Her name is Cassandra Tyers and her business is bicycles. Oh, she could have had fun with the name, but Cassandra kept it simple with Closson Road Cycles, which places her firmly in the heart of County wine country. She and Keith Tyers, winemaker at Closson Chase, moved to The County in 2003. We’ll let Cassandra take it from there.
“We were sitting in our apartment in Toronto, before we had kids, and my husband said “You know Prince Edward County?” and I said, sure, that’s Picton and, umm, Sandbanks right? But I didn’t know The County as an entity, as A Thing, then. He was interested because he’s a wine guy, a sommelier, in the business. “Well, they’re growing grapes!” he said. We always used to travel to Niagara, he was headed in that direction, and we wanted to start a family, and I wanted to be closer to family in Kingston. Well, we took a leap of faith. We quit our jobs, sold the house and moved to The County.
In September 2002 we were driving down Closson Rd. and saw this property. It wasn’t for sale. It was a lot of land, but the house was a bit blah. We stopped the car, turned off the ignition and all we could hear was trees and birds. We took a moment. It was a beautiful September. Then we said, yeah, this is where we need to be. It wasn’t so hard to uproot and make the transition once we made the decision. I don’t consider myself religious but I am spiritual, and we both have faith in ourselves and our abilities.
Keith started with Closson Chase as a vineyard worker and he’s done every aspect of work in the winery from vineyard worker to sales. He’s been winemaker for a year and a half. He left them for two years, went and got experience at other places, did some consulting, then came back. He’s been employed year round since we got here.
Why did I get into bicycles? The children are getting older. In 2014 I had a brainwave. I saw an opening in the market, I saw something missing here. I’m on the wine route, we’re fairly immersed in the wine business and we know a lot of people, and I know not everybody who rides a bike wants to ride for 20 kms or more. Sometimes they just want to get on a nice bike and ride around the area and have a fun winery experience. I’ve got a great location for that. Bloomfield Bicycle Company does a great job, but there was an opening for something different here.
I’m passionate about where we are and I love sharing this place. After we moved here I realized how truly magical it is. As for bikes, well I like working with my hands. I like to work for myself. I can’t do office jobs, I’m not a computer person, I don’t get joy from it. I like to be out in the air, in the wind and the sun. Plus I can work with my kids, they can learn this trade. My son is 12 and my daughter is 9 and they can be part of the business. 2015 was a difficult year for us, we lost someone very close. It was just TIME to do something different. Now, 2016, this is it. I turned 43 in April and thought this is the year. I’m doing it.
We fill a niche. We’re geared to casual, short distance cyclists. It’s eight kilometers to Rosehall Run from here. I suggest routes, and I encourage people to get to know the area. We have a lot of emails back and forth before they even come. They don’t have to exactly plan, like 11 o’clock we’re here, 2 o’clock there. BUT if they want to go for lunch I can give them five options, and if they want to go to Norman Hardie’s on a Saturday I say you might want to make a reservation! I tell them about Picnic at Rosehall Run, Sam does amazing oysters there, or the crepes at The Old Third, I recommend County Road Beer, they’re cooking up amazing food there. Guapos Cantina, Ashley I think that is, at Traynor Family Vineyard. I point them to places that support the local food movement. So I guess we’re like a concierge service too!
Oh I’m full of ideas and I’ll be growing, but I’ve only been open a few weeks. I’d like to have interesting stuff in the barn. Right now we’ve got Adam Cole and his stained glass setting up in there. I’m going to paint it all up and get a sign. It’s a super cool structure so I have to do something good with it. I’ve had beautiful doors made locally. And I’ve got my Come-And-Get-It bell for people to clang if I’m in the house.
There’s so much to share. We’ve got beautiful trees. I don’t cater for serious cyclists, I don’t expect them to come here to rent a bike, but I can offer them shade, cold drinks, a port-a-potty. I contacted John Westerhoff about getting a bike rack for serious cyclists. You bring a picnic, I can give you a nice shady spot to rest and eat your protein bars.
I’ve worked at Tall Poppy Café and off-season I know 90% of the people who walk in by name. To me that’s exciting. That’s community. We’ve been here 13 years and seen a lot of people come. I see commonalities, people trying to tear away the hubbub in the city. When they come here it’s like peeling an onion. It’s simple and it’s lovely. You make a choice for happiness. But we all have to make a living, right? Well, I’ve found my niche.”
So Cassandra is off on an adventure … her story is 1 of a 3-part feature of local entrepreneurs based on Closson Road. Please check out Prince Edward County Lavender & SHED – Chetwyn Farm for additional inspiring stories of creative enterprises on this “long and winding road” in The County, and be sure to visit Closson Road’s own website for more news, history, events and trip planning information.
For startups or businesses looking to expand or re-locate to The County, you can fill out this Business Inquiry Questionnaire, and the Community Development Department will respond in 48 hours.