Don Watterson - August 10, 1946 - August 16, 2017
Posted on 17 August 2017
It is with great mourning that we announce the passing of Don Watterson, founder and owner of Curbside Cycle, who left us peacefully on August 16, 2017.
Don was an unrecognized entrepreneur in an industry that often recognizes and rewards the status quo. While other stores were selling mountain bikes or racing bikes, Don saw an entirely missing market; the market for city bikes. Don started Curbside Cycle as a semi-legal tent by the side of the Brunswick House where he took mountain bikes and road bikes and converted them into the best city bikes possible. In many ways, Don was one of the first shops to recognize that city cyclists exist, and Curbside became an attempt to connect these cyclists with products that worked.
City bikes became the through-line at Curbside, and Don’s scrappy entrepreneurialism, gut instincts and risk-ready nature gave Curbside the reward of being a store with many firsts. The first to break with supply chains and import city bikes from Europe. The first to start a wholesale company dedicated to the task of developing the city bike market far outside of Toronto. The first to change a bicycle shopping experience from niche performance sport (often male dominated) to something inclusive with a dash of style.
Connecting city bikes to city cyclists became an accidental activism, both within our industry and without. Don retired from Curbside in 2014 but he took Curbside’s bicycle activism to the community, becoming heavily involved in Bells on Bloor and the Annex BIA. He was an outspoken ambassador for bike lanes and smart urban development. He may have shot from the hip, but he was usually right. He will be sorely missed in the community.
Those who knew Don know that he wasn’t always the easiest man to work with. Born in the poverty of Old Cabbagetown, he was a man who learned the hustle and loved the hustle. This could create tension as Curbside moved further away from its street-vendor roots to the store we are today. Nonetheless, Don was truly loved by all staff that could see through his sometimes crusty exterior. We will always remember him for his immense generosity and the almost Father-like trust he placed in his staff. Curbside has a remarkable internal culture that encourages freedom to explore. While we’ve had to impose our own structure on this, the freedom continues to live on as an essential string within Curbside’s DNA.
We lament the passing of our caretaker and boss. We continue to honour Don’s spirit as we continue to operate with our gut instincts, work fearlessly to challenge the status quo, and make cycling more accessible in Toronto (and beyond). Don, you gave Toronto something special with Curbside. Indeed, it goes much wider than Toronto. Gratitude is mixed with sorrow. Rest in peace, and long may you ride.