Rose Chua was busy gathering the parts that’s on the list of a customer for his bike upgrade. The cyclist was frustrated because he couldn’t find the right parts for his bicycle’s group set. Apparently, there’s a shortage of bike items at that time and he was lucky enough that Tryon had the things that he needed.
The customer was a newbie and he was clueless. It was good that Rose was there and she can easily tell and explain the alternative items that the cyclist can get for his bicycle to run. The cyclist even got a huge discount.
Rose is the owner of Tryon, the 41-year-old bike shop situated along JP Rizal Avenue in Makati. She’s the woman who you’ll often see behind the counter with warm vibes and an accommodating aura.
Some would call her Mama, Tita, Misis, Ate, Auntie or Mommy Rose. But among all of these, she’s the queen of Tryon—perhaps we can even say that she’s a royalty in Philippine cycling. However, for this awesome lady, the customer is always the most important.
“I want to make my customers happy,” she said. “‘Yung slogan namin ay ‘we aim to please’ kasi kung ang customer happy, they will not only come back to us, ire-recommend pa niya kami.”
(Our slogan is ‘we aim to please’ because if the customer is happy, they will not only come back to us, they will even recommend us.)
True enough, she credits her customers for the success of her bike shop. It’s not only because they’re there to buy her items but it’s because they’re the ones who helped Tryon become what Tryon is right now.
When the shop opened in September 1979, it was only a tiny store that sold cheap play bikes, BMX and kiddie bicycles. Back then, Tryon shared the same space with Rose’s other business of printing pictures and selling camera films.
“’Yung husband ko kasi photographer, nagbenta kami ng mga film at tumatanggap pa kami ng developing,” she said. “’Yung husband ko, marunong lang siya mag-bike tsaka photography kaya ayun, ganoon na lang.”
(My husband is a photographer and we were selling films and we accept photo printing. My husband just knows how to bike and photography that’s why we did those.)
When they opened Tryon, Rose was practically clueless about bicycles. Aside from her husband Ernie’s fondness for cycling, they decided to start a bike shop because they already knew three suppliers who were also their friends and family. But apart from that, they just risked it.
Here’s a fun trivia. Tryon was named after the urinal “Kohler Trylon.” Rose and Ernie didn’t want to have a shop branded after their names. So when they saw the toilet label, they thought it was genius to use “Tryon” for their bike business.
Rose was young back then. She was a twenty-year-old mom who just gave birth to her first daughter. The lady noted that she got married at the age of 19 and was pregnant when she graduated college in Adamson University.
“Hindi nga namin alam kung ano gagawin kasi wala akong alam, kaka-graduate ko lang so wala akong idea kung ano gagawin ko. Wala rin akong working experience sa mga office,” she recalled.
(We really didn’t know what to do because I didn’t know anything, I just graduated and I had no idea what to do. I don’t have any work experience in offices.)
The lady just winged and nailed it. Tryon, over time, got patrons with Rose listening to the demands and knowledge from her customers. After all, she knew nothing and she was learning so much from these cyclists.
There was a loyal customer who always visited her shop for repairs and for the bikes of his nieces and nephews. One day, the patron went to Tryon with fancy bike parts. Rose got curious and asked him about the items. The customer replied, “hindi ka kasi nagre-racer parts eh, magbenta ka kaya ng pang-racing at kukuha ako sa iyo.”
That was the start of Tryon venturing into selling more expensive bike parts with some of her loyal customers helping her in getting supplies overseas.
She noted one patron named Noel Maralit. According to Rose, he’s one of the first cyclists who uses a fixie in the Philippines despite the unavailability of its bike parts.
“Noong 2009, papunta akong Canada sa daughter ko so sabi niya ‘Rose, merong tindahan doon na Super Champion, nagbebenta ng puro fixie. Punta ka doon, eto bilhin mo ganito, ganiyan.’ Siya nagturo sa akin,” she said. “Bumili ako ng mga order niya tapos ginawa kong tatlo para meron akong extra. Pagdating ko dito, naubos kaagad. So sabi ko, ‘okay ito.’”
(In 2009, I was about to visit my daughter in Canada and he said that there’s a shop there called Super Champion that sells fixie items. He told me to buy certain items. I got his orders but bought three pieces so I’ll have extra. When I got back, the items got sold out quickly. So I said that this is good.)
She knew that there was a demand and that her customers would be happy when items that are hard to find in the country became available at her shop. The entrepreneur then looked for suppliers from Taiwan and her husband eventually got into business with the main factories of huge bike companies. They’re now supplying topnotch brands.
Tryon is popular if you want to score items from big bicycle brands like Velo Orange, Cinelli, Nitto, Brompton and MKS, among others. It’s also known for those who are into fixies and folding bikes.
“’Yung customer pumupunta sa amin tapos tatanungin ako ng ganitong items. Customer ang nagtuturo sa akin, hindi ako ‘yung magaling,” she said. “Lahat ng ito, actually, galing sa customer, kung ano hinahanap nila at gusto nila, I’ll try to find one for them.”
(Customers would go to us and ask us about certain items. Customers teach me, I’m not great at this. All of these are actually from the customers. I’ll try to find the items that they need.)
But it’s not always a walk in a park for Rose. It was around 1995 to 1997, when Rose wanted to sell Tryon.
“But after four years or so noong nawala ‘yung Marlboro Tour, medyo humina kami. There was a time na gusto kong ibenta yung Tryon, kasi sabi ko na abonado pa ata ako. Sabi ko, pagod na ako sa pambayad sa bangko, pang-pondo sa mga cheke,” she said.
(After four years or so, when the Marlboro Tour ended, business got a bit slow. There was a time when I wanted to sell Tryon because I bring out a lot of money. I told myself that I’m tired of paying for the banks and funding checks.)
There was a time when racers would always flock Tryon for bicycles and bike parts because of the Marlboro Tour. However, when the government decided to cease tobacco companies from sponsoring sports events, the business got slow.
Tryon eventually got back on track when fixies and folding bikes became popular. And it was also thanks to her loyal customers because the shop continues to thrive.
“Kapag nawawala ‘yung mga malalakas bumili, may mga matitira pa rin. Bababa talaga yung negosyo pero hindi naman exactly mawawala. Because biking is biking. Mula noon hanggang ngayon, nag-babike pa rin ang mga tao,” Rose said.
(When the big spenders are gone, there will still be people buying. Business will slow down but it will not disappear. Because biking is biking. Until now, people are still cycling.)
The 64-year-old entrepreneur seems to not get tired at all. She goes to work everyday and accommodates her customers with enthusiasm. Mind you, Tryon only closes five days a year: Christmas, New Year, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and All Saints Day.
But of course, she still takes a vacation, especially before the pandemic when it’s easier to travel. She visits her family abroad in Canada, New Zealand or Taiwan for a minimum of two weeks but not more than two months.
When we asked if she still thinks about Tryon when she’s on vacation, she replied, “Kapag nandoon ako abroad, hindi ko na ito iniisip.”
(When I’m abroad, I don’t think about business.)
Tryon Marketing is at 477 JP Rizal Avenue in Makati City. They’re on Facebook too.