Tuesday August 8, 2017

Former Chamber Head Buys Murdock's in Oswego

Greg Mills takes over iconic bicycle and sports shop
By Lou Sorendo

    Greg Mills, center, is joined by Keith Miller, left, and Rick Rodgers.



    Has Greg Mills finally found what he is looking for?

     

    Mills is the new owner of Murdock’s Bicycles & Sports, 177 W. First St., downtown Oswego. He has held a myriad of top positions on the local business scene.

     

    He has worked for financial institutions such as Columbia Bank, Oswego City Savings Bank, Pathfinder Bank and most recently as the business development officer at Empower Federal Credit Union.

     

    He also served as executive director of the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

     

    In addition, he worked as executive director of the Oswego and Fulton YMCAs, and was also assistant director at the City of Oswego Community Development Office.

     

    What hasn’t he done?

     

    Mills is embarking on sole proprietorship for the first time in his career.

     

    Former owner Ben Turner recently sold the business to Mills, an avid cyclist himself.

     

    He has been a customer of Murdock’s since Turner’s father, Ernie, took over operations of the store in 1991.

     

    “I am a bike rider, I love cycling and I am eager to work with people and be an asset to our community,” he said.

     

    Ben Turner just recently transitioned out of the business and is in the midst of making a career change. On the island of Dominica in the Caribbean Sea, Turner will be owner-operator of Three Rivers EcoLodge in the village of Rosalie.

     

    Murdock, incidentally, was the name of Ernie Turner’s dog, who also graces the business logo.

     

    The business will retain not only the name, but also the dog’s image on its logo.

     

    Mills has been familiar with the shop since Ernie Turner opened it.

     

    “I bought my first road bike, and have been involved with the store as a customer, helping to build the cycling community up,” said Mills, noting the area now features a riding club — Ride Oswego County — as well as a racing team.

     

    Mills said he enjoyed being a part of the initial movement and seeing the biking community prosper.

     

    “Now I am in a position where I can help grow and build it and provide quality products for people that they can be proud of,” he said.

    Mills said biking is a “great resource,” whether it’s for recreation or racing.”

     

    Passing the torch — Turner contacted Mills last winter in search of help in trying to realize the next step of his career.

     

    He had met challenges in trying to meet that objective, and wanted to draw on Mills’ extensive business background for guidance, ideas and references.

     

    “I just had one of those moments where I felt maybe this was a sign that I should maybe change my direction and go from being an adviser and helper in the business community to becoming more part of the business community,” Mills said.

     

    “Here I am now with that opportunity, and it’s been great,” he said.

     

    “I came into this thinking I somewhat knew the business side of it, and as a cyclist, it was going to be pretty easy to upload,” he said. “But the true challenges are really knowing what this entire business is made up of. It’s one thing to say it’s a bike shop, but it’s so much more.”

     

    Mills said the key is determining what the shop needs in order to quickly and efficiently turn bikes around for people.

     

    “That’s a big learning curve bike for me. I’ve been a bike owner and have worked on one bike — mine. Now I’m working on all these bikes,” said Mills while referring to a wave of bikes that recently came in for repair.

     

    Mills, 57, is originally from Lyons.

     

    “First of all, I don’t want to break what’s already working,” Mills said. “But I want to build on it because I think there is potential to even have a stronger influence on the community and area.”

     

    The goal, Mills said, is to create recreational outreach, whether it is through bike clinics or shop rides.

     

    He said the intent is to connect with all levels of riders and provide encouragement.

     

    “Some people look at a group ride and say, ‘Hey, those guys are all going to ride fast’, or ‘I know some of those people and can’t keep up with them’,” Mills said.

     

    “We need to reach out to that level of rider and ask, ‘How can we help you understand and appreciate your bike?’ and encourage them to ride,” he said.

     

    Mills said he does not see the shop as a single entity in terms of reaching out and advocating a healthier lifestyle.

     

    “I see us as part of the collaboration to create a stronger identity within our community to help behaviors that maybe were lacking in some cases,” he said.

     

    Mills said he wants Murdock’s to be one of those components to accommodate what people are looking for, whether it be biking, kayaking or hiking.

     

    “I think there are a lot of people coming together to create a strong community from a recreational perspective,” he noted.

     

    Armed with knowledge — Mills said now he needs to “practice what I preached.”

     

    “From my start here in 1989 with Columbia Bank and then with Oswego City Savings and Pathfinder banks, and through the Community Development Office and other community organizations that I have been involved with, not only as an employee but also as a board member and volunteer, I think I have a pretty good understanding of our area and now I’m in a position to be one of those people,” Mills said. “I used to look in their windows, and now I’m looking out the window as a business owner.”

     

    Mills opted not to disclose the cost associated with launching the business, but did say he received financial support.

     

    “I’ve been fortunate because of the relationships I’ve built over almost 30 years of being in the community,” he said.

     

    “People have faith in me, faith in my judgment and my ability to absorb risk,” he said. “I am very blessed to have the benefits of the Community Development Office here in Oswego, as well as Pathfinder Bank.”

     

    Mills said he provided lenders a detailed business plan that showed not only what has transpired at the business, but also what the new owner’s vision is.

     

    “That’s encouraging from a financing standpoint, but also encouraging because they are hearing, reading and understanding the story I am telling,” he said.

     

    Mills, an Oswego resident, said he wants to ramp up the inventory on electronic shifting and pedal-assist bikes as well as fat bikes, which due to their ability to traverse in snow, have made biking a year-round activity.

     

    Bike-friendly plans — Mills said the Complete Streets Streetscape Make-over — part of the city of Oswego’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative — bodes well for the biking community.

     

    Mills, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing at SUNY Geneseo, was part of the initial grant proposal and wrote a letter of recommendation as a member of the Ride Oswego County bicycling club while advocating the measure.

     

    “As we looked at our downtown and major thoroughfare in the city, we determined that it is not bike friendly,” he said. “How do we find ways for people that are not only living here but visiting here to find a way to navigate the community on bike and feel safe?

     

    “We are going to be a strong advocate and representative and try to be as big of a component as we can to that solution.”

     

    Mills said the city suffers from a “north-south” challenge, meaning people who park south of Bridge Street are probably not going to frequent points north.

     

    He said efforts to lengthen traffic signals and standardize signal sequences have helped in the sense of making people more comfortable, whether they be walking or biking.

     

    Mills is the father of two children, Emily and Jared. “I enjoy watching my children grow up and become great young people,” he said.

     

    Enjoying the Ride — Joining Mills at his new business is Keith Miller and Rick Rodgers, a duo that features both top skills and experience when it comes to the biking world.

     

    “I’m the sole owner. This is on my back, but I am partners with these two,” Mills said. “We need to have differences and similarities, and we have to blend together at the end of the day to do the best we can.”

     

    Mills said it is a “blessing” to have the talent that Miller and Rodgers exhibit.

     

    “The passion, experience and dedication both of them have to the shop and cycling as a whole has been an incredible blessing,” Mills said.

     

    Miller, 29, began at Murdock’s in early June. He’s been a bike mechanic since he was 14 years old.

     

    He previously worked at Placid Planet Bicycles in Lake Placid. There, the focus was on high-end bikes for tri-athletes and mountain biking.

     

    He sees Murdock’s is more of a “casual bike” shop, but is glad to share his expertise regarding high-end equipment.

     

    “I know a lot of the inner workings of the bikes, and I am really good at diagnosing problems by just feeling the bike and running through it,” he said.

     

    Joining Mills and Miller is Rodgers, 42, who is originally from Fulton.

     

    The Oswego resident began at Murdock’s last February.

     

    “I’ve been an athlete all my life,” said Rodgers, who lived in Rome for about 10 years. “That’s [Rome] where I got really involved in the biking community.”

     

    “I was an avid cyclist in the local bike club and raced for a local shop,” he said.

     

    He also started a nonprofit mountain bike club in Rome.

     

    “As far back as I can remember, I was either on a bicycle or motorcycle, as long as it had two wheels,” he said.

     

    Rodgers has an associate degree in web development and computer information systems and a bachelor’s degree in public justice from SUNY Oswego.

Oswego County Business Magazine
Issue 151

Issue 151
August/September 2017

Cover Story

Profiles

John Halleron

On The Job

'When was the last time you took a vacation?'

Success Stories

High Adventure Sport fishing

My Turn

President Trump and the Media: A Contentious Relationship

Economic Trends

OOC Honors Local Organizations, Businessmen

Last Page

Kathy Ouellette