Laurie Lemieux and Ben Bassett, owners of Proteus Bicycles in College Park, told their customers that they had been nominated as one of the top 50 bike shops in the country. Then, they didn’t think much about it — until they were named third best in the nation.
“We sent out an email to our customers, but we had no idea we were going to come in at number three. I mean, wow!,” said Lemieux, 51, of Greenbelt. “I was absolutely floored.”
Lemieux said she received an email in September from Active Times, an online news source for outdoor activity enthusiasts, including runners, bicyclists and hikers. The email said the shop was one of 80 nominated to be named one of the top bicycle shops in the country and provided a link where people could vote.
“This just came out of the blue,” Lemieux said. “I have no idea how they selected us.”
Lemieux said she posted the link on the shop’s Facebook page and in its newsletter.
“I do acknowledge that it’s basically an online popularity contest, but we were still really surprised to place third,” said Bassett, 28, of Wheaton.
The poll, which opened Sept. 3, invited readers to vote on the best bicycle shop out of 80 candidates from 30 states and Washington, D.C. The shops were selected by Active Times for their independent ownership and commitment to local bicycling communities, according to the website.
“The gang at Proteus goes out of their way to make every customer — from the first-time commuter on up to hardcore cyclocross racers — feel like family,” wrote Peter Koch of Active Times, a New York-based online publication founded in 2012.
A total of 3,927 votes were cast in the poll. Proteus received 182, approximately 200 less than the top vote getter, according to Mark Lebetkin, an editor for the Active Times.
Proteus finished behind the Fit Werx of Waitsfield, Vt., and Peabody, Mass., and The Hub & Pisgah Tavern of Brevard, N.C.
There’s no prize for the winners, other than bragging rights and being featured on the Active Times website.
Lemieux said the shop has built up a loyal following of customers, who often attend the weekly potlucks and bicycle rides.
One customer, Constantia Rioux of College Park, said she first became involved with the shop’s community about nine years ago.
“There’s an awesome community around the shop that was established by Jill [DiMauro], the previous owner,” Rioux said. “She turned it into a wonderful center where cyclists of all kinds could come and share information. ... Ben and Laurie have kept that going and even improved on it.”
Lemieux had been a member of the Proteus community since first coming to the shop in 2006. When she found out DiMauro was selling the store, Lemieux approached her about buying it, to keep the community centered around the shop alive.
Bassett had been an employee of the shop since 2008 and also was looking to buy it. DiMauro sold it to both of them in May 2012.
“Community is very important to us,” Bassett said. “That’s what brought us here in the first place. I started coming to potlucks about six months before I started working here.”