Fitzgeralds head to the Ozarks
On their Buddy Pegs Raise Riders Tour last year, Scott and Jannine Fitzgerald and their son, Braden, stopped in Bentonville, Arkansas, for what was to be a five-day visit.
The Victor, Idaho, family liked the Ozarks town and its cycling culture so much that they stayed a month and decided to move there this September. It’s where they will debut their company’s National Learn To Ride program for children ages 2 to 7.
“We weren’t looking for a place to relocate, but we did know it would be important to launch our programming in a community that had year-round weather for riding and more population density,” Scott Fitzgerald said.
With the Teton region covered in snow much of the year, the Ozarks offered an attractive alternative for a biking-centric business.
“There’s no January in Arkansas,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald is the founder of Fitzgerald’s Bikes, which he sold in 2015. Now he and his wife run Buddy Pegs, which uses books, podcasts and cycling events to get children and families outdoors and on bikes.
The Learn to Ride program will encompass group classes, regional events, birthday parties, summer camps and more. Characters and stories from the books and podcasts will be woven into live events.
Bentonville, population 47,000, is home to Walmart. Two other Fortune 500 companies are headquartered nearby, and the region also includes Fayetteville, home to the University of Arkansas.
The entrepreneurial community and the chamber of commerce helped Fitzgerald and his wife make connections and build momentum, he said. Plus, the community’s focus on biking as an economic engine really impressed them.
“We were not anticipating everything we saw there and how much the focus on bicycling as an economic development piece was really in play there.”
The city’s tourism bureau has a Bike Bentonville subsidiary. According to CityLab.com, the area has 350 miles of shared-use and mountain bike trails, including 130 miles of paved pathways. Walmart’s founding family, the Waltons, and the Walton Family Foundation have poured millions into biking infrastructure.
Overall, Bentonville is a super friendly community with a mountain town vibe similar to Jackson’s, Fitzgerald said.
But the move is not a year-round relocation, he said. The family will return to the Tetons to offer summer programming.
— Jennifer Dorsey