Zane's On a Roll

BRANFORD — For business owner Chris Zane, his foremost approach to customers is that they are “people, not just transactions.”

With that philosophy, Zane — owner of Zane’s Cycles at 330 E. Main St. — has caught the attention of credit card giant American Express Co.

American Express OPEN for the next six months will feature local businesses in 60-second national television ads and webcasts that promote its social networking site, OPEN Forum, and Zane’s friends and relatives have been catching glimpses of him in the advertising spots.

“People I haven’t seen in years are asking, ‘Is that really you in the ad?’” he said Monday.

Video footage may be viewed at www.openforum.com or www.zanes.com. American Express OPEN is a suite of products and services dedicated to small businesses.

Zane holds the American Express Plum Card and has a profile on OPEN, where he may find businesses that offer products or services that he needs and others may find him using the “Connectodex” platform.

Zane was selected for the promotion along with six other small-business owners who are OPEN Forum members.

“The network they’re creating can really be important going forward,” Zane said. “American Express is looking at the long-term relationship with their customers.”

Zane’s Cycles offers lifetime free service, lifetime parts warranties and 90-day price protection, in an effort to build lifetime relationships with its customers.

Zane knows his average customer spends $12,500 at the store after buying a first bike — considering equipment, parts, cycling wear and additional bikes purchased for spouses, significant others or children.

Marcy Shinder, vice president of brand management for American Express OPEN, said company research shows that nearly 60 percent of small-business owners feel challenged in finding innovative ways to market their business, yet only one in 10 are tapping into social networks.

“The new OPEN Forum provides a one-of-a-kind community where business owners can equip themselves with the best information and resources available to build and grow resilient businesses, including opportunities to leverage social media,” Shinder said in a statement.

Members also may subscribe to certain topic areas, such as marketing or technology.

Zane worked at the business doing bike repairs for three months in 1981 before he bought it, at the age of 16, with a loan from his grandfather.

Zane’s Cycles now has 40 employees. “July was the busiest month in the history of the company. In a bad economy, people make an investment in things they can enjoy for a long time, rather than a vacation for just a week,” Zane said.

Angela Carter can be reached at 789-5752 or acarter@nhregister.com.