When you walk into Quiet Hut Sports, you’re not only walking into a bike store, but you’re walking into a piece of history. The front window display houses a 1952 Hornet and a Debutante.
A collectable Jack Taylor sits on a shelf high above the checkout counter.
There are ten unique mannequins decked out in military uniforms lining one wall.
“Learning about WWII is a hobby of mine. My ancestors were in the military. I interviewed six of the ten to learn about their experiences and presented these war heroes from Whitewater at the Whitewater Cultural Arts Center. Four veterans were able to attend. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It’s my personal tribute to people who gave everything, but I got so much pleasure out of giving the families of those veterans that forgotten history.”Owner and Bike Enthusiast, Dave Saalsaa
As the name suggests, it is quiet…peaceful actually…and calm. You cease to hear the noise of Main St. the second the door closes and your eyes immediately fall on the bikes hanging on the racks to the right. Dave, who’s as peaceful and calm as his store, says, “Hi. What can I help you with today?” and if you don’t know, he’ll ask you about YOU and your riding interests.
“I do this not so much as a business, but to have fun at my job. I take great pleasure in helping people be happy with their purchase. My goal is to help a customer find the best product for them.”
Quiet Hut Sports originally began in 1973 by a college prof and his wife who were pretty active outdoor people and wanted a store full of people-powered recreation. They called it The Quiet Hut then, keeping it purposefully vague so they could sell anything people-powered, and ran it out of an old feed mill on Hwy 59 just outside of Whitewater. They focused on backpacking and canoeing gear. Dave, who was attending UW Whitewater for geology/geography at the time, shopped at The Quiet Hut for bike parts and ended up landing a part time job after the owner noticed Dave helping their employee put together a bike chain.
During the peak of the bike boom in the mid-70s, the prof and his wife asked if Dave would manage the store, and he said, “Only if you get more bikes.” They agreed and added Raleigh first, and then soon after, added Schwinn to their inventory. Dave learned all things bikes as he worked by reading every manual.
“Raleigh is my favorite brand because they’re a very old company, and they were the largest bike company in the world. They were extremely clever with their manufacturing. I love their history, and I love old bikes.”
One year, Trek called and asked if The Quiet Hut could sell their frames and then their full line of bikes the following year. Dave agreed, and The Quiet Hut became one of the first 10 Trek dealers in WI. Eventually, they dropped the backpacking and canoeing inventory and focused primarily on bikes and ski equipment.
“Back in the late seventies, you couldn’t leave Whitewater because of all the snow, so cross country skiing was popular then.”
Halfway during our interview, a handful of customers came in: a woman who checked out the trail guides and a couple. Dave greeted the couple and asked, “What are you looking for today?” They said, “Bikes.” He asked, “Do you have any questions?” After a moment of silence, he asked, “Can I ask you a few questions first?” and proceeded to learn about them and what kind of riding they’d be doing. Dave was knowledgeable and thorough, keeping his potential customers engaged and informed. He asked their names, and they even shared a few laughs.
When I asked Lindsey and Eddie how their experience was while Dave chatted with the other woman, they shared this:
“He made us feel very comfortable and we definitely learned a lot more about bikes than we knew coming in today!”Lindsey and Eddie
The remainder of our interview was as warm and comfortable as Lindsey and Eddie felt shopping there.
K: What was your first/most memorable experience with a customer like?
D: Oh man, you’re talking forty-five years of experiences! I’ve had some crazy experiences I’d like not to share, *laughs* but I’d say one of the most memorable experiences was when a ninety-five year old man came in to buy a bike trainer, and when we got to talking, I found out he was a veteran, and he stayed to talk about the war.
K: Road biking or trail/mountain biking?
D: Trail biking, especially the gravel Elroy-Sparta trail. Really fun trail for when it’s hot out because it has three tunnels that you can cool off in. It’s about 55° in them. In one of the tunnels, you cannot see the end of the tunnel until about halfway through. Hilariously, the DNR would put a spotlight and a train whistle on a jeep and drive behind riders to scare and mess with them because those tunnels used to have tracks running through them. Rails to trails.
K: What’s your favorite thing about/to do in Whitewater?
D: Whitewater is unique. It’s a nice sized-town, and because of the University, we have the theater. I love the history of Whitewater, it’s spiritualism, and the beautiful houses/architecture.
In 1983, Dave bought the business and moved it from Hwy 59 to a two story house on the corner of North and Fremont where he rented out the top floor, ran the store out of the bottom level, and used the garage as his workspace. He moved to the store’s current location in 1986, eventually adding Sports to the name to make it clearer to customers what the store sold. Over the years, Dave has refined his bike inventory and offers bike accessories and gear, X-C skis, snowshoes, disc golf, skateboards, longboards and accessories. Bicycles repairs and services are available too.
“I’ve made a lot of friends over the years. I have customers who come in just to talk. The coolest thing is that I have customers who bought a bike forty years ago, and then come in with their kids to buy bikes. Sometimes, I’ll get three generations! I feel really old, but that’s okay. *laughs* They’re like family. “
Whether you’re in town and looking for bike repairs so you can get out on the road/trails or seeking to purchase the perfect bike for you, you’ll leave Quiet Hut Sports with a greater knowledge of bikes, a new friend in Dave, and a little piece of history in your heart.
Quiet Hut Sports
186 W. Main Street
Whitewater, WI 53190