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Unique custom bike shop/gallery to open in Portland

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 27th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Tucson, Arizona-based Fair Wheel Bikes plans to open a bike shop in Portland next month that won't be like any other in the city. Fair Wheel is a full-service shop in Tucson, but they're known online and in the industry for pushing the boundaries of high-end, exotic, and light weight bike builds. The Portland location will expand on that reputation by focusing solely on custom bikes and high-end aftermarket parts.

According to Emiliano Jordan, a Portland-based marketing and web design consultant who works with Fair Wheel and who will manage the new location, the shop will more closely resemble an art gallery. "We're going to closely emulate a true art gallery style... The idea is to showcase one of a kind custom and low-production hand made bikes."

Detail of front brake from
the McFetridge light bike.
(Photo: Fair Wheel)

Or, as the Tucson Velo blog reports:

"It is not so much a full-on bike store," [Fair Wheel owner Ralph] Phillips said. "It is more of a boutique store where you can go in, view things and order online if you like. We just want to display products and bring our presence into Portland."

One bike you'll see on opening night is this amazingly lightweight build with graphics by artist Geoff McFettridge. The bike's frame was made by Ruegammer Blackwerks and with its exotic parts tips the scales at just over 8.5 pounds.

Like an art gallery, the bikes will be displayed alongside information about the builder and bikes will be rotated every month or two. There are also plans for special "builder opening" nights. In addition to bikes, Jordan says the shop will feature exotic components as well as "tuning items to make commercial bikes a bit more unique."

The bikes displayed at Fair Wheel's new Portland location will be on loan and shop staff will direct sales inquiries directly to builders when people show interest in a specific bike. Sales revenue will be generated via a small gift shop and by directing customers to the shop's website.

The shop will be open by appointments during the week and will be open to the public on at least one weekend day. The location of the shop is 600 NW Naito Parkway, just north of the Steel Bridge in the McCormick's Pier building. A soft launch is planned for early January and a grand opening is planned for March 4-5th.

Learn more about Fair Wheel Bikes on their website and read a report on the new shop by Tucson Velo.

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Comments
  • cold worker December 27, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    this shop is going to add value to portlands biking scene. i see nothing but success for fair wheel bikes. this is a win for everyone.

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  • beth h December 27, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Fascinating business model.
    It does beg some questions:
    --According to the article, customers will be directed to a Web site that is run by an out-of-state company. Does this mean that Portland dollars spent at FairWheel won't stay in Portland?
    --Does FairWheel plan to hire locally, or will they import workers from Arizona?
    --Which builders are going to be involved in this project? And why would a custom builder choose to pay a shop to do their marketing for them when the bikes are [presumably] built one at a time?
    --This is a business based in Arizona. What will their ties be to Portland other than an address?
    It will be interesting to watch this business model develop.

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  • toddistic December 27, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    this is a great success, just like the boutique bike shop off NW 23rd - it made it what? 2 years maybe.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 27, 2010 at 1:54 pm

      the big difference here is that that shop on NW 23rd sold only one brand of bicycles... and it was a brand known for the triathlon bikes. That's quite a big difference in many ways that what Fair Wheel is doing.

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  • pabstslut December 27, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    After reading the Tucson Velo article it ounds like it's not a bike shop at all, but strictly a gallery.

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  • mark ginsberg December 27, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    there is a long lost Portland connection, at least to that one cool light bike, Brenna Ruegammer used to live and race in Portland, we were teammates about 15 years ago in Portland.

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  • maxadders December 27, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    glad to see that Portland is finally getting more high-end bike shops.

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  • q`Tzal December 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Is there really a market for bicycles that customers buy and never ride?

    ;)

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  • Pat Malach December 27, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    8.5 lbs. Whoa. Is that with or without playing cards in the spokes?

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  • Emiliano Jordan December 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Hello BP'ers,

    Just to answer a few questions, we are focusing on this being a gallery and not sales. The web site will always be what it is and since this gallery will never generate enough sales to cover costs we do need some financial backing. Fairwheel is a great partner in this project since they are willing to donate capital, time, knowledge and expertise.

    We are inviting all builders to contact us to work on gallery projects at no cost to the builder. This is a place to expand on ideas and to show off progressive trends in the industry. Making it into the gallery will be a matter of creativity, ingenuity, and aesthetics not that of money. This will be an added marketing tool for the ever talented and thriving local frame building community. At the same time bringing frames in from the best in the world can inspire and foster creativity here at home. Aside from frame builders we're going to work with local artists, photographers and the entire PDX bike community as closely as possible.

    It's obvious to hire from PDX if ever a 735 sq ft gallery needs it. Although there are a few members of the staff in Tucson that grew up in Eugene and PDX that might love to come back, I know I would. :) I am currently the sole operator of the gallery and I try to be as active as I can in the cycling community including donating a lot of my time to help out Pat Malach, who is both BP contributor and editor of Oregon Cycling Action.

    Good to hear everyone's thoughts. I didn't know Brenna lived here, pretty cool.

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    • Skid December 29, 2010 at 3:18 pm

      Wow, you explained it so much better than anything I've read so far. I love the idea of industrial design being viewed as art, although it is an intellectual leap for some.

      Let me know if you ever want to do an exhibition of the bicycle equivalent of Outsider Art, I think I can round up a few examples.

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      • Emiliano Jordan December 29, 2010 at 4:05 pm

        Thanks skid. To be fair to JM I was so busy I passed along a press release we've been using for the industry. He did a great job with the info I gave but I didn't realize how much attention this would get.

        I actually think D.R. might have summed it up better than me though. "Paintings are just paintings, until it's art. If you're going to collect something it's better to collect bikes than cars, right?"

        Stop by the gallery in January after things have settled down a bit for me. I'd like to hear any ideas and vision you have for an exhibit and beyond.

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  • middle of the road guy December 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I love custom bikes.....have 4 of them. But this is jumping the shark - they are still just bikes.

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  • q`Tzal December 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    OTOH... this should expose our local builders to customers previously unaware of their wares.
    Customers with lots of disposable income.

    YEAH!!! Conspicuous consumption!

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  • BURR December 27, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    oy vey

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  • dan December 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Whoa, carbon fiber chainrings. That bike would be like a rocket ship; I wonder how it will hold up over time.

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    • BURR December 27, 2010 at 9:03 pm

      I'm sure we'll never know because it is unlikely to ever be ridden.

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  • JM December 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    I totally agree with "middle of the road guy".
    I'll use the same rule I use for over hyped local restaurants. If it can last a year then it's worth checking out. I doubt I would even go to look at their bikes.
    Also, isn't 14 lbs the minimum that the best in the world are allowed to ride in all the grand tours? Y'all want to be faster? Lose some weight fatties!

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  • drew December 27, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I hope they do not try to simply focus on the superlight stuff. The more practical, innovative stuff is much more interesting.

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    • Emiliano Jordan December 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm

      Drew, I agree, there is only so light you can go and it's pretty much been done at 6.28 lbs (You can see that soon too). We're trying to focus on creativity. It's great to have a unique yet durable everyday rider. I'd personally like to see more material diversity and creative application of technology.

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  • Tourbiker December 28, 2010 at 2:48 am

    Not wishing any I'll will for any of the entrepreneurs here In PDX, but y'all need to get together & just open a Co-op ...gallery style in one of the already empty buildings near Pioneer Square.
    It' used to work for Saturday market..til they thought "hey why not just monopolize the new Fountain area?"- Under the Burnside.

    I used to go to Saturday market in Eugene as a kid.
    now look at em
    http://www.5stmarket.com/about/

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  • esther c December 28, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Art gallery bicycle store open one day a week and by appointment. Profits from a "gift shop" and directing people to their web site. This looks like a great bidness model. Wish I could buy into that one.

    It actually looks like a ruse to get some Portland traffic to their Tuscon based website. They'd do better to redesign the site so if you surfed off the shopping page you didn't have to muck around for 20 clicks trying to find the shopping again.

    It sounds like a really silly business model.

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    • cold worker December 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

      this is what my first comment was more like, but i guess too snarky to be allowed to post. then i re-commented, but sarcasm didn't make it through the interwebs to the screen.

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  • k. December 28, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Meh.

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  • JH December 28, 2010 at 9:41 am

    You can open a shop in portland and offer your own unique service or special brand. There are so many shops here now it unfortunately gets lost, at the end of the day it is just another shop. Maybe it is time to push Portland's bicycle industry in a new direction with more manufacturing and production.

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  • D.R. December 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I don't know... Looking at some of the links and the other article it could be cool to see some of this. Paintings are just paintings, until it's art. If you're going to collect something it's better to collect bikes than cars, right?

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  • Yaright December 28, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    I love how all the negative nancy's come out of the woodwork any time something outside of the status quo pops up.
    Here's a tip for you all..... you don't actually have to go by there if you don't want to.... interesting huh ?

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  • esther c December 28, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Yaright, if someone is going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars opening a business people are going to have opinions on the profitability of it and whether or not the business model makes sense.

    Here's a tip for you... if you don't like reading people's opinions don't.

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  • Ted Buehler December 29, 2010 at 1:30 am

    I'm glad to see more bikey shops in Portland, whether they're bike shops, high end bike shops, bike art galleries, or anything else. The more bizarre the better. Bring it on!

    Plus with this one we get the bonus Portland-Tucson connection. Maybe Bicas will head this way next.

    Best wishes
    Ted Buehler

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  • Yaright December 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    esther c
    Yaright, if someone is going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars opening a business people are going to have opinions on the profitability of it and whether or not the business model makes sense.
    Here's a tip for you... if you don't like reading people's opinions don't.

    I enjoy reading them.... often they even make me chuckle.... like the one above :-) you sure about your dollar amounts there or is that speculation too ??

    Emiliano.... good luck with the gallery, I'll be by for sure !!

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