Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

The Recyclery closes Ladds Circle and Madison Ave locations

Posted by on July 19th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

The Recyclery is moving-23

Robby Fenstermaker in his SE Madison
Avenue location in August 2009.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Portland-based used bike shop The Recyclery has closed two of their four locations. The Ladds Addition and SE Madison Avenue shops are now closed, while the St. Johns and downtown Portland locations will remain open.

Owner of The Recyclery, Robby Fenstermaker, confirmed the closures via telephone today. I got in touch with Fenstermaker after several people contacted me saying he had closed all four locations and was planning to leave town with customer bikes awaiting repair. When I shared those allegations with Fenstermaker, he got upset and said that, “After being slandered and totally treated like s***, I’m doing everything I can to keep the stores open.”

Fenstermaker blamed a severe downturn in business due to coverage on BikePortland.org and in The Portland Mercury back in March about allegations that he knowingly sold stolen goods.

Fenstermaker called the coverage “a bunch of bullsh***” that was written without checking the story with him first. “It totally hurt my business.” When I tried to apologize for any negative consequences my stories might have caused, he said, “Sorry doesn’t do me s***, have a good day,” and abruptly hung up the phone.

On March 3rd, I reported on a flyer that had been hung up all over town that contained a number of accusations against Fenstermaker. The flyer urged people to boycott the shop and called it a “bicycle fencing operation.” In that initial story, I included a response to the allegations from Fenstermaker. A day later, I published a story with comments from the Portland Police Bureau’s Troy King, who leads their Special Property Investigations Unit. Officer King said they had no reported complaints from customers of The Recyclery since they started keeping track of the shop in 2006.

On March 18th, The Portland Mercury published an in-depth article on Fenstermaker and the allegations that have swirled around him and his shop for years.

The Recyclery is/was Portland’s largest used bike dealer and is also known for hosting swap meets and vintage bike shows. Read more coverage at our The Recyclery tag.

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  • Zoomzit July 19, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Hmmmm… Maybe it has something to do with bad customer service? That and it’s hard to justify paying more for a 80’s Univega than a brand new Kona. I’m all about vintage, but their pricing is sort of absurd.

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  • are July 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    brand new kona what? my 80s vintage univega still running original componentry. the only things i have ever swapped out in twenty-something years were the wheels and the drivetrain. cannot say the same for some konas i have known. those free market types will tell you that if the bike sells for $x, then there is a non-absurd market in which it is worth that much.

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  • matt picio July 19, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    I also had a very bad customer experience the first time I was in the shop, and decided not to go back. Granted, not as bad as some of my experiences at Hike -n- Bike.

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  • bikieboy July 19, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    odd, I was just in the downtown store an hour ago. They seemed very much open for business…???


    i mucked up the headline and the story… confused the closing shops. I’ve corrected the story. The downtown and St. Johns locations are open… SE Madison AVe. and Ladds have closed. regret any confusion. — Jonathan

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  • Mark July 19, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    I only went to the Recyclery once to get some basic advice on a purchasing a used bike, and ended up standing around for at least 15 minutes waiting for someone to assist me (meanwhile the staff was just standing around talking amongst themselves).

    Their prices seemed pretty high as well and I had a tough time finding a bike that fit in my price range.

    I was very disappointed with the customer service – enough to not make me want to go back there.

    Maybe I didn’t have enough tattoos to be taken seriously…

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  • Ely July 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    the downtown shop, being 2 blocks from my office, is the best place for me to go for easy fixes like a flat tire or dead brake. The guys there have always been plenty nice. I have never been to the other locations but I’m glad they’re keeping this one open.

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  • Karstan July 19, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    I didn’t see a problem with the original articles in March. I thought they were fair. In fact, I visited a Recyclery for the first time AFTER reading the articles just to get my own view of what was going on. I went to the Ladd’s store and had a horrible experience. The guy behind the counter was rude and condescending and the parts were insanely over-priced. Fortunately, Portland has a plethora of bike-shops that are much more interested in providing decent customer service.

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  • mechybear July 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve scrounged a part or two from their array of used stuff which was helpful in a pinch because CityBikes and CCC didn’t have what I needed at the time.
    I inquired about work there once and was surprised to find that they wanted to pay really poorly for an experienced mechanic AND they wanted me to use my own tools. I can understand low pay but good tools cost good money. That independent contractor model also kills the contractor on taxes. It’s not like I’m doing multiple daily $200 hair dye jobs and keeping most of that to maintain my scissors. It’s going to the house.
    My unsolicited advice is set up one shop and kick ass. 4 locations is a ton of worry and contractors probably don’t hold the pimp in very high regard unless they’re well treated. If your work can’t speak for itself, you’re done.

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  • Marcus Griffith July 19, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Business and brands live and die by their reputation.. merited or not.

    I had some pointed words to say about the anonymous flyer poster; but, Recyclery owners and management could have done a much better public relations response after the flyers hit the town.

    Yelling at people doesn’t convince them adverse rumors are false.

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  • Anonymous July 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Matt- didn’t you recently do a touring class at Bike n Hike?

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  • matthew vilhauer July 19, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    i have dealt with the recyclery for many years and consider rob to be a friend as well. don’t like the prices or attitude? shop elseware. i shop around. don’t you? yes i have been put off by both but also realize the facts of running a business. yeah i have been in and ignored as a customer and spent my money elseware. i have also spent thousands of dollars at the recyclery. send your $$ as you see fit. i still shop at rob’s and “shop around” is a concept to consider. find the best for you. parts, service, bikes or just advice…

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  • commuter July 19, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    I dunno but looking at the Recyclery tags on this site, it looks like he got a lot of free publicity for his shop.

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  • Andy July 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm


    I read your articles and the ones from the Merc. I found yours to be very fair and quite thorough. Considering that he runs four shops in an already over saturated market I think that Mr. Fenstermaker blaming you for his business failings is probably a bit out of line.

    I read your site because of articles like the ones mentioned above. As a consumer of a lot of news your level of fairness is something the rest of the media could learn from. Thanks for the good work and please don’t let this change your journalistic style significantly.

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  • RECrappery July 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    I stopped in the Downtown location to buy a tube to fix my flat, and the dude said they didn’t have any tubes!! (All I needed was a standard sized road tube.) The guy was unapologetic and when I asked him the deal he cited the poor economy. REALLY?? If you own a bike shop, one of the crucial things to have is tubes. I hope they all close–Good riddance.

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  • Carter July 19, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I went into the Recyclery once a few years ago for trouble with my derailleur. They adjusted it promptly while I waited and didn’t charge me for it.

    Your experience may vary.

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  • KWW July 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    my pov:
    Recyclery has pissed off many in the bicycle shop industry by having low paid staff unprofessional staff, which basically undercut many other shops.

    Gee, what I would pay for someone to do an article on my competitor that comes with a headline like “Does the Recyclery Deserve Their Rep as a Haven for Stolen Bikes?”, and then end the article with little or no proof of that headline – lame at best and possibly slander.

    That is more par for the course of a rag like the Oregonian.

    also my pov:
    I went in the shop on se 9th and waited in front of 3 of the hipster staff not 2 feet away from their faces and they ignored me for about 5 minutes.

    pissing off the biking community on both ends is not a recipe for success

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  • Joe July 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    “several people contacted me saying he had closed all four locations and was planning to leave town with customer bikes awaiting repair.”

    Were these anonymous email sources by chance? Seems like someone out there has been waging a war against this dude (through craigslist, the flyers, etc) Kinda sad to see this blog promote such garbage time and time again.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm

      Joe, no these were not anonymous emails. They were from people in the community I have known personally for several years. Thx for the comment.

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  • MIndful Cyclist July 19, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    I really do not see how the blog posts could be to blame for this. I think these signs went up, and an editor of a popular blog asked Robby to respond and he did. The fliers? Sure.

    Also, the shop on Madison and Ladd’s are very close to each other. Four bike shops in this town seems like overkill to me. And, two that are less than a mile apart compounds it. Especially in inner SE where there are more bike shops that Plaid Pantries.

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  • kit July 19, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    last spring, The Recyclery advertised a radio coupon “deal” for half off a Performance tune-up. I didn’t have much extra money but I really needed a good tune-up so I bought one. I took the coupon into the shop and they said the boss told them the copy hadn’t been finalized/approved and the coupon i bought wasn’t worth what was advertised on the radio. They barely gave me a spit shine when i was suppose to get a Performance Tune-up. It was total scam! This was right before all the bad press…so I wasn’t surprised to see it. Misleading and shady all on your own there buddy! You get what you put out.

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  • Marcus Griffith July 19, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    In light of all the discussion about a saturated bicycle market, maybe Robbie can put a PR spin. Instead of ‘closing stores’ which sounds defeatist and depression, he can say:

    “The recyclery is right-sizing operations to better meet customer needs of an ever changing local market.”

    As Robbies comment about Sarah Mirk having ‘thunder thighs’, he is going to have to wear his much needed man-bra to get out of that one. Spin only goes so far, just ask Micheal Jackson

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  • Red Five July 19, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Gosh, this is terrible news. I sure hope they find that missing boy.

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  • resopmok July 19, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    I stopped going there long before “news” about alleged crooked behavior broke. Their selection of used parts was terrible – usually missing components, unusable in some way, or dangerously fatigued or broken. After being a fervant customer of “Recycled Cycles” in Seattle (which has no relation to this business, and who really do the used business _right_), I had high hopes about the Recyclery being a good source for used parts when I moved here. I was sorely disappointed. Their selection of used bikes is also overpriced and narrow; even craigslist is cheaper and more reliable.

    There’s been a bike shop boom in the last couple years, for both used and new bikes, and if you can’t cut the mustard, you’re gonna go under. Given the competition, I’d say he put himself out of business by not providing a product that people wanted to buy, or services that were professional and desirable. There are, and I’ve found, much better options around town for businesses running on a similar model. Fenstermaker can blame himself for his unprofessional, demeaning and crooked attitude. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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  • Sara H. July 19, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    I think many of you just need to get a life (AKA Mercury and bikeportland.org . We need to stop judging others and start judging ourselves and our own actions. Here is a guy that built a business from a garage to 4 shops without the help of anyone and or credit. The bad customer service that has been received by customers from his employees is not a representative of his character. Good journalism is getting all the facts and all the different sides of a story before reporting it. Slander and liable is against the law. The biking community should be pissed that one of their own is being treated this way. If I was him I would sue the pants off of these people. He said it best himself this is bullshit at it’s finest.

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  • Mike July 20, 2010 at 12:04 am

    I also had a bad customer service experience there. I was back in town after being gone for 5 years and really wanted to buy a bicycle. I’m taller than average so finding a used bike my size in the middle of summer (this was 2-3 yrs ago) was tough and it was my third stop. They had two my size. One for 400 one for 500. I asked about the difference between them and the guy just looked at me like it was the stupidest question he’d ever heard and said “the more expensive one just has better parts man.” I couldn’t draw out any more than that. Anyway, I bought the bike and then a month later had to spend a 120 bucks getting new brakes since the ones it came with were dangerous. I don’t know about the other allegations but just based on my one experience I haven’t been back since and told my friends to stay away. There are plenty of great bike shops in Portland where you don’t have to put up with that sH–.

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  • Crash N. Burns July 20, 2010 at 12:33 am

    My buddy bought a nice Bianchi from them years ago. He crashed pretty hard and bent the forks. When went back to get it repaired they said to leave it and they would see what they could do. Upon returning they told him is was totaled and they had scrapped it. A week or two later he sees his bike and asks the guy where he got it. Strangely enough the guy had just recently purchased my friends bike at the Recyclery. Hmmmm. The bike may not have been stolen originally, but they stole it back and then resold it. Total shysters.

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  • matt picio July 20, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Anonymous (#10) – No, I did not do a touring class at Bike n Hike. They did invite me to participate in the class they ran a couple of months ago (unfortunately I could not attend), and I should say that there are many other people who have had wonderful experiences at that chain.

    I’m just not one of them. Though that was a couple years ago, and I should go back in and see what the downtown store is like now. Most of my bad experiences were at the store in Oak Grove on 99E, and one bad interaction at the downtown location.

    I’ve also had bad experiences at River City, and occasionally at Bike Gallery – but never consistent at either of those stores, and the employees in question no longer worked there on my next visits. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify, not trying to single out Bike n Hike in particular, just saying that the Recyclery was not the worst bike shop experience I had.

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  • Spiffy July 20, 2010 at 8:15 am

    so you give the guy an outlet to respond to the negative allegations of the fliers and he’s mad at you for it?

    sounds like he hires a lot of asses at his stores that scare his customers away… yeah, he’s to blame for that… maybe he’s a bad judge of character…

    his name is going to suffer for all the crap his employees did in the name of his business…

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  • chelsea July 20, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Wait, he called someone “thunder thighs”?

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  • Sigma July 20, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Where is the downtown location? Is it on 1st, near Pine? If so, yeah, that place sucks. Total holier-than-thou a$$es working there.

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  • Mindful Cyclist July 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Sigma: No. It is located across from the central library.

    Chelsea: Yes, he called Sara Mirk of the Portland Mercury that when the paper asked if he would like to advertise.

    Sara H: We also need to know if “one of our own” is on the up and up and honest. As Spiffy stated, BP reported on libelous fliers that were being posted and gave the guy a chance to respond to them. I saw nothing wrong with Jonathan’s reporting.

    I have zero proof this guy is a theif or anything else. But, how often do businesses expand too much? I think this is the case. There is a lot of competition with bike shops. Heck, look on craigslist and you can find several people posting ads for their repair business.

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  • Case July 20, 2010 at 9:52 am

    FYI, their downtown location is 11th and Madison, not 1st and Pine.

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  • pfft July 20, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Yo “Sara H”. I already act with integrity, so I feel comfortable calling other people out on bullshit.

    Robbie did not build his business up ethically, and he is not “one of [our] own”.

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  • wsbob July 20, 2010 at 10:18 am

    “…When went back to get it repaired they said to leave it and they would see what they could do. Upon returning they told him is was totaled and they had scrapped it. …” Crash N. Burns #26

    Crash N. Burns …if it’s true, something seems missing from this story. Is your friend saying the store went ahead and scrapped the bike (and allegedly salvaged it for profit later) after having concluded it was totaled, all without telling him before proceeding?

    Did they offer him any money at all, or did he receive any from the store for the bike they said was totaled?

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  • trail user July 20, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Mirk is really tall and needs big strong legs to support her large bone structure. Cut her some slack.

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  • joe July 20, 2010 at 11:51 am

    i recently ended my relationship with robbie after working at the st. johns location for the past 2 months after working at the 9th and madison location cleaning it up and making it more presentable. i tried my hardest to make a tough situation better and to make that store a legitimate bike shop that was clean and friendly and fun to be in. i am sorry if i offended anyone who came in but not all recyclery employees were assholes who didn’t care and i’m sorry any of you had a bad time in any of the stores. yes, the employees were asked to bring in their own tools and yes we were the only people at the store from open to close and not getting paid as much as we would have liked so some of you please take that into consideration before hating so hard. my personal experience with the recyclery was fine and robbie treated me very well. having a chance to work in st. johns and experiencing the community out there was very heartwarming and there are some people i will miss seeing daily. i tried to be fair with my prices on parts and competitive with my repairs. i hope all that came out to st. johns had a good time.

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  • Hart July 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I’ve been telling people to avoid the Recyclery for years. Worst service ever. Glad to see the economics of doing bad business take this guy out.

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  • steve July 20, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Jonathan post #18 said-

    ‘Joe, no these were not anonymous emails. They were from people in the community I have known personally for several years. Thx for the comment.’

    Well, hopefully you now know that they were completely full of crap, right?

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  • Hart July 20, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    “Well, hopefully you now know that they were completely full of crap, right?”

    Pretty insulting to tell a bunch of people you don’t even know that they are “full of crap”. Consider why no other Portland bike shop has such a terrible reputation, and why the Recyclery does before you tell people they are “full of crap”.

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  • steve July 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    No Hart, making things up, then having your friend publish them is what is insulting. I can not believe Jonathan would print this after learning it was false-

    “I got in touch with Fenstermaker after several people contacted me saying he had closed all four locations and was planning to leave town with customer bikes awaiting repair.”

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  • Dirk July 20, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    well, Sarah H, if I’m not mistaken, Mr. Fensetermaker did receive a lot of help in his business’s growth, from private investments and he bought a ton of stuff on credit, just ask the owners of Gateway Cycles.

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  • trail user July 20, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    “Officer King said they had no reported complaints from customers of The Recyclery since they started keeping track of the shop in 2006.” And the Recyclery has only been open since 2005. This guy may have had a temper, but didn’t deserve to have his business destroyed by BikePortland and The Mercury from disgruntled ex employees. So long as the majority of his customers were happy, it was a good business. If all these sources were afraid of physical retaliation from Fencemaker, why hasn’t he ever been arrested for assault in the past? I’ve worked with some pretty hot-headed higher ups who were that way because they were focussed on customer satisfaction. Let’s get some names of these “sources” so we can show them what real assault is like. The assault on their precious character! Let’s defame them too.

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  • Hart July 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Bikeportland addressed the allegations, and allowed opposing parties to make statements, including officials who said they had found nothing illegal about the business. That is what a good reporter is supposed to do, make the issue known to the public.

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  • Marcus Griffith July 20, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I would prefer those with alleged evidence for or against The Recyclery to properly present the evidence.

    I have no doubt that the rumors surrounding The Recyclery have adversely impacted Fenstermaker’s reputation, but there has been no evidence present that the rumors, the flyers or the media coverage has caused a decline in his revenue. This is failing economy after-all and lots of well regarded business are struggling.

    In the rumor mill, Fenstermaker is disadvantaged. He doesn’t know the identity of the flyer maker(s). In my layman opinion, the flyer maker(s) are vulnerable to a defamation lawsuit if the allegations are false, malicious and contributed to a monetary loss.

    As for the media coverage, Fenstermaker has yet to demonstrate any coverage has been false or malicious in nature (remember the coverage of the allegations is separate from the allegations itself). His distaste for the content is understandable, but insufficient for a defamation claim.

    Lastly, even if a media outlet was grossly in error, Oregon’s retraction law, ORS 31.215, applies. The law requires an defamed person to submit a written demand for retraction of defamatory statements within 20 days of learning of the defamatory statement.

    Again, the allegations and the media coverage of the allegations are two different concepts.

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  • hn July 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I got a Groupon tune-up from the mechanic at the Ladd’s shop and was pleased. The mechanic knew his stuff (Cannondale/Magura hydraulic brakes). The price was reasonable, the work fine, the brake pads cheap (they had bought out a C’dale dealer). He noticed that my rims were wearing out a couple of weeks before they started squeaking (due to hairline cracks in the rims). The tune-up took kind of a long time (4 days, I think) but I chalked that up to the single mechanic and good weather.

    Overall, I was pleased with the work and saddened to see the Ladd’s shop close.

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  • Marcus Griffith July 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Oh, and can we not use “BP” to refer to Bike Portland due to the other BP. You know the one responsible for the worst man-made environmental disaster in human history and supplies motor vehicles with fuel.

    Maybe “BiP” instead?

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  • trail user July 20, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Nobody likes rude people regardless if they do their jobs well. Just ask Al Margulies, the Trimet driver who has a spotless driving record but acted like an asshat — or the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. My guess is that Robbie’s poor people skills made others magnify problems, however small. These allegations should have remained on sites like yelp.com where customers routinely bash businesses they’ve felt mistreated them, not on a widely read site like Bikeportland or The Mercury — at least not without a thorough investigation into the subjects of the story that could result in a ruined business. For BP and The Merc it’s increased readership, but for business owners, it takes food and medication away from his sick and disabled daughter.

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  • trail user July 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I commend BiP and The Merc(or the Mirk) for their coverage of stolen bikes and efforts to decrease these crimes. What percentage of the thousands in stolen bikes or bike parts ended up at The Recyclery compared to other outlets for stolen goods or other bike shops? Does anyone know this? We don’t, and that’s why these stories can do such harm to singular businesses when gossip runs amok.

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  • CJ Eder July 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    This story could easily have ended “…Fenstermaker, confirmed the closures via telephone today.” What started as a news story, rapidly degraded into first-person account of an argument between the author and Fenstermaker. All to predictably the author depicted himself with the quiet repose of a journalist, and Fenstermaker as a seething and unsettled hothead.

    Even if the general thrust of this story is true, it still should not be published. The problem is that once the author reveals his interest in the situation it is impossible for the reader to tell what information is news, and what information is offered in the author’s defense.

    While I applaud Maus for his excellent work on BikePortland.org, this is an instance where he became too close to a story, and it appears to have affected his judgment, and ultimately it appears to have affected the Recyclery.

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  • Zoomzit July 20, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    @CJ Eder: I don’t think it’s right to call Maus out on this. The story would have ended “Fenstermaker confirmed the closures via telephone today” if that was his statement, but it wasn’t. He has to take some (actually, a significant amount) of personal responsibility here. Fenstermaker shouldn’t get upset when BikePortland quotes him verbatim. If he doesn’t like being quoted in that fashion, then he should just stop saying stupid stuff.

    Likewise with the customer service issue. If The Recyclery doesn’t like to be slammed for poor customer service, then perhaps they should improve the service to their clients. It’s just silly to blame the press for the shop’s issues when they obviously have some significant failings of their own creation. The Recyclery has to stop and learn something from these events or else all of their shops are going to go out of business. The bike shop business is incredibly competitive here in Portland, you either get better or you fade away.

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  • Mike July 20, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    It seems that Mr. Fenstermaker is being affected by his employees lack of respect towards the customer. Even though this is portland where it is ok to treat customers poorly as long as you are hip, most people will stay away from his shop.

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  • casey July 20, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Just wanted to point out that I’ve had very poor customer service at just about every bike shop in town (Sellwood cycles being the only exception). It’s sad that it seems to come with the territory…only went in to the recyclery a few times, and haven’t met the owner…but I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt that a lot of bike shop employees just have a sort of superiority complex in general. There’s some good ones and bad ones at most shops.
    That said, his rude reaction to Jonathan’s contact for this story and his various statements do give me the impression that he’s just not the nicest guy. Could be wrong…

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  • old&slow July 20, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    I think it is bad form Jonathan to allow negative comments about bike shops on this forum. Internet forums are the worst for made up, slanderous comments by anonymous people and you should not publish them. Who knows whether they are real or just competitors?
    You are sort of becoming a gossip shop with these kind of articles.

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  • t.a. barnhart July 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    irony: the new occupant of the Madison site? a car repair shop.

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  • ... July 20, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Jonathan, I personally know Robby and how he handles his finances. You did not contribute to the downfall of a business, it was going to happen anyway and now Robby can blame it on you instead of taking responsibility for it. Don’t feel bad, you did nothing wrong.

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  • Marcus Griffith July 20, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Trail User (#47):

    “For BP and The Merc it’s increased readership, but for business owners, it takes food and medication away from his sick and disabled daughter.”

    That gets the knee-jerk solicitation award for the night. Ad Misericordiam, an appeal to pity, is a classic logical fallacy.

    The alleged daughter and her conditions are not pertinent. If any newspaper crossed over the line by covering the rumors, they would be wrong regardless if The Recyclery’s owner was a single millionaire or a near-homeless father of five.

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  • David July 20, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Not to beat a dead horse, but I’ll chime in too. I’ve also had a pretty bad experience with Fenstermaker personally. After dropping my bike off for a tuneup on a Friday afternoon, the mechanic who was working told me that he might not be able to get to it Saturday, and was out Sunday. So my bike would be finished early the next week. I called to see if it was finished, and I talked to Robby, who didn’t sound too sure if it had been worked on.

    I told him it was no big deal and that I could wait an extra day. He kept telling me that it actually was done and to just come in and pick it up. I live close so I ended up walking over, and saw Robby wiping down my rims with a rag when I came into the store. He looked surprised to see me and said, “Oh just putting some finishing touches on.” I took the bike out for a spin around Ladd’s Circle, and about halfway through, tried to shift gears and the chain fell off. I dragged my bike back, told Robby the chain fell off, and he just looked at me and said, “Well, do you want me to show you how to fix it?”

    At this point I was too tired and pissed off to deal with it, so I let him put the bike back on the rack while he messed with my derailleurs. I took it out again, seemed to be fine and went back to the store, when robby said “Just give me $20 and we’ll call it even.” I should have told him to f-off and taken my bike home, but I was pretty much in shock about the whole situation, so I gave him the money and left. Plus at this point I still wasn’t sure if the bike had just been worked on poorly, or not at all.

    I ended up calling the mechanic that I originally talked to when I dropped my bike off a few days before this, and he felt really bad. He knew that he hadn’t gotten to my bike yet and had me bring it in for a tune up, which I didn’t pay for. At that point he told me that Robby knew the bike hadn’t been worked on but let it go anyway. It’s too bad because the mechanic was really cool and knew what he was doing, but Robby is a sleazy guy. I’m still embarrassed that I actually gave him that $20.

    Cliffs Notes: Robby is a liar and has no business running any kind of shop.

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  • trail user July 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Bashing Robbie is like picking on a retarded kid; lowbrow entertainment for cruel bullies who get their jollies from embarrassing the mentally deficient.

    I had a teacher who was the boys baseball coach in high school and would always throw a nerf ball at students in class, most of which found funny. One of these kids had Tourette’s. One day he throws it at the kid and the kid unleashes a torrent of expletives at the teacher. What the F did the teacher expect was going to happen?

    BiP and the Merc taunted Robbie and expected him to play nice nice afterwards? Are we all the bully’s friends and joining in on the “fun” at Robbie’s expense? Robbie is obviously deficient in creative vocabulary in firing back well thought out rebuttals compared to Mirk — who continues to taunt the retarded kid. It’s like drivers taunting cyclists — they know we’re less powerful but still rev their engines or pass too closely to show their misplaced sense of superiority and power. You may be intellectually superior to Robbie and have a louder voice, but why keep picking on him for everyone else’s entertainment?

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  • beth h July 21, 2010 at 8:05 am

    @ #8:

    FYI — It is the rare shop that provides a mechanic a fully-stocked work bench with all tools needed. MOST bike shops in the US ask that experienced mechanics come equipped with at least SOME of their own tools.

    This is in part because the cost of stocking and maintaining several fully-stocked benches means additional operating costs for the shop; and because most experienced mechanics have, after several years of wrenching, developed personal preferences and prefer to stick with what they see as tried-and-true.

    That said, any shop that is asking experienced mechanics to provide their own tools should offer to pay better wages for that experience. Just MHO.

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  • Vance Longwell July 21, 2010 at 10:32 am

    old&slow #53 – Really? I’m surprised to see you advocate abridging speech in lieu of simply being exasperated by public ignorance. In a perfect world, we can tell who is telling the truth, and likely who is not. On the other hand, simply limiting speech, or even shrinking the dialog, still possess the same risk, only now we aren’t getting anything close to the full story.

    I’m in agreement with … at #55. I’ve heard nothing but negative about this company, since it’s very inception. I’ve personally had two very bad customer service experiences there; and I resent the cavalier attitude about dealing in used bicycle goods. Add to this that Fenstermaker has made it virtually policy to respond to criticism in the most unprofessional ways imaginable. For Pete’s sake, Maus’ initial coverage of this was clearly an attempt to either substantiate the enormous number of negative rumors, or to debunk them altogether. Just because this action precipitated a negative outcome for Fenstermaker doesn’t mean that the endeavor was malicious. Quite the opposite actually. Given every opportunity to clear the air, Fenstermaker is still doing poorly, and thumbing his nose at legitimate opportunities to effect the record.

    Tons of people have wanted to open used bicycles, and parts, retail stores in this town over the years. The City did everything in their power, for decades, to make this endeavor cost prohibitive. They did so based upon the premise that supporting used bicycles/parts sales would lead to an increase in bike-theft. Upon lifting this effective-ban, those that were already told, “no”, should have got first crack. So, Fenstermaker’s very presence in the market is a source of friction. He got a hold of prime real-estate and has subsequently blown an opportunity that many fought for, for years. I resent that. Sour grapes, yeah, but if I have to eat that, then I’m entitled to a little righteous anger.

    Hopefully people do as many others have, and form their opinion based upon consuming the product offered by this business. Hopefully. I agree that misinformation can cause great harm, but so too an unscrupulous business owner, right?

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  • Wayne July 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I have dealt with the Bike Gallery (NE Sandy and Lake Oswego) locations since 1997, and have never had anything but exceptional, professional service. I would not consider taking my bikes anywhere else for service. I shopped at The Recyclery once for a front brake for my son’s fixie project, and decided it’s not a store I would return to.

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  • SEPORTLANDER July 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Jonathan was not “picking” on Robbie. He has always reported fairly and honestly. Robbie happens to be neither fair nor honest. And he’s not an innocent either. His lashing out and cussing was just a small peek into his real attitude.

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  • MIndful Cyclist July 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Jonathan: An honest question to sort of piggyback a bit on what Vance stated: Did Robby ever contact you personally after the story in March saying that he felt the article was unfair? Or did he ask the site to publish an open letter like he did for the Mercury? Perhaps there was and I missed it. You seem like a fair guy that would be more than accommodating if he chose to do that.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 21, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Mindful Cyclist,

    Robby never contacted me with his opinion about the story I ran back in March. From what I recall, I was surprised to see his open letter in the Mercury because he did not send it to me. I assumed he was unhappy with my story and didn’t want to give me any more information.

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  • CJ Eder July 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    At the heart of this problem is the confusion between a news source and blog.  As an individuals blog, there is little wrong with Maus relaying the details of his personal interactions with a source.  As a news outlet, however, Maus crossed the line into unprofessional conduct. Even if true, I fail to see the relevance of Maus’ attempted apology to the closure of the recyclery’s two locations. What is more, Maus failed to report any information on the effect of the closures on those clients who still have bikes awaiting repair.

    While Fenstermaker may blame his negative coverage in BP for injuring his business, and seems to have articulated his frustrations in a way which Maus took personal offense, this alone does not justify Maus’ repeated tendency to editorialize within his news articles on the topic and prematurely publish content that is either inadvertently erroneous or based on unverified or incomplete investigation.

    Poor reporting, even if true, can cause serious injury to individuals and businesses alike. The first amendment  protects the freedom of reporters from governmental interference, but it does not absolve them of their ethical duty to consider the human costs that reporting a particular story might toll.  Maus himself has noted that he feels
    Ambivalent over his reporting and the potential harm it has caused. He has also noted that he believes, at least in part, that fenstermaker’s treatment of him justified his actions. This is very problematic as reporters, and the bloggers who increasingly fill their shoes, ought to base their decision to publish potentially injurious information on the interest of the public to know, not off a sense of personal vindication.

    It is easy to say that Maus’ reporting isn’t problematic because the recyclery was doomed anyway.  This misses the point.  Fairness and accuracy in reporting benefits the reader, the subject, and the reporter alike.  As such my problem with Maus’ defense of this story is due to his reluctance to acknowledge where he has made a mistake, and recognize this as an opportunity to make himself a better reporter, and bikeportland.org a better outlet.

    Indeed. I would not be so concerned if this story were published in a different outlet.  Rather it is Maus’ excellent work on this site which I believe binds him to a higher ethical calling.   Bikeportland.org has achieved the notoriety of a news outlet. Sometimes playing with the big boys means swallowing your pride even when you are right to maintain the integrity of your outlet.  As such, Maus’ next course of action should be to publish the apology he relayed to fenstermaker and allow him an opportunity to tell his side of the story in his own words. Such a demonstration of fairness could only do BP good.

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  • peejay July 21, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Well written, CJ, but the point remains: how should Jonathan have dealt with the facts that went into the original story? I’m not talking about whether there was anything illegal going on at the Recyclery — that can’t be proven either way — but the fact of the appearance of the flyers all over town. Regular readers had questions about them, and Jonathan had to write a story about their appearance. It seems that he tried to get as many viewpoints as possible into the story, including Fenstermaker’s, so I don’t quite know what he should have done differently.

    That said, I do entirely agree that a platform such as bikeportland should never be used to settle personal beefs.

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  • MIndful Cyclist July 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    @CJ Elder: Also, “sometimes playing with the big boys means” having major corporate backing and numerous staff a reporter could hand a story off to if he was too personally involved.

    I think you make some good points, but the fact is that BiP does not have the resources of say the Tribute, the O, or even JustOut.

    Jonathan had to make a choice: Either ignore the fliers and not run a story even though plenty of readers were inquiring about it. Or, call the owner and get his take on it. He chose the latter and got some grief for it.

    We can all play armchair editor/publisher here and say “I would have done it this way.” But, we have to take an honest look at the limitations BiP faces when it comes to reporting on things bicycle related. The big boys have carbon fiber Trek Madones; not Huffy beach cruisers.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 21, 2010 at 2:39 pm


    i appreciate your thoughtful comment and I agree that what makes this site different/confusing to people is how on one hand it’s seen as a news outlet, but on the other it’s actually staffed by one newswriter (me) who is very personally tied to the people and issues that are covered.

    I think maintaining a personal tone on this site is what makes it tick in some ways and I’ll never just publish news without my personal insights and opinions weaving through the stories at times.

    I’m not sure why I included my attempted apology other than to just share with people a complete picture of what happened. I think my story does that in a very unbiased way. I just wrote what happened and didn’t include how I felt about what happened.

    I’ve given this all a lot of thought and I still don’t feel like I erred in terms of what I published and when I published it. Sure, in a perfect world I’d launch a deep investigation and get every fact out… but that’s never really how things go on any story in any outlet.

    I had the flyer, I had a response from Robby, I had repeated sources over time telling me things about The Recyclery, so I did the story.

    While I don’t feel the need to admit to a mistake at this point, I admit I have learned from this experience. It felt terrible to be yelled at and hung up on by Robby. I have covered many people and issues in the last five years and have managed to maintain good relationships w nearly everyone. I take Robby’s feelings about me very seriously and I feel bad that his business is not going well.

    If he didn’t hang up, I would have asked him for his ideas on how i might be able to follow-up on this story and try to present things in another way in hopes of making everyone happy in the end. I’ve done that many times in the past, but it seems i’ve worn out my welcome with Robby so that’s that.

    I would be more than happy to publish a statement from Robby.

    again. thanks for your comment. As I’ve said many times in the past, reader feedback is my version of journalism school and i never plan on graduating.

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  • beth h July 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    # 66 wrote: “At the heart of this problem is the confusion between a news source and blog.”

    I agree. As has been pointed out to me in an earlier post to BiP on this issue, my views on the need for separation of opinion from fact in “journalism” is apparently an outdated view.

    Friends who are especially “wired” don’t see the need for separation between facts and opinion in “reporting”. Further, they insist that such purity in journalistic reporting is no longer really possible. Friends who aren’t as dependent upon the internet for their news tend to see a need for such separation. Interestingly enough, they also worry that such objectiviy may have gone by the wayside.

    Jonathan has shared his view with me that he believes he can be both a blogger (something I would also call an “opinionist”) AND a journalist without doing either a disservice.

    I would invite readers to review the multiple stories run by BikePortland, The Mercury and other “news” sources that have covered this story and decide for themselves if the “reporters” in each case crossed a line.

    Closer reading by the “consumer” of media is really what’s required here, something our new age of Instant Information tends to discourage.

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  • Hart July 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    There’s no such thing as unbiased journalism. Keep up the good work, Jonathan.

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  • steve July 21, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Jonathan wrote-

    ‘I had the flyer, I had a response from Robby, I had repeated sources over time telling me things about The Recyclery, so I did the story.’

    It doesn’t matter to you that your ‘sources’ gave you misinformation? And that you published those falsities after determining they were untrue? Are you kidding?

    From the original post-

    ‘I got in touch with Fenstermaker after several people contacted me saying he had closed all four locations and was planning to leave town with customer bikes awaiting repair.’

    I am no fan of the Recyclery, but publishing that was pretty crummy. Calling someone up and starting an interview with that question is bound to illicit a negative reaction.

    Reminds me of this story-

    DID HE OR DIDN’T HE?….This story may or may not be true, but legend has it that during one of Lyndon Johnson’s congressional campaigns he decided to spread a rumor that his opponent was a pig-@!#$er. LBJ’s campaign manager said, “Lyndon, you know he doesn’t do that!” Johnson replied, “I know. I just want to make him deny it.”

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm


    how do you know that my sources gave me “misinformation”? you don’t. until you interview them and follow up on each one, you are unable to determine whether their allegations are true or not.

    also, you have no idea how i asked Robby about those recent allegations of him skipping town with bikes. I think I brought it up in a non-confrontational way. I said basically, “hey robby, can you confirm that you’re closing your stores… several people have told me you are closing them all and leaving town with customer bikes and i’d like to hear your response to that.”

    perhaps it was crummy to include that allegation in the story… but when I hear the exact thing from two different people, and then combine it with other stuff I have heard about the subject, i felt it was something i could publish.

    thanks for your comment.

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  • steve July 21, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I know they gave you misinformation, because you told us. Right after publishing their misinformation.

    Two of his stores are still open and he has not left town with bikes. Do you need a dictionary?

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  • Marcus Griffith July 21, 2010 at 5:01 pm


    Maus mentions the tip the shop was closing and the shop’s response. That’s not misinformation, thats fact-checking.

    Additionally, there could be more to the rumors than Robbie is letting on. City of Portland business records available online indicate The Recyclery is likely out-of-compliance with city regulations.

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  • KWW July 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Marcus, please post a link for your information. If you are looking at this link:
    you are extrapolating information.

    The site states “We are unable to confirm compliance at this time.” It doesn’t state that it is “likely out-of-compliance”

    There can be other reasons for the information not being online.

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  • KJ July 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Throwing my .o2$ in the pot.

    All the actual articles on the Recyclery issues are not what formed my opinion of Fenstermaker. The comments on them did.

    I thought for the most part they were interesting local news peices and felt the were fairly balanced, I didn’t go into them with much opinion, the ones on the flier, and I came away from the articles on BiP thinking that he had probably been defamed by the flier.

    The COMMENTERS however, here and on the Merc, give me the notion I would not be a happy customer. Those did more damage I think than the articles themselves.

    And I am not particularly impressed with the attitude conveyed by Fenstermaker’s own personal comments, there are more professional ways to express displeasure. That attitude and the personal accounts of service in the comments were enough to turn me off to his business.

    But it’s moot anyway since I already had favorite bike shops, I wouldn’t have gone to a Recyclery anyways.

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  • JJ July 23, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    ~7 months ago went into the downtown Recyclery and was treated with absolute disrespect. I’m a bigger girl (180 pounds) and I needed a new tire. When the guy asked what size I said “700x23c” and he looked at me and said goes “ARE you sure that’s a safe tire for your size?” I was so hurt and ashamed I just walked out of the store and went somewhere else :/

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  • trail user July 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    That’s kinda funny. I’m 180 lbs(male) and 23c is perfectly fine for me. In face those tires can handle 300 lbs, I’ve seen it.

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  • Justin July 28, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    The Recyclery deserves to go out of business. Worst customer service…EVER. My wife and I used our Recyclery Groupon coupon to get her used 1964 Schwinn Varsity tuned up at the Ladd’s Store. Not only did they not do a good job tuning up the bike, they charged us for parts they never replaced.

    For example, their work slip said they replaced the brake and shifting cables, as well as the brake pads. After my wife rode the bike for a bit and it wasn’t feeling right, we took it to one of the few shops here in P’Town I’d trust my road bike with (I’ll leave them anonymous). Come to find out, they never replaced the cables, just put new sheathings on them. Looking at the back derailuer, it looked as though it hadn’t been adjusted in some time (though the Recyclery claimed adjustments were part of the tune-up). They installed older, discontinued brake pads (I was informed by my bike mechanic), but charged us for parts and installation of newer ones.

    We ended up paying for another tune up (at my shop) and now the bike runs as well as a 1964 Schwinn Varsity can.

    Pardon my language, but “F&%$ the Recyclery and it’s taking of customers.” I hope Fenstermaker’s other two stores also go by the wayside, too, as there are other more caring, and reputable, bike shops in this city that would love to have our service.

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