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Jay Graves retires, sells Bike Gallery chain

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 30th, 2012 at 9:58 am

Jay Graves
Jay Graves, the former — yes former — owner
and president of Bike Gallery, as seen yesterday.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Jay Graves announced his retirement as owner and operator of the six-store Bike Gallery chain this morning.

Graves has passed on management duties to longtime Bike Gallery employee Kelly Aicher. Aicher now has an ownership stake in the company and he'll also be the general manager of the six stores. Bike Gallery has been acquired by Mike Olson of San Diego, California-based Trek Bicycle Superstore, which is the number one Trek retailer in America.

This marks the end of an era for bicycling in Portland.

Jay Graves (right) with friend Ben Joy in 1978.

Jay, 54, started working at the Bike Gallery when he was just 15 years old. His first boss was his father, Bob Graves, who opened the shop as a side job in 1974. Back then, Jay worked with his dad and two sisters to get the store off the ground. The family ran the stores together for 23 years before Jay took over for his father. Today, Bike Gallery has over 100 employees and is the eighth largest Trek dealer in the U.S.

"I'm looking for what else is out there. I've been so focused the last 39 years on running a business. I'm really excited about what's going to arise."

Jay says his decision to step away from Bike Gallery wasn't an easy one to make. For Jay, Bike Gallery is much more than just a bike shop, and the team he built to run it are much more than just employees. Jay stopped by my office to share the news yesterday and he teared up, saying, "This isn't a decision you make easily. It's been three years... a soul-searching, heart-wrenching process. Because it's family... The relationships are the hardest thing... "

With nearly four decades on the retail side of the bike industry, Jay has seen a lot. "When we started, it was the 10-speed craze, then the BMX craze, then the mountain bike craze, then the Lance craze, and now the commuting craze. You know, at some point, you say, 'OK, I've done that, for almost 40 years, and I'd like to do something else.'"

He is still passionate about bicycles, and he said he'll always be a "Bike Gallery ambassador"; but he's ready to devote himself fully to other pursuits. Graves is vice chair of the Oregon State Parks Commission and he's a founding and current board member of Cycle Oregon. In that capacity he provided seed funding for the Community Cycling Center, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and countless other advocacy efforts.

Here are a few photos I've taken of Jay through the years (see more here)...

Cycle Oregon Weekend Ride-81.jpg
Jay was always helping people, as shown here at the Cycle Oregon Weekend Ride in 2008.

National Bike Summit - Day two-40
Jay as Portland biking superman at the 2009 National Bike Summit.

National Bike Summit 07
Jay (left) with Trek President John Burke at the 2007 National Bike Summit.

Cycle Oregon Day 1
Jay (left) and Cycle Oregon co-founder Jonathan Nicholas somewhere in eastern Oregon in 2006.

Trek Portland and Platinum lauch
Jay with Congressman Earl Blumenauer at the launch of Portland's Platinum award campaign at the downtown Bike Gallery in 2006.

National Bike Summit
Presenting a new Trek Portland bicycle to Rep. Blumenauer in his D.C. office in 2006.

Legislator bike ride at the Oregon Bike Summit-20
Jay (in the suit) riding with former Oregon State Senator Jason Atkinson at the 2009 Oregon Bike Summit in Salem.

National Bike Summit - Day two-51
L to R: Alison Graves, Jay Graves, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Jerry Norquist, Chris Distefano, Scott Bricker. (National Bike Summit 2009)

Cycle Oregon Bike Rodeo-11.JPG
Trackstanding during the bike rodeo at Cycle Oregon 2007.

When I asked what advocacy project he's most excited about, Jay mentioned the Salmonberry Trail project, which, when completed will be a 90 mile paved trail (a "linear state park") that will connect Banks to Tillamook via the Coast Range. Other advocacy work he plans to stay involved with includes the National Bike Summit, the Oregon Active Transportation Summit, and so on.

Knowing his passion for bike advocacy and his hard work ethic, I asked Jay if he had any plans on formalizing his advocacy work or perhaps starting a new group or big project. He smiled, then said, "I'm not committing to anything for six months." Then a few minutes later he asked if I'd correct that. "Actually, you should write one year... Or at least six months. I know I'll get antsy."

"I've been so focused the last 39 years on running a business. I'm really excited about what's going to arise."

If you're one of Bike Gallery's many loyal customers, don't expect anything to change. Jay says all the existing senior management is excited about the changes because it raises the possibility of fresh thinking and new ideas.

Jay spoke very highly of Kelly Aicher. Aicher has been with Bike Gallery since 1996 and he has 26 years of experience in the bike industry. Aicher has also been Bike Gallery's lead in managing their support of the Cycle Oregon event, an event that is very near and dear to Jay. If you go on Cycle Oregon this coming year, you'll still see Jay, up before sunrise, fixing bikes for the day's ride.

When I spoke to Jay yesterday, he was understandably emotional as he shared the news. He was clearly sad to be leaving Bike Gallery, but he was also in great spirits and seemed very excited about what his future holds.

"I'm looking for what else is out there. I've been so focused the last 39 years on running a business. I'm really excited about what's going to arise."

"I still love bikes. It's going to be weird, starting next week, saying, I want to go into one of my bike shops, but it's not mine anymore," he said, laughing at how strange those words sounded.


— It's not possible to put into words what Jay Graves has meant (and will continue to mean) to bicycling in Portland, Oregon, and beyond. His email signature includes the quote: "Every day, we have the opportunity to change someone's life through bicycling," and he lives and breathes that mantra. I am proud to say that Jay was my largest supporter during the early days of BikePortland. His financial and moral support was a major part of why I chose to take the risk on this site. He helped me — and more importantly my wife/CFO Juli — believe that BikePortland could be a viable business and that it was all worth the effort.

Thank you Jay. And congratulations! I can't wait to team up on some big advocacy issues and projects!

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Comments
  • Jessica Roberts November 30, 2012 at 10:09 am

    OMG that picture of Jay is fantastic! Best of luck to Jay in his future pursuits. He has always been a leader, a mentor, a positive force for bicycling in our state, and an all-around mensch. If anybody deserves a rest, it's him.

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    • Rol December 2, 2012 at 12:19 am

      I agree, there's pretty much nothing about that photo that isn't totally freekin' awesome. And this Salmonberry Corridor thing sounds pretty sweet too - Stub Stewart to Nehalem WITHOUT GOING ON THE ROAD.

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  • Esther November 30, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Thank you to Jay for all your contributions to the community over the years. I hope that Bike Gallery continues to be a substantial supporter of events like Sunday Parkways!

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  • Greg Raisman November 30, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Jay:

    Thank you so much for all you've done to make Portland one of the best places to ride a bike in America. Thanks for making that experience accessible for everyone who lives here.

    I can't wait to see your next amazing adventure and remarkable contribution to the place we call home.

    Greg

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  • Victoria Graves November 30, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Congrats, Jay, for honoring Dad and his vision, and for taking BG so far. Very excited to see where you focus your passion next.
    Good bye, Grand Fromage...

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  • rwl1776 November 30, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Jay, Thanks for supporting PUMP for all those years we were trying to get our act together. Without the backing of BG, PUMP may not have survived all those years, and helped bicyclists to have access to Forest Park. Now logoff and go for a ride!

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  • Ben November 30, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Congratulation to Jay! I was a little kid that used to stare over the counter almost 40 years ago. Been friends with him since 1974. I wish him great success as he moves into the next phase of life. Hopefully it entails continued advocacy work and more time to get on his bike and ride!

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  • Matt Haughey November 30, 2012 at 10:36 am

    The first time I ever met Jay Graves was at a charity ride. Bike Gallery was doing support for everyone, I had a derailleur clicking on me, so I stopped and got a quick adjustment. It was only a couple months later after I bought my second bike at a Bike Gallery that I looked up on the wall of one of the stores and saw that helpful nice bike mechanic from the charity ride was the owner of the entire chain of shops. Such a great guy.

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    • A.K. November 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      I've never met him, but that speaks volumes about his character.

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  • Jocelyn SyCip November 30, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Jay, congratulations and many, many thanks for your leadership, guidance, and all that you've done to support Portland's bike friendly achievements. You've been and I'm certain will continue to be an inspiration to us all.

    Those photos are stellar!

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  • Lisa Luna November 30, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Congratulations Jay! Clem would be SO PROUD of you. This tribute to you made me all teary-eyed. You have left an indelible mark on our city's and state's history. You have truly been excellent to all of us. Sending you the very best wishes on a job very, very well done. Thank you for being you. xo, LML

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  • John Blackwell November 30, 2012 at 10:54 am

    There's no finer man than Jay Graves and he'll now cut an even wider swath across Oregon through his commitment to public service.

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  • Molly Cameron November 30, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Congrats Jay!

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  • Mike Wetter November 30, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Congratulations Jay! It will be really fun to see where you choose to apply yourself next. Whatever it is, great things will happen! Your gentle and principled leadership sets a great example for me and, I know, many others. We'll be with you wherever you choose to go.

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  • Brad Chalfant November 30, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Jay, congratulations and many thanks for all you've done for cycling in this state. It's been a pleasure to serve with you on the state parks commission and I look forward with great anticipation to see what all of this new found free time will do to advance a statewide system of bike and hiking trails. Great things ahead!

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  • Erik Tonkin November 30, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I was 21 when Jay himself hired me to work at the Bike Gallery. It was late in the summer of 1996, and the shop I'd worked at just went out of business. BG staff friends arranged an interview with Jay, and he hired me on the spot, matching my pay and also paying for my remaining MTB race entry fees. I will never forget his care and good humor.

    A year later, BG hired Kelly Aicher to help open and then manage their new Lake Oswego location. I was fortunate to join Kelly there and help him manage the service department. I'm so happy to know that Kelly is now the general manager of the business--he is one of the bike industry's very sharpest, and I'm proud to have worked for him, too.

    Jay and Kelly, I wish you the very best, and I humbly thank you for what you've done for me.

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  • Nels Gabbert November 30, 2012 at 11:33 am

    How wonderful that Jay will continue all of his work for this community. And have more time for it. It will be a big change not to have him at the BG. But I am very excited about seeing his impact on the State continue to grow! Thanks for all you have done and do Jay.

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  • Mark P November 30, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Jay and the Bike Gallery employees have been so helpful to me over the years and over the course of my bicycling development from recreational newbie to daily commuter. I can't wait to see what exciting thing Jay tackles next!

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  • bro - in - law November 30, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Jeez, most people have to die to have such things spoken about them, but I couldn't agree more!

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  • Janis November 30, 2012 at 11:44 am

    OH Jay! So excited for you but WOW! You have been so amazing in the Portland community - thank you - though I expect you will remain so...it is just who you are. Wish you happiness, happiness!

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  • Sky -Velo Cult Bike Shop November 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Never got the opportunity to meet you Jay but maybe now with more free time on your hands we can make that happen.

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  • Matt November 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks Jay!

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  • Amy Parkhurst November 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Want to go for a ride?

    I can't wait to see where your journey takes you - whatever you do - the world will be a better place for it.

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  • Joe November 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    awesome vintage BMX pic. DG frames :) congrats dude!

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  • Laura Sadowski November 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Congratulations on growing your fathers vision Jay! Good luck in you future endeavors, cause there are sure to be many!

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  • nuovorecord November 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Congratulations, Jay, and thanks for all your many contributions!

    It's pretty difficult to put into words what Jay has meant to cycling in Oregon over the years. But, an annual award administered by the BTA might be a good start towards recognizing him, and honoring all he's done. Maybe a renaming of Alice B. Toeclips? Something to think about...?

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  • Mary Roberts November 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    While you are still a young guy at only 54 (and I can say this being so many years your senior), 40 years in one business is a lifetime. And what a lifetime it has been; encouraging, inspiring, cajoling, and generally cheering on our community and our citizens to bicycle. Thank you so much. You are AWESOME.

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  • Breesa November 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Congratulations, Jay! This is wildly exciting. Good luck in your future endeavors. (Also, can I please get a copy of that sweet BMX photo?)

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  • Linda Ginenthal November 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Congratulations Jay! The community of Portland is so much richer for your work and enthusiasm for bicycling. I wish you the best of luck and joy in your next 40 years. Have a blast.

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  • Kiel Johnson November 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    I can still remember parking Jay's tandem bike at the Alice Awards bike valet the first year I volunteered there. I would tell everyone I could whose bike that was with great pride. Thanks for all your work and excited to see what comes next!

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  • matt picio November 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks for all your hard work, Jay. I bought my first bike in Portland in your main store in 2006, and while we've only spoken a few times, I have really appreciated your unfailing support of the bike community over the years. I look forward to seeing what amazing things you'll do next with your newly undivided attention! Thanks so much for your involvement in the community.

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  • K'Tesh November 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Being retired will give you a lot more time... hopefully you'll be able to do a lot of the things you've wanted to do. If you're looking for stuff, I can always use a hand in guerrilla advocacy. ;)

    All The Best Jay...

    Rubberside Down!

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    • q`Tzal December 1, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      Bike Gallery isn't ending so which "era" is ending?

      Perhaps it is the era where Jay is too busy running a business to devote himself to being a full time bicycle advocate on the political stage?
      This could turn out very good for all of us.

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  • kenny November 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks for being a genuine good natured visionary, Jay. Your passion for cycling has impacted Portlander's in so many positive ways. Cheers to you and your future endeavors. It has been a pleasure working with you and I hope to in any capacity that gets more people on bikes more often. Your legacy will live on at Bike Gallery, and beyond.

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  • Mark Lear November 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Jay is a living legend. I am looking forward to reading his next chapter.

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  • are November 30, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    congrats jay.

    the business journal
    http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/news/2012/11/30/graves-sells-bike-gallery.html?ana=e_ptl_bn&page=all
    was vague about how large a piece of the equity aicher is getting. your story makes it sound like olson is getting the lion's share.

    the business journal did sort of make it sound like the gallery will not be turned into another trek superstore, but it sounds like you may have slightly more recent or detailed info. anything?

    i was part of a focus group discussion a couple of years ago which at the time seemed to me to be an exploratory move by trek to see if a trek-only store would fit the portland market.

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  • Mike Hand November 30, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Congratulations Jay. Perhaps stepping aside from BG, but cannot imagine you being far from bicycles. Best of luck in whatever you get involved in future.

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  • Jake VanderZanden November 30, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Congrats Jay. Well done all around.

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  • Scott Miner November 30, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Congratulations Jay, The news knocked my socks off!!! I have great memories working for you, in the Beaverton location. Enjoy the new freedom. Dream it, Plan it, DO IT!!!! Best of luck

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  • Mike Houck November 30, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Jay, fabulous! Time to spend more time on your Willamette River yacht!
    Cheers to you and Alison!
    Houck

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  • MarcInPDX November 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Knowing Jay causally and Kelly quite well this could not be a better transition for the future of Bike Gallery. Jay spirit and enthusiasm will be perpetuated for the foreseeable future. Congrats to both.

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  • Jeff Bernards November 30, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Thanks to Jay and the Bike Gallery's seed money I was able to sell low cost helmets around Portland. "Protect your World" sold hundreds thanks to Jay.
    Good Luck whatever you end up doing.

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  • Robert Pickett December 1, 2012 at 6:45 am

    Thank you very much, Jay, for your work strengthening our community.

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  • joe kurmaskie December 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    wind at your back, Jay. You embody what it means to be a positive and enduring community member!

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  • Jeffrey utterback December 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Congratulations Jay on your retirement, when I new you and your family in the early years of your business, it brings back a lot of fun and pleasant memories...your Dad with his awesome stereo system, your beautiful sisters....PIR, Rose City Wheelmen, hanging out in the shop...great memories, good luck in your future ventures....
    Jeff Utterback

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    • Ben December 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      I have video of Jeff starting the races on 102 and Fremont! Back when we were all kids.

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  • Adam Clement December 2, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I saw Jay give so much to so many over the years that I worked at the Bike Gallery. I still get teary eyed when I think about his continuing to pay an employee full wages even after they had become very ill and were only able to get into work a day or so a week. Thank you Jay from all of us for putting people before profit and showing that this really is the most profitable way to do business. You truley live by your words "Be Excellent to Each Other".

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  • Kasandra December 2, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Someone else above referred to what I can only assume is a more recent email signature line, but the one I remember from our 8+ years of emailing during my BTA tenure was -- as Adam says above me -- "Be Excellent to Each Other." Jay lives that. Thanks, Jay, for having such a big part in creating the bike renaissance in Portland and throughout America.

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  • Peter P. December 2, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    How many employees have filtered through that shop, soaked up the wisdom and then been let loose on the city of Portland? Jay exemplified how to "do right" by bikes and each other. I was just a 20 something punk figuring my sh*t out, and he showed the way. I remember being told it was no problem to cut out early so I could make it to my CCC volunteer gig across town. Thanks for everything Jay (and sorry again for that bike rodeo incident).

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  • jeff s. December 3, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    well said, Jonathan: "It's not possible to put into words what Jay Graves has meant (and will continue to mean) to bicycling in Portland, Oregon, and beyond." Happy trails, Jay, and by that I mean that I hope to be there for the ribbon-cutting on the Salmonberry some not-too-distant day!

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  • jim December 5, 2012 at 1:52 am

    That 2nd picture reminds me of just how popular those datsun pickups were in '78

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  • bryon71 December 6, 2012 at 3:37 am

    Jay, As a Cycle Oregon rider and occasional BG customer, there are only two words to pass along: Congratulations and Thanks for all you have done for the bicycling community. So many are so much better off for all your efforts. I'm sure you will remain "visible" to the bike community.

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  • Ed Dalton December 6, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Congratulations Jay and The Bike Gallery stores. Jay has been a great advocate, and leader in the local bicycle community as well as the national bicycle industry. His integrity and honesty speaks volumes. Jay, and the Bike Gallery staff, was instrumental in helping me build Showers Pass in the northwest and across the country. Thank you Jay and to all of the BG staff. "Be Excellent to Each Other" are words Jay has truly lived by. Shouldn't we all.

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  • HMJ December 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

    "Your local, family-owned bike store since 1974"
    Their website still says this even though the shops are now owned by Mike Olsen in San Diego - neither family or local. The quality of their products and service has declined since the takeover.

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