The managing director of Dales Cycles admits she is far from a regular on a bike – though she does plan to start doing some training for a charity event in the US – and has little technical knowledge about the products going in and out the doors.
But there is no doubt the nuts and bolts of the business side of the long established retailer run in her blood. She happily recounts being in the shop from a young age and delivering bicycles to customers in the company van with her dad Jim Houston.
Having many long-serving and technically minded staff, including her brother Jim Jr, lets her focus on business strategy and development.
In some ways she is even following in a tradition as her father, who took over Dales Cycles in the mid-1950s, admits to still being unable to change a bicycle tyre.
Ms Houston said: "I'm fortunate as I've got people here that are so passionate and knowledgeable about that technical aspect so it lets me focus on my specialisms.
"[The staff's] product knowledge is second to none. When people are brought in they go through quite an induction process to provide that level of knowledge."
Ms Houston came into the Glasgow company, which is celebrating its centenary year, as a teenager after a brief spell working in the hospitality industry.
She smiles while recalling her first desk at the Dobbies Loan site as being "two tea chests and a plank of wood" and wearing extra layers of clothes in winter as there was no central heating.
By 1989 she was starting to take a lead role as her father, who trained as an accountant, stepped back.
In 1991 Mr Houston was packed off to Australia on a six-week holiday and returned to find the entire shop had been revamped and there was a for sale sign in the window.
Ms Houston grinned as she said: "The sign was just to wind him up. We put in a clothing section and a kids' section with a track which had never been done before. Every few years I like to knock things down and reinvent things. You have to take things forward."
In recent years the business has invested heavily in expanding its online presence which has meant products now being sent all across the UK.
Ms Houston said: "I sent a bike down to Cornwall the other day, three bikes up to Shetland and we are getting people from all over the UK coming on and buying £2000 and £3000 bikes."
There has also been an expansion in physical premises with a shop in East Kilbride opening in December last year.
Plans to offer workshops and maintenance classes in different locations are under consideration while another ambition is to being taking on apprentice bike mechanics.
Ms Houston said: "I am looking to build the business to take it to the next level. We have a really strong brand and I think there is real scope to build an even bigger community.
"I think there is huge potential to offer that level of service we are known for. There are all these outlying areas outside Glasgow where we could go into.
"We've identified we could offer regular clinics, maybe once a month, where we would start off doing the maintenance side of things and then we can look at introducing products.
"I think there is a market there."
Ms Houston would also not be averse to opening up larger locations in other Scottish cities if the right opportunity came up.
Dales is benefiting from the increased interest in cycling due to Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France and a number of gold medals in the recent London Olympics.
The company typically sells 5000 bikes a year but she believes it will be a bit higher in 2012.
However, Ms Houston admits trading in a tough retail environment has not been helped by the unusually damp summer. She said: "The Tour [de France] and the Olympics have had a great impact in spite of the poor weather. You can have the best product but if it's raining down people don't want to get on their bikes. It is amazing though how many people now have cycling on their minds.
"I got a lovely email from a guy who said he spent an hour chatting to one of our employees and how much a pleasure it was to get that level of customer service.
"The guy didn't buy anything but said he will come back."
On the day of the interview the company had taken delivery of a £12,000 McLaren bike, one of the few available in the UK.
While Dales Cycles does deal in high-end and specialist equipment, Ms Houston is keen to ensure it remains a place where people of all ages go to buy a bike.
She said: "We have a real broad mix of customers and we sell a balance bike for the wee kid right up to that £12,000 McLaren. We still get people who come in because they got their first bike here.
"The kids' market has slipped away because of the mass merchants and supermarkets. Kids' bikes almost became something you could throw away whereas perhaps in the past it would be passed down from child to child.
"We are hoping to get some of it back through customer service by making sure kids get the bike properly sized, they can reach brakes and get helmets fitted properly."
A family business
Dales Cycles was founded in 1912 as a small shop on Whitehill Street in the Dennistoun area of Glasgow.
In the 1950s it was bought by Archie Houston who passed it on to his son Jim, who had been trained as an accountant.
At the time there was a desire for mopeds and scooters meaning cycling shops would often struggle but Jim Houston managed to keep Dales going.
In 1968 he negotiated a landmark deal with Raleigh which led to sales of 6000 bikes a year. The business moved in 1970 from Shamrock Street to Maryhill Road.
It stayed in the former cinema for 15 years until a further move to current site at Dobbies Loan.
Debbie Houston also joined the business full time in 1985 although she, like siblings Jim Jr and Kerri, had been involved during their youth.
By 1989 Ms Houston had assumed the managing director role as her dad began to step back. In recent years Dales has invested heavily in its online presence and that operation is run from a warehouse and office close to the Dobbies Loan shop. At the tail end of 2011 a new store was opened in East Kilbride.
Outside work she likes to travel and go to concerts.
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