In another sign of a changing Portland, Citybikes is closing the doors of its flagship sales location and consolidating its business.
The shop has been run as a worker-owned cooperative since 1990. It expanded from its original repair shop location on Southeast Ankeny near 20th to a second location, the 5,000 square-foot “Annex”, on the corner of SE Ankeny and 7th in 1995. Because of dwindling sales, the Annex will close for good by the end of this year.
“The main factor,” said Citybikes owner Ryan Smith in a phone interview last week, “Is that people who used to come here, don’t live in Portland anymore.” Smith is one of nine current owners of the shop and he expects that the total number of worker-owners will be reduced to just five once the transition is complete. Citybikes used to have as many as 25 owners in peak season.
“It’s not the same old weird portland it used to be, and being the same old weird bike shop we’ve always been isn’t working anymore.”
— Ryan Smith, Citybikes
Smith, 37, says times have changed in the Portland bike market and his shop hasn’t seen positive sales numbers for nearly a decade. Smith started at Citybikes in 2006 and was inspired by the energy and enthusiasm for bikes in Portland — and Citybikes’ role in stoking it. But after experiencing 22 years of consistent sales growth, Citybikes reached a peak in 2008 and has experienced a decline ever since.
2008 was a great year for everyone in the bike world in large part because gas prices reached an all-time high and droves of people were looking for an alternative to driving. The amount of bike shops boomed along with the amount of bike riders, and there’s been a gradual shake-out ever since. In recent years, with the massive influx of new people moving to Portland, places like Citybikes that didn’t do any traditional marketing and relied solely on word-of-mouth, have had trouble competing.
“Portland is a different city than what it used to be. We need to educate ourselves on how to appeal to Portland now. It’s not the same old weird portland it used to be, and being the same old weird bike shop we’ve always been isn’t working anymore.”
Citybikes has always catered to the price-sensitive, utilitarian/DIY bike rider — the type of demographic that defined inner southeast of “old Portland.” Now, with thousands of people moving to Portland every month — people with more money and often less bicycling in their lives — Citybikes is a shop without a constituency.
“The people who used to come in here don’t live in Portland anymore,” Smith said, “There’s no affordable housing… The people who live in the five square miles around the shop have a different idea of bicycling. They either want high-end stuff or are not familiar with who we are. We have people who come in and say, ‘Wow I didn’t even know about you guys,’ and they’re our neighbors.”
Smith added that these new customers expect freshly remodeled stores and he acknowledges that Citybikes hasn’t kept up appearances as much as he’d like.
The good news for Citybikes is that they own both of their buildings. The repair shop location is much smaller than the Annex, but since they own the large, three-story house it’s attached to they’ll have room for storage and employee offices. And once the Annex space is rented out that will provide some stable income as well.
No matter how you look at it, it’s another sign of an end to an era.
You still have a few months to shop at the Citybikes Annex. All their new bikes in stock are 20 percent off and prices will drop until everything is sold. Stay tuned for a big sale of used parts later in fall.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org