Logo
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Strings and pedals

0:00

WORLD Radio - Strings and pedals

A young couple in Iowa learn the importance of a personal touch in small town business


iStock image

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, June 23rd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Last month, we gave World Journalism Institute students three days to find a story in rural Northwest Iowa and produce it for the program. You’ve already heard a few of those.

EICHER: Caleb Bailey, a recent communications graduate from Camarillo, California, found a young couple who help their neighbors through music and bicycles.

SOUND: PHONE RINGING AND GEARS TURNING

SOUND: NATHAN WORKING AT BENCH

CALEB BAILEY, WJI: In the small town of Sioux Center, Iowa, Brother's Bicycle Shop sits just a block off the main road. Inside, customers drop off broken bikes and look through a selection of new ones. Behind the counter is Nathan Nykamp. As he hands off one bike he begins to work on another, tightening the hub of a wheel and picking up the phone. It’s poetry in motion.

NATHAN NYKAMP: As you may have seen, I have to do a lot of things simultaneously. So that's very challenging.

Nykamp learned the ins and outs of running this business from the man who founded it in 1979.

NATHAN NYKAMP: I purchased the shop after working for about a year, full time before I made the final decision to go ahead and purchase it.

He kept the name and the business continued to grow under the direction of the one-man-band.

SOUND: WHEEL SPINNING

At home, Nykamp’s wife is also running a small business.

SOUND: VIOLIN TUNING PROGRESSION

This is Kirbee Nykamp. She owns The Violin House, which is a rental and refurbishment business. Having played the violin for over 20 years her goal is to equip other musicians.

KIRBEE: For us, what we feel like is most important is that we are accessible. So we're easy for the families in the area to work with, whether it be for renting or for purchasing, or if they need repairing.

She also took over her business from a previous owner.

KIRBEE: We had been in conversation with her for a while, because between my husband and I, we have kind of a unique combination of skills, he has the woodworking skills, to do the repairs on the instruments.

Even though others wanted to buy the business, the Nykamps were the best fit.

SOUND: KIRBEE TUNING VIOLIN

SOUND: NATHAN IN THE BIKE SHOP INTERACTING WITH CUSTOMERS

The two businesses mirror each other and face similar demands. A small business in a small town requires a personal touch.

NATHAN: We want to be high enough quality that there's no reason to go to an alternative shop. But we are also very, very customer focused on an individual level.

Both owners understand that purchasing a product is highly personal, whether it’s a bike or violin.

KIRBEE: Being a small business owner has given me a lot more connections to actual individuals and people. And then I get to pass that along so I get to see kids one on one….

The Violin House caters to local string programs—with rental instruments and music lessons for students of all ages.

SOUND: KIRBEE PLAYING A HIGH AND SOMEWHAT WEEPING TUNE.

Both businesses weathered the restrictions of COVID-19. But now, they’re back to dealing with ordinary problems.

KIRBEE: We are reliant on the ebb and flow of the school year.

NATHAN: It is also the nature of my business, specifically being seasonal, [it] does also lend itself to a very irregular season in terms of demand and what people are after.

And yet, with each flat tire and broken string, the couple leans on each other for guidance and support.

SOUND: KIRBEE SERVING ICE CREAM TO DAUGHTER ROSE

NATHAN: It's always good to have a second set of eyes, and a change of perspective for anything. And we are to varying degrees involved in each other's business.

Neither one of them sought a business degree. What they learned about running their shops came...from (well) running their shops.

KIRBEE: It's meant that when we hang out together, we do get to enjoy trading stories back and forth, bouncing ideas off of each other… So much of it can kind of flow back and forth very organically because we do get to complement each other a lot.

Local neighbors can purchase a bike or violin from a larger vendor and some do. So the local business owners have to find a different competitive advantage.

KIRBEE: We find that it's very personal. It's very friendly and It just feels good. And be that's at the root of it…

NATHAN: A quality bicycle shop is going to work their hardest, especially in this time to really make sure that you can keep rolling and enjoying your bike ride.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Caleb Bailey in Sioux Center, Iowa.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

COMMENT BELOW

Please wait while we load the latest comments...

Comments