The GettysBike Story
Our business is truly a family business. Though we bought it following the 2010 season from the original founder, Matt Callery, we consider him to be part of our family. Matt and his friend Pete Bonfanti started GettysBike in 2006. There had already been a few attempts to establish a successful bicycle touring business in Gettysburg, but they all failed after a few seasons. Undaunted by the vagaries of weather and whims of tourists, Matt and Pete founded the company on the belief in the superiority of bicycling as the best means to tour the field and understand the battle. They purchased some bikes from the most recent failed business, set up a shed behind the Quality Inn on Steinwehr Avenue, studied up on the battle and started giving tours–only to be shut down by the National Park Service. Unfortunately for Matt and Pete, they didn’t know that a 1915 federal law prohibits any but federally licensed battlefield guides to give tours at Gettysburg for a fee.
That is how I–Bob, now the majority owner (my daughter Kelly is co-owner)–got involved. I have been a history teacher since 1979 and a licensed battlefield guide since 1991. But if there is an activity I like as much as giving tours of Gettysburg, it is biking. (I used to be a licensed bike racer and have twice biked across the entire country.) Though there were approximately 150 guides when Matt went looking for licensed guides to conduct his tours, I was the only one who actually preferred to give bicycle tours. For me, working for GettysBike was a dream come true, combining my two most-loved activities. So, for the first five years of GettysBike’s existence, I did the vast majority of their tours and developed a real friendship with Matt (Pete too, but he left fairly early as he got married). But alas, by 2010, Matt realized that he too would have to leave GettysBike to pursue his dream of film making. When Matt put the business up for sale and there were no buyers, I just couldn’t stand the thought of yet another bike-touring business going under, and so I bought it.
Because I have worked at the National Park for so long as a guide, the Park and the Gettysburg Foundation were very receptive to my request to set up a shed full of bikes at the National Park Visitor Center. Their help has been invaluable in making GettysBike such a success. I bought some new Trek hybrid bikes and we opened for business in 2011. Though I was unfamiliar with TripAdvisor, we soon found that our customers were writing very kind reviews and news of GettysBike began to spread.
I have been truly blessed not only to be able to continue giving bike tours, but also to see the business grow and be able to share it with my friends and family. My daughter Kelly, who had been working in an office job when I bought the business, surprised me when she told me she had always wanted to work in a family business. She quit her job to come help me on the business end full-time. My sister Laurie also decided to help us part time, and my wife helps with some of the bookkeeping. We even designated Raleigh, our dog, as our customer service representative and occasionally bring him to work with us. One of my closest friends, Jim Foster, also agreed to assist with bicycle maintenance, and a few summers later we hired one of my favorite former students, Jake, to take his place. Jake is multi-talented and is now such an important part of the business (as mechanic and advertiser and just about anything else) that both Kelly and I consider him part of our family too. And I’m not the only one who likes doing bicycle tours now. As for our guides—Bruce, Dean, George, Rick, Steve, Jim, Charlie — as fellow guides, they have always been part of my guide family and without their expertise and excellence Gettysbike would not continue to exist. We have also hired another former student –Zach– to help us durring certain days!
We are starting our sixth year in 2016 and have had five years of excellent ratings on Trip Advisor and we continue to grow. I’ve been living the dream for these last few years and wish to express my thanks to our loyal customers, my Gettysbike family and to God for making this possible