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Two Portland bike shops close their doors for good

Posted by on October 18th, 2013 at 11:34 am

Sign on an empty Cascade Cycling.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

By the end of this month, Portland’s long list of bike shops will be a little shorter. Cascade Cycling in north Portland has already closed its doors and the Bicycle Repair Collective in southeast plans to be closed by the end of this month. Both of these were relatively small, neighborhood shops that focused on commuter and utility bikes.

Cascade Cycling (122 N Killingsworth) was opened by Ben Bartlett in the summer of 2006. Ben, aged 57, lives in the neighborhood and wanted to sell bikes that he (and other folks in the over-50 set) would feel comfortable riding. The shop specialized in custom builds of sturdy commuter bikes from Norco, Pake, Soma, and other brands.

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

We first heard Ben was calling it quits a few weeks ago and by the time I went over to check things out, the shop was completely empty. All that remains is a sign that says: “Thanks to our loyal customers for your patronage these last seven years.

Unfortunately, we cannot continue to serve you.” We haven’t learned why the shop closed, but sources say they’ve been told it was due to Ben’s health issues. We’ll update this story if/when we heard more.

The other shop we’re sad to see go is the Bicycle Repair Collective (4438 SE Belmont). This shop opened in 1976 and has been a neighborhood mainstay for nearly 40 years. Because it’s a collective, the shop doesn’t technically have owners, but it’s been run by Gary Church and his sister Virginia Church for as long as anyone can remember (25 years for Gary, 35 years for Virginia).

I caught up with Gary on the phone yesterday.

He said at 66 and 70 years-old respectively, he and Virginia are simply ready to move on and enjoy their retirement. “We’ve spent enough time here. We tried to recruit someone to take over,” Gary said, “But there wasn’t anyone we felt was qualified.” “This place has been here for so long it was just time to take a slice out of the pie that’s getting awfully thin for bike shops in Portland,” he continued.

Reader Garlynn Woodsong wishes the Bicycle Repair Collective had stayed open. “When they’re gone, I don’t know that Portland will have another collective space dedicated to providing low-cost facilities for people to learn to repair, and work on, their own bicycles… It will be a sad thing to lose this historic niche in our bicycle community.”

On a happier note, because the Collective is technically a not-for-profit corporation, Gary explained to us that according to the bylaws, the assets of the company are held in trust for the community at large. After a sale which will be open to the public starting tomorrow, whatever doesn’t get sold will be donated to the Community Cycling Center.

The sale starts this Saturday. Everything will be half off. Head over to bid this shop a final farewell and thank the Church’s for their service over the years.

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  • E October 18, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Sad to see the Bike Repair Collective go, those folks sold me all my first sets of tools, pumps, etc when I was a kid.

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  • Erinne October 18, 2013 at 11:40 am

    It’s sad that SE will now be missing this, but Bike Farm in the close-in NE might be what Garlynn is looking for. They are all volunteer-run, and maybe a collective, too. They offer a very low cost space and volunteers that are well-trained to help people learn how to fix their bikes. They’re still working out of CCC’s warehouse space, but should be open again in their own space soon. bikefarm.org

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  • Tony October 18, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Man, I am sad to see the collective go. Aside from being the closest shop to my house, I felt they were among the most honest bike mechanics around. I never felt like I was being upsold in that place.

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  • Kevin October 18, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Super bummed to hear about Cascade closing. I used to teach at PCC, so I stopped in a bunch. Of all the numerous shops in Portland and across the country that I’ve shopped at and worked at, Cascade really stood out as one of the friendliest shops around, and I always tried to support them, even after I moved on from PCC and they were no longer conveniet to me. I hope Ben is okay!

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    • nicholas October 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      I’m glad you had good experiences there, but man oh man, I thought it was one of the worst bike shops I’ve ever visited. Never have I felt so unwelcome or my patronage so unappreciated. I gave it 4 tries, and they failed every time.

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      • noah October 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm

        Ditto, bro.

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  • Mindful Cyclist October 18, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Really kind of a bummer to hear about BRC closing its doors. Cyclopedia also abruptly closed its doors the end of August and it was a shop I could walk to in less than 5 minutes. The next closest one would be the BRC.

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  • SilkySlim October 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    My best Bike Repair Collective story: I went in there, maybe four or five years, to pick up a new tubes While considering what other bike parts might warrant a refresh, I asked “How frequently should I replace my brake pads?”

    A sly smile came over Gary’s (I think it was Gary!) lips, and he asked in a perfect deadpan, “Well, how often do you stop?”

    Point taken.

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  • Justin October 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    The Hillsboro Bike Co., located downtown, also recently closed its doors. The only shop in all of downtown Hillsboro is the Bike ‘n’ Hike off 4th.

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  • Ray Thomas
    Ray Thomas October 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Sorry to hear our friends are closing these great Portland shops. I co-wrote my first Oregon Cycling column with Anndy Wiselogle when she was part of the BRC back when it was located on SE Ankeny where the east Citybikes is now located. I remember when I took my lawyer card and wrote “bikelawyer” on it with a ballpoint pen and put it on the wall in the mid ’80’s. That was back when there was no such thing as a bike lawyer in our town and I quickly learned that once I declared myself one I got lots of questions and opportunities to work at preserving access and developing the law with the developing bicycle movement.

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  • Foz-man October 18, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    That’s to bad. The BRC was where I learned to take care of my own bikes! However, they may have done to good a job, as I eventually bought a stand and my own tools because I had trouble making it over there before they closed.

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  • Emily G October 18, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Looks like the Recyclery is closing too, there’s an announcement on their site and they’re selling everything: http://www.therecyclery.com/

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  • Jeff Smith October 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    End of an era, or possibly several eras – Many thanks, Gary, Mark, Virginia, Anndy, Fred, Roger, and other BRC alumni I may have forgotten. Most of what I know about bike repair, I learned from one of you. There’s just no substitute for that 35 years of tasty BRC goodness.

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    • jimbobpdx October 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      I second Jeff’s emotion! What a great crew, all of them. For a long time BRC was kind of like the barbershop for me – wander over, maybe do a little work on the bike, talk to folks, and leave happier than when I came.

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  • Fred V October 18, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Bicycle Repair Collective, best neighborhood bike shop around. These guys had a wealth of knowledge and experience. Did a great job piecing together my eBay bought Moots titanium. Happy Retirement, time to pedal more and fix less.

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  • Duncan October 18, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Happy trails to the BRC folks!

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  • Dave October 19, 2013 at 8:46 am

    With the retirements of Gary and Virginia there are now two fewer genuine professional mechanics in town–there are a whole lot of amateurs and beginners in bike stores but very few folks on the level of the Churches!

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  • shtay October 21, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I remember when Cascade Cycling moved into the neighborhood – I was excited to see a bike shop come in. But I have not been in there for years due to the fact that every time I went in there they were rude and seemed like they were bothered by the fact that I was in the store. It was a shame too because it was then and still is the closest bike shop to my house. It wasn’t an elitist “i’m more bikey than you” attitude either, it was just one of grumpy annoyance.

    Seems like a bad business model to treat customers that way. Frankly, when I saw the shop was closed, I smiled a little bit. There is too many great bike shops around these days to treat customers with indifference or disrespect. I particularly like the one down on N Page/N Williams.

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  • nikorasu October 21, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    This is very sad to hear. The bike economy should be booming…

    And co-ops are wonderful to have around…
    I had great experiences finding parts at the BRC….

    I sincerely hope that it is revived or something fills the void soon.

    Ive just discovered a bike shop near DC that has youth programs for kids and runs a shop to refurbish and sell donated bikes. It runs much like a co-op and is a great model to follow if anyone is interested in doing something to fill the void:


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  • CaptainKarma October 21, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Co-ops run differently, they are not a chain store. Your mileage may vary. I highly recommend A Better Cycle, 23rd and SE Division area. They will not steer you wrong.

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  • Ted Buehler October 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    I see on Craigslist that The Recyclery is closing. SW 11th.

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  • Barbara Kilts October 22, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I, too, am sad to see BRC close, closest and most down-to-earth shop in my ‘hood. Also made use of their work space getting my old touring bike back up to speed, and for a recumbent bike project. Nice to get dirty and have the right tools to do so!

    Gary and Virginia were always so helpful, hope they enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

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  • Matt Arnold October 22, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    When I first moved to town twenty years ago and didn’t know anybody, I’d spend hours working on bikes and learning all I could (about repair, routes, crosswords, frugality, and sly humor) from Gary and Virginia and Fred and the regulars. Best to you all, and thanks.

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  • Ben October 23, 2013 at 9:37 am

    It seems odd that you didn’t include the recyclery in this original article.

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  • roger noehren November 3, 2013 at 3:46 am

    The five years that I spent on the staff of the BRC (1981 -1986) literally changed my life and enabled the conception of Citybikes (which in turn spawned the CCC and Bike Central).
    I stopped by Cascade Cycles on a cold wet December night a few years ago, took a fancy to the Strida hanging from the ceiling. After I’d taken it for a test ride, the manager offered it to me for half price…I returned the next day with my cheque book and rode it home…not a very practical bike, but I enjoyed riding it to the art museum when volunteering at the Cyclepedia exhibit (where one was on display)…otherwise I pretty much only ride it to People’s for coffee etc…

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