Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 14th, 2007 at 8:42 am
Last week, after I posted about how the Bike Gallery — which has six stores in the area and is one of the top Trek dealers in the world — was named one of the “Top 100” bikes shops nationwide, I received a negative comment from someone who challenged the store’s environmental practices and claimed the employees were “souless” (among other things).
The comment was responded to at length and it even elicited an email to me from Bike Gallery owner Jay Graves. Being the stand-up guy he is, he took the comment seriously and felt compelled to share the story of his shop in response.
I thought the story warranted its own post, not just because it was interesting, but because I think it challenges a common perception that if a bike shop (or any endeavor) reaches a certain level of size and/or success it must have somehow “sold out” or be otherwise lacking in heart.
Here’s the story of Bike Gallery, as told by Jay Graves: [Disclaimer: Bike Gallery is a major supporter of this site.]
- My father started this business in 1974 with me and two of my sisters on a foundation of customer service. We really were a family back then and I feel like I still work with family.
My father taught me when I was very young, “you give back to the community you live in” and I (and the company I have been entrusted with) have lived by those words since. Giving back takes many forms. We donate lots of time, energy and money to different community organizations. I personally have served on the board of directors for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Community Cycling Center and Cycle Oregon which are all local and promote cycling. I also serve on the National Bicycle Dealers Association board. We have also given significant financial support to the BTA and CCC over the many years they’ve been around.
“All of our expansion has come from the owners of other bike shops asking me to buy their businesses…all but one of those shop owners was going to close their doors because they couldn’t make ends meet. They respected my business practices and wanted their business to live on.”
As for “green” I suppose it’s a relative term. We recently hosted some of the countries top bicycle retailers here in Portland for a regional conference and when I showed them our recycling area in the back of the shop they started taking pictures because they had never seen such a great system. One dealer took his pictures home and has already instituted some changes in his bike shops in Atlanta.
We have used “green power” in our stores for years and we have recently purchased two diesel powered vehicles so we can eventually run them on bio-diesel. We have cardboard, paper, metal, battery and fluorescent light bulb recycling and have done so for years. We even paid to recycle all our (and our customers) tires and tubes until we found out the company we were using just burned them. Many of us use our bikes for transportation have won the Bike Commute Challenge numerous times.
When we recently refurbished a nearly 90 year old building for our Beaverton store to move into we used many “green” building practices. First on the list was using the Rebuilding Center to “deconstruct” the old walls and ceilings and then we reused and recycled a lot of what was taken out. We used low VOC paints, environmentally friendly flooring, added insulation to the ceilings, used recycled building materials. The list is quite extensive and I would be happy to share it with anyone interested.
Our small family bike shop has expanded into a company of 6 neighborhood bike shops. All of our expansion has come from the owners of other bike shops asking me to buy their businesses. It’s hard to make money in this weather dependent seasonal business and all but one of those shop owners was going to close their doors because they couldn’t make ends meet. They respected my business practices and wanted their business to live on. You have to make a profit in order to have longevity, reinvest in your business, keep good people around and give back to your community.
I get to work with some really great people here at The Bike Gallery. I am very lucky to have the quality of staff that consistently ranks us as one of the best bike shops in the country. We work very hard to be customer friendly and welcoming to all types of customers. We just received an award from the League of American Bicyclist for being one of the top 20 bike shops in the country. Ranked by their members… our customers!
I love this community we live in and I am very proud of the work The Bike Gallery has done to make it a little nicer place to live.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has done more for the Portland bike community than Jay Graves…and I’d say that with or without his support of this site.
Thanks for sharing your story Jay.