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Losing More Bike Shops

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Losing More Bike Shops

Old 01-06-20, 10:57 AM
  #126  
repechage
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Old 01-06-20, 12:24 PM
  #127  
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Originally Posted by jyl View Post
In the past year or so, we've lost many bike shops in Portland OR.

Partial list
Velocult (our C&V Camelot)
Performance Bicycle (3 locations)
CityBikes Coop (the larger location, the original location remains open)
Crank Cycles
21st Ave Cycles
A Better Cycle (neighborhood bike shop on SE Division)
Western Bikeworks (retail and cafe in NW - rent was raised, WBW will be online-only now)
Universal Cycles (retail store in SE is moving to Hillsboro)
Most recently
Breadwinner Cafe (the frame biz remains but the cafe will close)
Rivelo (closing soon)
Norther Cycles (closing imminently)
I don't have a count of all bike shops, and don't know how many new shops have opened in this time.

Word is that bike shops generally aren't doing great for business, and not just the esoteric ones. Rents are going up all over the city, I'm seeing all sorts of retail businesses under pressure. Online is eating away at most categories of retail.

I used to think that specialty shops offering niche products would be more resistant, but you can now get even very niche-y products online. Bike shop plus bar/cafe seemed promising, but Velocult and Breadwinner Cafe are gone.

If you could design a bike shop model that can survive, what would it be? Size, staffing, focus? Would or could it end up being an interesting shop?

I don't know why so many bike shops in Portland fail, but after visiting Portland last summer I'm going to suggest, and I don't have stats, but just my impression, one reason could be, if the bike shops are in town are street people. As we drove around town I was shocked at what appears to be a human mess walking around, and we didn't feel very safe as we visited some areas, and I didn't want to get out of the car, other areas looked OK, but after our business was finished we got out of town rather quickly. But what really made me wonder about Portland was, there was a cop car driving down the street and several people on the sidewalk started cursing and throwing things at the cops, and what did the cops do? Sped away, that's right, ran away from some street thugs. Unbelievable. I knew then I couldn't stay there any longer. The cops where I'm from would have been a tad more proactive. The location I think was south of the river area, I'm not sure because I got lost, the streets were narrow and traffic was miserable, but I know we crossed a bridge and found a place to park and then took a Tram ride, took photos, the area is gorgeous but there are some issues in that town. I don't want to paint with too of a broad brush, but those are my first impressions from the two days I was there.
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Old 01-06-20, 01:22 PM
  #128  
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I think you hit it on the head regarding the customer base in an area of successful bike shops. I think many small startup businesses.....esp. ones revolving around an owner's beloved pass time/passion/hobby.... fail to properly research local demographics and traffic numbers/patterns. This is critical in today's environment of online competition and rising brick and mortar/labor costs. You had BETTER have an affluent area with active cycling to support this type of business. Otherwise you will simply not compete with online and big box store BSO's. Consider the fate of small local grocery stores, mom and pop hardware stores, etc., etc. These "boutique" businesses can still thrive in affluent areas because pricing is secondary and selection/service are primary.
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Old 01-06-20, 01:33 PM
  #129  
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I have a friend who is one of the owners (and who makes great steel frames) of Wheelworks, which is a fine establishment, and one of the largest in the Boston area, and he says online sales are really hurting them.
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Old 01-06-20, 02:13 PM
  #130  
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Originally Posted by Spaghetti Legs View Post
My town of about 40,000 has 3 bikes shops and a co-op, which as far as I can tell are still going strong. Like NorCalMike though, I dont go in them much. We had a Performance shop close but it was in the dead strip mall on the edge of town. Im not sure what the secret is to these shops, other than theyre in a fairly affluent college town with an active cycling (fitness as well as for general transport) community.
I count at least 4 or 5 - Coqui, Agee's / Carytown bikes (with 3 locations), Outpost, Lucky's, Pedal Power and The Bicycle Guys (although maybe you don't count the Bicycle Guys, since they really only sell pre-owned).

I didn't know there was a bicycle co-op around here, though...
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Old 01-06-20, 02:35 PM
  #131  
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Originally Posted by sykerocker View Post
They're limited to sell only their production, bar tabs are not allowed so you have to pay for every glass, and they may not serve food so there's usually a food truck parked somewhere on the property.

22 years living down here, and I'm still rankled by the 'no bar' law. To attempt what's being mentioned, you'd have to have a bicycle shop and a tasting room on the same property, and most likely firmly divided with a door between the two. No idea if ownership of both business could be by the same person.
Nah. You can run a tab at the breweries - they just hold on to your card if you do. Maybe that's how they get around whatever ABC rule you're referring to, but I do it all the time, and just assumed they do it that way since they're using Square or something similar for their POS system. There is also no rule against the brewery tasting rooms serving their own food, most of them just choose not to. For instance the Triple Crossing brewery near Fulton has their own brick oven and serve pizza and some other items.

VA does have some really stupid ABC rules, I agree with you there. But I believe the Outpost bicycle shop and in Westover Hills has taps - although I think they only serve wine or hard seltzer or something, so it's must be possible to get an ABC-onprem license for a bicycle shop, since they did it.
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Old 01-06-20, 03:06 PM
  #132  
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Bike shops are low margin business and rent is a big factor in their costs. I'm also not sure if cafes and other distractions are helpful. Thinking local and semi local, WBW closed their cafe and store to go online only, Breadwinner closed their cafe and in Bend, Crowsfeet Commons closed their downtown store with associated cafe/music venue and reopened in a light industrial area at the edge of town as a pure bike/ski shop sans cafe. I'm sure the rent is cheaper and the space is actually bigger.
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Old 01-06-20, 03:07 PM
  #133  
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Originally Posted by TheLizard View Post
I count at least 4 or 5 - Coqui, Agee's / Carytown bikes (with 3 locations), Outpost, Lucky's, Pedal Power and The Bicycle Guys (although maybe you don't count the Bicycle Guys, since they really only sell pre-owned).

I didn't know there was a bicycle co-op around here, though...
I live in Charlottesville, probably confused you with my vague Central Va location. Blue Wheel Bikes (Scott Paisley owner) , Blue Ridge Cyclery, Bike Factory and Peloton Station which is a bar/cafe with a bike repair shop and a few used bikes for sale. The co-op is Community Bikes.

I was sorry to see Rowletts closed down in Richmond. That was a good shop and had some nice high end bikes BITD.
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Old 01-06-20, 03:25 PM
  #134  
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Originally Posted by Spaghetti Legs View Post
I live in Charlottesville, probably confused you with my vague Central Va location. Blue Wheel Bikes (Scott Paisley owner) , Blue Ridge Cyclery, Bike Factory and Peloton Station which is a bar/cafe with a bike repair shop and a few used bikes for sale. The co-op is Community Bikes.

I was sorry to see Rowletts closed down in Richmond. That was a good shop and had some nice high end bikes BITD.

I never actually went to Rowletts - they were closed before I started cycling.

Agee's actually does a pretty good job for a corporate / Trek place. I've shopped there a few times, and bought some tires from them just because the little shops didn't stock what I needed. Besides, the original shop in Carytown has been there as long as I can remember, which is back to 1983! I don't think they sold the Treks then, though.
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Old 01-06-20, 03:36 PM
  #135  
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Run a Google search on the level of taxation Oregon businesses are responsible for. That's a major reason bike shops are closing. Sure, the internet has hit every sector of retail hard and the competition has driven many out of business, but as some have pointed out, co-ops seem to be functioning. Of course they do - they have minimal expenses and owe no taxes.

Unless you've operated a small business, you may not realize just how deep everyone reaches into your pockets. Local and state taxes, utilities and vendors are all after small business owners.
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Old 01-06-20, 03:40 PM
  #136  
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Originally Posted by TheLizard View Post
I never actually went to Rowletts - they were closed before I started cycling.

Agee's actually does a pretty good job for a corporate / Trek place. I've shopped there a few times, and bought some tires from them just because the little shops didn't stock what I needed. Besides, the original shop in Carytown has been there as long as I can remember, which is back to 1983! I don't think they sold the Treks then, though.
I used to live around the corner from there on S. Colonial when it was Agees and the original Carytown Bike Shop which closed around 2000. Rowletts carried Colnago and I believe Pinarello.
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Old 01-06-20, 04:33 PM
  #137  
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Originally Posted by dkatz1 View Post
I have a friend who is one of the owners (and who makes great steel frames) of Wheelworks, which is a fine establishment, and one of the largest in the Boston area, and he says online sales are really hurting them.
Its really difficult for a shop to compete with online pricing.

I am continually blown away by the terrible business practices of the bike industry as a whole. Often times online prices for consumers are lower than wholesale prices for shops, how is a shop supposed to compete with that?
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Old 01-06-20, 05:55 PM
  #138  
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Just think what this thread will be like after The Big War, where only 30 percent of our population lives, and most of those on e-mountain bikes.
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Old 01-06-20, 07:25 PM
  #139  
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
I wish we could go back like Cornelius and Zira.

Take your stinking paws off my bike, you dam* dirty ape!

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Old 01-06-20, 07:39 PM
  #140  
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All I've gotta say is, it'll be a sad day when there are no brick and mortar Bike shops to browse. Places like SF and Portland need to get the clue, and clean their acts up.
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Old 01-06-20, 08:29 PM
  #141  
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I was driving back to Redmond, WA from Bend, OR where my sister lives last February. At the time, Performance Bike was in the process of going out of business with their brick and mortar stores. I decided to stop in to one in Portland off of 205 on Washington St. and see what they had. I ended up buying a Fuji Transonic. I had been looking at getting a "rain bike" used but this was too good of an offer to pass up. Began looking at Portland bike stores and found a bike that I liked. They were also having a 10% sale coming up in early March. I then purchased the bike in March over the phone and then drove down to pick it up when the bike came in about a week later. Saved a lot of money as in Washington State the sales tax is about 10% and in Oregon there is 0% sales tax. Purchasing bike in my area would have cost about $5250 whereas in Portland I got it for about $4300. It was worth the drive to Portland and the bike shop served me very well.
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Old 01-07-20, 08:56 AM
  #142  
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I think a repair shop only. A lot of mail order bikes need to be assembled and adjusted and older bikes will always need repairs. People do value a great bicycle mechanic who can make their bike smooth riding. You could also sell accessories for opportunistic sales to people that are coming in to pick up their bikes, like bike locks, water bottles and cages, seats, tires, etc. You would need to keep your costs down so you would need to get a place that has reasonable rent.
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Old 01-07-20, 11:10 AM
  #143  
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Originally Posted by jackbombay View Post
Its really difficult for a shop to compete with online pricing.

I am continually blown away by the terrible business practices of the bike industry as a whole. Often times online prices for consumers are lower than wholesale prices for shops, how is a shop supposed to compete with that?
The bike industry isnt the only business segment that is experiencing this . Further more its not a new problem this has been in the pipes for 20 years .

I used to sell Oakleys and got out of the business when Oakley started selling their products to my customer base directly at my cost.

That was circa 2002/2003 For what its worth . Ive said it before and Ill say it again relying on a retail product to keep a business afloat is not a viable path forward in the era of e-commerce. One must offer valuable services and provide a great customer experience if you intend to operate a PROFITABLE brick and mortar location.

the problem is there are a lot of misguided folks who are confusing a great customer experience with slinging soy chai lattes while trying to sell a Shimano Derailleur at full retail in an attempt at being profitable.

if I was going into the bike biz these days, it would be concentrating on repair, wheel building and maybe bike fitting . Stock enough parts and accessories to facilitate said repairs and maybe sell a few parts / accessories to the occasional customer However the primary focus would be on services with an awesome customer experience .
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Old 01-07-20, 01:46 PM
  #144  
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I played around with a crude revenue/expense model and it seems to me that a very small (1000 sf), very lean (only 2 people working at any given time), very low rent ($18/sf), service-focused shop can probably make the numbers work. The owner will work 60+ hours/week and doesn't get much time off, but s/he can support self at a middle-class sort of level, and there is a little bit of cushion for when biz turns down. This sounds to me a little like CityBikes, Hollywood Bikes, maybe Cat 5, etc. EDIT: also sounds like what SamSpade is describing.

Anything bigger, and it looks like you need to be selling $100/hour of accessories at a solid margin, generating $100/hour of service work, moving a fair number of bikes, etc - and there's not much cushion. Recession, online takes away margin, etc and things go upside down fast.

Sobering.

Last edited by jyl; 01-07-20 at 01:49 PM.
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Old 01-07-20, 02:34 PM
  #145  
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I live in an affluent, ru-burb where road biking is pretty popular. There's 7 bike shops within a 10 mile radius, and 2 of them are actually pretty new.
In a town near where I work, which is 30+ miles away, I just found a bike shop that offers itself as an "Internet Bicycle Fulfillment Center", for a fee it will research and help you pick out a bike online, do a fitting, then receive and assemble it for you. That seems like a pretty smart way to embrace the change in retail. That town has a lot of empty storefronts, and there's many Amazon warehouses in the neighborhood.
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Old 01-07-20, 02:44 PM
  #146  
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Originally Posted by jyl View Post
I played around with a crude revenue/expense model and it seems to me that a very small (1000 sf), very lean (only 2 people working at any given time), very low rent ($18/sf), service-focused shop can probably make the numbers work. The owner will work 60+ hours/week and doesn't get much time off, but s/he can support self at a middle-class sort of level, and there is a little bit of cushion for when biz turns down. This sounds to me a little like CityBikes, Hollywood Bikes, maybe Cat 5, etc. EDIT: also sounds like what SamSpade is describing.

Anything bigger, and it looks like you need to be selling $100/hour of accessories at a solid margin, generating $100/hour of service work, moving a fair number of bikes, etc - and there's not much cushion. Recession, online takes away margin, etc and things go upside down fast.

Sobering.
I dont disagree with this estimate . I would point out that the employee(s) will end up being the wild card in how profitable you are .

depending on state / municipalities the cost of having help may be the straw that breaks the camels back.

Having one to two employees exempts you from most Federal employment and workplace regulations , not necessarily so with state employment rules.
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Old 01-07-20, 05:12 PM
  #147  
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Originally Posted by TheLizard View Post
I never actually went to Rowletts - they were closed before I started cycling.

Agee's actually does a pretty good job for a corporate / Trek place. I've shopped there a few times, and bought some tires from them just because the little shops didn't stock what I needed. Besides, the original shop in Carytown has been there as long as I can remember, which is back to 1983! I don't think they sold the Treks then, though.
Rowlett's vs. Agee's: Now here's a classic story on success and failure in bicycle shops, Richmond style.

When I got back into cycling, Oct 04 after a 25 year COMPLETE absence (I knew about Lance Armstrong, and that was my total knowledge of cycling at the time), I walked into Agee's two blocks down from the Honda store where I worked about picking up a couple of bits to get that Raleigh Gran Sport that I'd picked up the previous weekend back on the road. You can image the look on my face looking at 05 LeMonds (what the hell is that? Never heard of the brand, or guy.) and trying to correlate them with the last two bikes I owned, a 73 World Voyageur and a 76 Falcon San Remo. 25 year old Nathan behind the counter spent the next hour and half with me catching me up. And took care of one or two customers that came in that slow day. If I pick something up local, that's still my shop of choice. Of course it doesn't hurt that the head of the firm is a couple of years younger than me and came into the business at the same time I did. And the head mechanic (now deceased, unfortunately) started wrenching back in 69 and had all my experiences plus the 25 years I'd missed. Nathan's still an occasional riding partner of mine. The owner's willing to give me some limited assistance rebuilding my shop, and I was buying at a professional discount when I need something for my shop. These guys love old bikes.

Rowlett's? My second stop a few days later, to pick up something i'd forgotten at Agee's, and I wanted to meet all the shops in town. The counter guy there spent the next fifteen minutes trying to convince me to dump that 'old piece of crap' I was working on, and buy something modern. Preferably in carbon fiber. Was completely disdainful that anyone would bother riding steel and still using down tube shifters.

Guess which one went out of business?

The other big boon I lucked into was Richmond Recycles on Cary Street (started as sort of a co-op, transitioned into a for-profit repair shop, used bikes only) which was just opening with great enthusiasm, but the guy running it freely admitted he knew nothing about the 'real old stuff'. I spent hours down there teaching him the stuff I knew, he helped bring me up to speed on the more modern. After which I showed up here . . . . .
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Old 01-07-20, 05:21 PM
  #148  
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Originally Posted by TheLizard View Post
Nah. You can run a tab at the breweries - they just hold on to your card if you do. Maybe that's how they get around whatever ABC rule you're referring to, but I do it all the time, and just assumed they do it that way since they're using Square or something similar for their POS system. There is also no rule against the brewery tasting rooms serving their own food, most of them just choose not to. For instance the Triple Crossing brewery near Fulton has their own brick oven and serve pizza and some other items.

VA does have some really stupid ABC rules, I agree with you there. But I believe the Outpost bicycle shop and in Westover Hills has taps - although I think they only serve wine or hard seltzer or something, so it's must be possible to get an ABC-onprem license for a bicycle shop, since they did it.
Center of the Universe (Ashland) doesn't, but now that you mention it Garden Grove (upper Cary Street) will hold your cc. I usually pay cash, so I didn't notice. Guess it's how complicated the staff is willing to go. Granted, on a weekend afternoon COTU has crowds in there that most bars would kill for, running three individuals behind the bar, so they probably don't want to go hanging on to credit cards. The one craft beer brewer I really like (I'm not really into the craft beer scene, it amazes me how much crap some of those guys will put out just to be unique), and it's a 2.4 mile bike ride from the house.
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Old 01-07-20, 05:39 PM
  #149  
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COTU makes some good beer - I'm a fan of the Pocahoptus - but they make some junk too. But most of the brewers do.

A brewpub / bike shop would be awesome, wouldn't it?

Pretty soon we'll have the Veil Brewing just a short block from the Outpost - so that's damn close!
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Old 01-07-20, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by TheLizard View Post
COTU makes some good beer - I'm a fan of the Pocahoptus - but they make some junk too. But most of the brewers do.

A brewpub / bike shop would be awesome, wouldn't it?

Pretty soon we'll have the Veil Brewing just a short block from the Outpost - so that's damn close!
Chin Music is my love. And I was rather incensed when they quit canning it, and dropped it at The Diamond (I'm a huge Richmond Flying Squirrels fan). The Squirrels management has requested a new beer, some variant of shandy for the upcoming season. Fortunately, Chin Music is still available on tap at the brewery, and by growler.
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