Brian Delaney moved from New Jersey to Lake Placid in 1981 after seeing an ad that encouraged readers to change course. At the time, Delaney was working as a physical chemist for Johnson & Johnson and was being groomed for a management position. “Change Your Life” the ad in an outdoor enthusiasts’ magazine urged. When he arrived in the Adirondacks, he took courses in small business management, ski area management and marketing at North Country Community College while working at a sports shop. He met his future wife, Karen, and the two recently celebrated their 38th anniversary.
In 1983, the Delaneys opened High Peaks Cyclery, one of the first multi-sport stores in the region. Brian was a bike racer and his goal was to develop a bike touring business. At its start, they focused on bikes and bike tours in the summer and skis in the winter. After 10 years, the couple outgrew the space they were in and moved to their current location on Main Street in downtown Lake Placid.
Over time the Delaneys bought properties adjacent to the store, started a guide service and began offering lodging for customers. Today each of their three rental lodges can accommodate 10-12 people, making it a great option for out-of-town adventurers. “We’ve really built this up to be a fun, exciting thing,” Brian said.
High Peaks Cyclery has approximately 8,000 square feet of retail space and offers a variety of bicycles, gear for running, those participating in triathlons, hiking, backpacking, fly fishing, and rock-climbing as well as canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard equipment. For the winter season, they offer Nordic, telemark and alpine touring skis, snowshoes and ice climbing gear as well as equipment rentals and a service shop for tune-ups and repairs.
The business employs 10 full-time. Depending on the season that number can rise to 15. The High Peaks team is “tireless in our pursuit of helping people get started in outdoor adventures,” Brian offered. The staff has a wealth of experience and expertise and routinely points customers toward the equipment and locations that will best fit their skills.
Also, in the retail space you will find Balance Body Works Massage Therapy, High Peaks Yoga Tree and an indoor rock-climbing gym. A unique feature is the popular High Peaks Recyclery consignment shop which has been closed during the pandemic but will hopefully reopen soon to accept hard goods and outerwear consignments. “People love it and they receive 100% store credit when their gear sells,” Karen explained.
High Peaks Mountain Guides help get people out to enjoy the beautiful Adirondack mountains. Its mission is “to provide exceptional service, education and experiences for clients while promoting stewardship of the incredible wilderness where we live, work, and play.” When Strictly Business spoke with Brian recently, guides were rock climbing with clients and the previous day, a group had been fly fishing.
To teach mountain bike riding skills the couple developed what they call “Dirt Camps.” They created and managed the Mountain Bike Center at Mount Van Hoevenberg for 27 years but when major construction made it unsafe to operate the program, they purchased a 15-passenger van and a 24-bike trailer and took the Dirt Camps on the road to continue the successful program.
In keeping with their focus on education, High Peaks works with Paul Smith’s College Outdoor Education and Recreation program and also offers adventure weeks for boarding and day schools in the area. They have even hosted visitors to places like Adirondack Experience, The Wild Center and the Olympic Museum. “We love putting together adventures, especially in winter,” Karen said, describing a Snowshoe to a Bonfire experience with s’mores and storytelling.
One of the best things about the Delaney’s family business has been the flexibility it has provided for raising their four children. “All of them learned to be good bike mechanics and developed patience as they spent time in the store when they were growing up,” Karen explained. Youngest son, Colin, works part time and is the head ski jumping and Nordic combined coach for New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF). Their other adult children live outside the area but enjoy spending time in the store when they are in Lake Placid.
Karen is a nurse and works as a substitute in local schools in the spring and fall when business is a little slower. Her training comes in handy both for interactions with staff and for the guide business. Other responsibilities include working with school groups and overseeing the bookings and lodging side of the business. “She’s the Mother Theresa of Lake Placid,” Brian said of his wife, citing her generosity and willingness to help in the community.
HELPING PEOPLE ENJOY LIFE
High Peaks Cyclery has become an anchor in the Lake Placid community, not only offering products and services but supporting community events and school athletic clubs and sports teams.
“We started this from nothing,” Brian said, recalling how different things were in the early 1980s when handshake deals and trust in his business potential helped get High Peaks Cyclery off the ground. “You really can’t do that today and that’s sad,” he observed.
The Delaneys don’t take their success or their adventure-filled lifestyle for granted. “We are blessed,” Karen said. The couple enjoys running, hiking, biking, and hunting small game. “We have a great crew, so we don’t have to be there all the time,” Brian said. “I really want the best people who have outdoor skills and a passion for outdoor sports but most important is a good work ethic and a willingness to be nice.”
High Peaks Cyclery is not a place reserved for the more experienced, veteran outdoor enthusiasts. “Beginners are our specialty,” Brian said. “We pride ourselves on helping people enjoy life through our products and services.”
“I’m not a gear head or a techie. I just love to help families,” Karen emphasized. “The beauty of our region is the blend of opportunities from all the regional museums and attractions, including the Olympic venues but there is also a myriad of free things to do. All you need is a little gear.”
High Peaks Cyclery
2733 Main St.
Lake Placid, NY 12946