiber found out that he had cancer.
“Neuroendocrine carcinoid — Steve Jobs died from it, so did Dave Thomas from Wendy’s. It’s terminal, unfortunately,” said Schreiber.
Undeterred, Schieber has shrugged off the weight of this situation and likes to keep things rolling.
“I gotta stay busy, you know? If I sit and talk about cancer all day, I feel miserable. When people bring it up, it’s like a tiny little knife. It’s annoying. Don’t worry about me. Find something else to worry about, you know?”
SMF Cycles hosts a Bike Night on the first Friday of each month and the crowd is quite indicative of their customer base. Sport bikes and scooters mingle with touring bikes and choppers. Hot dogs are on the grill while a live DJ keeps the beat throughout the evening.
“All I’m trying to do is build a good business for my family and continue to grow and prosper in this economy. Oh yeah, and have fun,” Schieber said.
Schreiber and Georgette recently bought an Airstream camper and, along with their two boxers, Leo and Sampson, are ready for any adventure that life may have in store for them.