A little pink pig installed on the handlebar of a green bike in Cutters Bike Shop on March 22. Cutters is a family-owned shop located in Southside Bethlehem. (Zhan Li/B&W Staff)

Sharing a ride with Cutters: A Southside community bike shop


The entrance is narrowed by protruding bikes. Wheels and even more bikes are suspended from the ceiling. An array of wrenches, sprockets, levers and pliers line the back wall behind the counter. John Ronca, tools in hand, stands over a bike. Lisa Ronca sees a customer, who has a coffee in his hand, coming into the shop and greets him with an enthusiastic welcome. 

The Roncas, husband and wife, are co-owners of Cutters Bike Shop on East Third Street on the Southside. The shop offers bike repairs, bikes for purchase, and rentals and trade-ins. Patrons can also shop for shoes, clothing, bike parts and accessories.

The owner of Cutters Bike Shop, Lisa Ronca, explains a new bike to customers outside of the shop on March 22. Ronca works hard to establish a rappport and be friendly with customers. (Zhan Li/B&W Staff)

Cutters opened in 2009. Framed on the wall above the counter is a photo of the ribbon cutting ceremony for the shop. The Ronca’s four-year-old daughter’s head is barely peeking above the ribbon. 

John and Lisa Ronca are both from the Lehigh Valley. They met at The FunHouse, a live-music venue and bar not far from their current shop. 

As an avid BMX and mountain biker from his youth, John Ronca began to ride and race with Lisa Ronca and their relationship blossomed. They’ve been married for 25 years and that four-year-old daughter, Abby, is now a 16-year-old competitive mountain biker and skier. 

A variety of bikes are hung on the wall in Cutters Bike Shop on March 22 2022. There are a number of bikes on the ground as well.(Zhan Li/B&W Staff)

In those early years, John Ronca had been managing another bike shop and was set to purchase that shop with Lisa Ronca. On the day they were to sign the agreement, Lisa Ronca said the owner got cold feet and the deal fell through. 

This prompted the couple to take an entrepreneurial leap of faith and switch gears by starting to draft business plans for their own shop — Cutters, named after the 1979 movie “Breaking Away” based on young bike racers in a working class college town. 

“Everything seemed to work out,” John Ronca said. “We found different ways of financing ourselves to get us going and 13 years later, here we are. We built from the ground up and I am kind of glad that we didn’t take that deal back in the day.”

Cutters has faced its share of difficulties over the years after building the business from scratch, yet the family-owned shop has cemented their place in the community through outreach and involvement. 

Lisa Ronca said the past year, during the heart of the pandemic, has been especially hard. Cutters has dealt with inventory shortages due to high demand and distribution struggles.

A blue bike is ready to get fixed in the shop on March 22. There are so many tires hung on the wall.(Zhan Li/B&W Staff)

Lisa Ronca said during the summer months, everything was selling fast with their curbside service — customers were even bickering over bikes.

“We were just trying to back order and stay on top of when parts came in,” Lisa Ronca said. “Literally at 1:30 in the morning, I’ve gone to sleep with my iPad or phone and waited for a notification to quickly log in and order a part before it’s gone.”

As Lisa Ronca talks about the difficulties, a large FedEx truck pulls up to the shop, carrying a shipment of Marin brand bikes that the Roncas will divvy up between their store basement and the showroom floor. They usually stock around 90 new bikes on the floor, with 30 to 40 going to the basement, including the ones in repair. 

Cutters has been able to engage local bike enthusiasts with local landscapes. The availability of Walking Purchase Park, the South Bethlehem Greenway, the winding terrain of the South Mountain and various trails for mountain biking has allowed Cutters to sustain and invite the community to cycle. 

“It’s a real hidden gem for bike riding,” John Ronca said.

In the spring, summer and fall, Cutters advertises community rides on its social media pages for anyone interested — both veteran and novice riders. Lisa Ronca, John Ronca or an experienced member leads them.

Ayon Codner participates in these rides as often as he can. 

“It is the constant encouragement of coming back and riding with different age groups, different styles, beginners, intermediates – you ride with everybody,” Codner said. “If someone is in the back, you’ll go back and get ’em. No man gets left behind.” 

Codner has been a Cutters customer for eight years. A Florida native, Codner became an active rider once he arrived in Bethlehem and was looking for a shop to purchase a long-term bike. 

As expensive as bikes can be, ranging from high hundreds to thousands of dollars, Codner said he felt like some shops in the area lacked customer service. 

He then found Cutters. 

“They have a very welcoming essence to them,” Codner said. “They’re more like family, you’re not just another dollar.”

An old bike hangs in the window of Cutters Bike Shop on March 22. Cutters is a family-owned shop located in Southside Bethlehem. (Zhan Li/B&W Staff)

Cutters helped to create a bike share program with the city of Bethlehem and its health bureau, and it is currently in the process of creating a bike share program with Lehigh University. Lisa Ronca said Cutters is also in partnership with the Lehigh University Police Department.

“It’s a great environment and often I’ll just stop down there just to chat because I miss them – they’re great,” Lehigh Police Chief Jason Schiffer said. “They’ve run a really great business and they’ve helped us out a lot with things like repairs and then just being a great resource for things that we need.”

Schiffer said Cutters has supplied the LUPD with helmets, bike seats, shoes, gloves and even electric bikes.

For John and Lisa Ronca, bikes serve as a vehicle for supporting the community, spending time with family and sharing their passion. 

A few years ago, using an old trailer and a makeshift sleigh constructed from bike boxes and piled with gifts, Lisa Ronca and a group of 20 other women riders, all dressed in Santa hats and onesies, biked to St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem to deliver gifts and sing carols to children away from home for the holidays. 

For John Ronca, having his own shop has allowed him to watch his family grow.

“I don’t think a lot of people get to share these experiences with their families like that,” John Ronca said. “That beats any monetary compensation that you may get or beats making a million dollars a year, as opposed to being a part of my daughter’s life and my family. I think that’s the most important.”

Codner said he attributes Cutters’ growth and involvement in the community to the connections the Roncas make with their customers, often without asking for anything in return. 

“When someone says ‘bike,’ I think Cutters,” Codner said. “They’re always genuine in what they do.”

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