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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.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Zoomzit
Guest
Zoomzit

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.

are
Guest

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.

matt picio
Guest

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.

bikieboy
Guest
bikieboy

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

bikieboy,

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

Mark
Guest
Mark

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…

Ely
Guest
Ely

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.

Karstan
Guest
Karstan

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.

mechybear
Guest
mechybear

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.

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

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.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

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

matthew vilhauer
Guest
matthew vilhauer

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…

commuter
Guest
commuter

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

Andy
Guest
Andy

Jonathan,

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.

RECrappery
Guest
RECrappery

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.

Carter
Guest
Carter

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.

KWW
Guest
KWW

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

Joe
Guest
Joe

“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.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

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.

MIndful Cyclist
Guest
MIndful Cyclist

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.

kit
Guest
kit

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.

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

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

Red Five
Guest

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

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

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.

Sara H.
Guest
Sara H.

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.

Mike
Guest
Mike

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–.

Crash N. Burns
Guest
Crash N. Burns

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.

matt picio
Guest

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.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

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…

chelsea
Guest
chelsea

Wait, he called someone “thunder thighs”?

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

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.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

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.

Case
Guest
Case

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

pfft
Guest
pfft

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”.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…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?

trail user
Guest
trail user

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

joe
Guest
joe

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.
-joe

Hart
Guest

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.

steve
Guest
steve

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?

Hart
Guest

“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”.

steve
Guest
steve

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.”

Dirk
Guest
Dirk

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.

trail user
Guest
trail user

“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.

Hart
Guest

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.

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

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.

hn
Guest
hn

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.

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

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?

trail user
Guest
trail user

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.

trail user
Guest
trail user

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.

CJ Eder
Guest
CJ Eder

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.

Zoomzit
Guest
Zoomzit

@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.

Mike
Guest
Mike

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.