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'Velo Cult' bike shop set to open in Hollywood

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 27th, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Velo Cult bike shop in progress-1
Velo Cult is moving into this
former antique mall on NE
42nd Ave in Hollywood.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortlanD)

Velo Cult Bike Shop is moving into the Hollywood neighborhood. I swung by the space on NE 42nd Avenue yesterday to meet owner Sky Boyer, and Portland, I'm happy to say, we're in for a big treat.

For a city that prides itself on great bike shops, what Boyer has planned will be something even Portland doesn't have yet — a shop where the art and culture of bicycling gets just as much priority as the bikes themselves.

Boyer spent eight months looking for just the right building to house his shop. "I'm picky," he said, and added that, for the type of space he wants to create, "It's gotta have that feel."

Velo Cult's former shop was 1,200 square feet: Now they've got 10,000 square feet.

What Boyer picked is a 10,000 square foot former antique mall at 1969 NE 42nd Ave. The 5,000 foot showroom and 5,000 square foot finished basement gives him a lot of room to be creative and create the shop of his dreams. Back in San Diego — the shop he founded in 2006 as a workshop for his vintage bike restoration hobby and grew into national prominence as one of the best bike shops in America — was just 1,200 square feet.

As he pointed out where he'll put the cafe and bar (toward the front of the shop, by the window), explained how a drawbridge he purchased from the ruins of the old Piggot's Castle estate will be used as a stage for live bands, and showed me the rusted out 1953 Chevy he plans to hang from the ceiling to display his service and labor menu; he said with a smile, "We've never had room to play before."

The Velo Cult crew: (L to R) George Schenk, Tom Gerlits, Sky Boyer.

While Velo Cult will have a lot of the things you'd expect, like a service area, lots of city, cyclocross, randonneuring, and maybe even a few mountain bikes, it will also have much you don't usually associate with a bike shop. That's where the basement comes in.

Since it was a former antique mall, the basement is fully carpeted and sectioned off into several different rooms. One of them is already set aside as the shop's professional photo studio (Boyer employs a full-time photographer to shot photos for their online bike museum and coffee table books). In another room, which has dark red carpeting, he's thinking of setting up as a speak-easy. "We could have a bunch of smoking jackets hanging on the wall and you'll have to put one on to come in."

"A speak-easy?" I said, "That would make a great stop on the Tweed Ride!" To which Boyer replied, "Yep. We're already a stop on that ride."

Turns out Boyer spearheaded the Tweed ride in San Diego and now one of his employees is already on the planning team for the Portland edition.

If you're getting the feeling that Velo Cult isn't your average bike shop, you're right. To understand why, you've got to understand Boyer.

Boyer started racing bikes when he was nine and raced mountain and road bikes at the national level for 17 years. Like many racers, he always worked at bike shops, "But I hated all of them," he said. He quit the bike industry and started restoring vintage bikes in his garage. As his hobby blossomed, he ran out of space and moved into a workshop.

"I put an open sign on the door, but I didn't think anyone would show up... Maybe I'd change a flat for a kid once a day," he recalled. But six months later, Boyer had four employees and the rest is history.

A photo of Boyer taken by the shop photographer
shows his appreciation for vintage bikes.

That success brought with it a major realization for Boyer. "That shop was 100% me... and people liked it. From that point on I realized it's about me... What kind of stuff do I want in the shop? What kind of decor? What kind of bikes?" (He didn't say this in an arrogant way at all. He meant that the success gave him confidence that people appreciated the same things he does and that he could have a successful shop without taking the cookie-cutter approach.)

Velo Cult turned into a destination shop, with people from all over the world seeking it out on visits to San Diego (a very popular tourist destination). The shop had a very loyal local following as customers flocked to Boyer for his steel bikes and the gritty feel of his shop. But Boyer says San Diegans, on the whole, never really understood Velo Cult and that the city's lack of support for independent, local businesses was in sharp contrast to what he'd seen on visits to Portland.

As someone who has worked as a volunteer on bike advocacy issues, Boyer was also frustrated at the lack of progress (due in large part to the dominance of the vehicular cycling philosophy in San Diego) in building a bikeway network.

"My employees have been waiting for me to make this move for years... We were in the wrong city," he said.

"When I walk around Portland with my Velo Cult hoodie, random people say, 'Yeah! Velo Cult!' — that never happened in San Diego."

I asked if he was nervous about leaving behind a successful shop with loyal customers and starting over in a new city. Nope. "We are a shop that bike nerds love and there are more bike nerds here," he replied. And then he shared a funny story: "When I walk around Portland with my Velo Cult hoodie, random people say, 'Yeah! Velo Cult!' — that never happened in San Diego."

Speaking of shop merchandise, you might notice that Velo Cult has several different shop logos. That's because they create a new one every month or so. "We aren't really into that branding thing... I think we just get bored really easily."

If my hunch is right, I don't think anyone will ever get bored inside Velo Cult. In addition to the live music, events, perhaps a bike museum, and other interesting pastimes this shop will offer, they'll also be a serious bike shop with loads of expertise.

Boyer says they'll stock a range of urban and cyclocross bikes and maybe a mountain bike or two. What Velo Cult was known for in San Diego was their focus on randoneurring bikes and parts. They'll also offer a full menu of steel frame repair, a service that should come in handy here in Portland.

I'm excited for this addition to our community and can't wait to see what Boyer and his crew create at Velo Cult. Boyer summed it all up when he explained that the most common reaction he heard when people walked into his San Diego store was, "Shhhit! This is a real bike shop!"

Watch for the opening next month.

— Learn more about Boyer and Velo Cult in this 2009 interview on BikeSD.org and follow them on on Facebook or at VeloCult.com.

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Comments
  • Sloop January 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Fantastic! How soon are they hiring?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Paul Tay January 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Who has the memo on vehicular cycling stalling progress?

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • S January 27, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    This is SOOO awesome...finally, a cool, bikey destination spot in OUR (not-so-trendy) neck of the woods!

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • spare_wheel January 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    "due in large part to the dominance of the vehicular cycling philosophy in San Diego"

    i am sure that cyclists judging other people who cycle will lead to 25% mode share.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

    • Al from PA January 28, 2012 at 7:13 am

      I interpreted this as meaning the dominance of the Foreseter "Effective Cycling" philosophy--which is effective as far as it goes (the half of 1% who are willing to forgo bike infrastructure).

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • spare_wheel January 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm

        i think its more a matter of those who do not drink the copenhagenize kool-aid being branded VC extremists.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

  • meh January 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    San Diego has a pretty hot cycling community. They even have a velodrome.

    Plenty of good bike shops throughout the city.

    Great riding on the coast and inland to the hills. And some amazing mountain biking in nearby.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • spare_wheel January 30, 2012 at 8:30 am

      sorry but you cannot have a hot cycling community until you have a sufficient number of people pedaling on "utilitarian" cruisers in high heels.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Schrauf January 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    They picked a good location. Less bike-shop dense than most close-in neighborhoods. Bike Gallery is a mile away, that is the closest significant store.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • John Lascurettes January 27, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      Yeah, not much up in this neck of the woods. I welcome them. There's Bike Gallery and then the CCC in N/NE and not much else. When are they opening? :)

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Sky January 28, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Thanks for the welcome everybody. We are very excited about this. San Diego is a great cycling town, we as a commuter shop did OK but not great, just not enough commuters to grow and we did want to grow a little bit more to hit some goals we have.

    Not sure when we will open just yet but it would be in about about a month. Working as fast as I can on the building at the moment, it needs a lot of care.

    The grand opening party with be grand I promise.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • John January 28, 2012 at 1:53 am

    Dang, I always looked forward to stopping by this shop the few times I found myself in San Diego. Now I'll have to settle for a visit to that yummy taco truck that a Velo Cult employee referred me to.

    That neighborhood in San Diego, South Park, reminds me of Portland a little bit. Good luck and enjoy your coffee upgrade!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Sky January 28, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Funny you should say that John because we moved the shop to South Park for that very reason. We thought that if any place in San Diego had the Portland feel and if any place could support a bike commuter lifestyle like in Portland it would be South Park/North Park. South Park had more of the "feel" though so we went for it.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Sam January 28, 2012 at 10:03 am

    So missing you guys here in San Diego. Wishing you the very best and I am determined to change San Diego so that we will soon be attracting bike nerds from not just Portland but the world over.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gabba-gabba January 28, 2012 at 10:17 am

    "They'll also offer a full menu of steel frame repair, a service that should come in handy here in Portland."

    Right; because the thirty-odd individual steel framebuilders listed in the sidebar of this site aren't available, capable or interested.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 28, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Actually, i bet many of the builders listed in the sidebar would rather spend time building custom bikes and would be happy to refer people to a shop for repairs.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

    • sorebore January 28, 2012 at 10:42 am

      O.K. Gabba Gabba hey...TRY to get ONE of them besides Dave at Ti Cycles to even TALK to you about it, or even respond!! and yes that's a shameless plug for Dave. sorry.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • craig harlow January 30, 2012 at 9:23 am

        Repair's a different ballgame. The designer-builders will refer you to someone else who does repair--unless you need repair of a frame that THEY built :)

        Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Paul Smith January 28, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Welcome to Portland Sky, the shop sounds like it will be awesome, I love the mix of fun and top skills. A great way to live life I reckon. :) Will you be carrying any cargo bikes? The Yuba Mundo is a great sweet spot of price, strength, versatility that I've had my eye on.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Sky January 28, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Gabba gabba, we will actually be working with them like we did at our old shop. I'm a huge advocate for local frame builders, in fact I help to put on the San Diego Custom Bicycle Show and carry custom builders bikes in my shop and have for years.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Sky January 28, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Paul, we did carry the Mundo at the old shop and it was a total failure. I blame a city not ready for it more than the bike though. I can revisit them.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Paul Smith January 28, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Ah, I can see it's probably early there for cargo bikes if commuters had yet to gain traction. Cargo bikes are huge here, from parents & kids to everyday, car free living. There's even an all cargo bike store, Splendid, that has the high end wheels. Check our Hopworks beer bike, a beauty to behold :)

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • craig harlow January 30, 2012 at 9:26 am

      Mundos on voltage at the E-bike Store.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Jrdpdx January 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I have a stiffy, right down the street from me! Can't wait

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Joe January 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    *** :) *** awesome

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • dan January 28, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    You had me at "bar".

    :-)

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • brooke January 29, 2012 at 11:55 am

    I am *so* excited about this! Thanks for sharing Jonathan and Velo Cult - welcome to the Rose City!

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Carter January 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Are you sure that drawbridge came from the extant Piggot's Castle and not the demolished Canterbury Castle?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ted Buehler January 30, 2012 at 12:09 am

    Cool, glad to see a "culture theme" shop coming in.

    I was in this storefront a couple months ago, It's a huge shop, 1950s department store style, with a wide, dramatic basement stairway that just drops out of the middle of the main floor. It will lend itself well to a this vision -- nice catch! Welcome!

    Ted Buehler

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Lazlo January 30, 2012 at 11:42 am

    It's the old Roger's 99 Cent Store.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Carter January 30, 2012 at 11:54 am

    It's across the street from the old Roger's.

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  • Joshua January 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Velo Cult was definitely one of the friendlier shops when I was in San Diego. I'm happy to see them relocating to Portland! Best of luck, guys!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chris I January 30, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Awesome! Welcome to the neighborhood.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Nino January 31, 2012 at 7:11 am

    You've picked a great part of town to move into - Hollywood needs fresh blood to help fill some of the long vacant storefronts. Welcome!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • ME Fitz January 31, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Sky - And touring bikes... most shops just have one... Surly LHT or dealers for Co-motion. Would like a shop with some price range in between those two also. I am in the market...

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Randy February 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Congrats on finding a space, Sky! Glad to hear everything is going well. Yr vision for the new shop sounds amazing. Yr vision is definitely missed here in SD. @Paul Tay: I work as a bike advocate in SD and it's true that there is a strong "vehicular bicycling" contingency in SD who is intent on derailing projects that they think create "segregation." This includes bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, two-way cycletracks, and one even opposed a Ciclovia. Instead of blaming the lack of education for motorists who yell "get in the bike lane!" when no bike lane is present, they blame the concept of the bike lane for creating an expectation of segregation. In SD, vehicular cycling is usually the safest way to get around (due to our lack of facilities here) but the problem is when the anti-bike infrastructure party begin to COUNTER-advocate against what research shows people want.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Alan 1.0 February 7, 2012 at 12:26 am

      BikingInLA blog has a taste of those SoCal VC vs infrastructure politics in the comments under this post, as well as under his Change the Law article from 2009. Daunting stuff with cogent arguments from both sides.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jesse February 8, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Some of us in San Diego were very sad to see this shop pack up and abandon the neighborhood. I hope Portland embraces you guys as you deserve...

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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