Velo Cult — a bike shop, bar and community gathering and event space in the Hollywood Neighborhood — will throw one final party this Saturday. Owner Sky Boyer has decided to close the brick-and-mortar space to focus his efforts online.
Boyer moved his business from San Diego to Portland in 2012 and quickly became a major cog in the local bike scene. Velo Cult has hosted all types of events and meetings and the shop changed the bike retail landscape locally and nationally. In 2013, Outside Magazine named Velo Cult one of the top 10 bike shops in America.
In the end, it appears the complexities of running a brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce business, mixed with requirements for running a bar in a 10,000 square-foot space, proved too big of a challenge.
“We’ve hosted weddings, funerals, concerts, poetry slams, musical jam sessions, parties to celebrate all occasions, and even got recognition on CNN, Travel Channel, and in numerous magazines,” said owner Sky Boyer in a statement. “With this big space we ran into problems with the bar in regards to the city, in the end the requirements from the city to keep the bar going are too great for a business like ours to take on. We don’t own the building so the expense for upgrades and the change to the layout does not make sense.”
In the past several years Velo Cult has found a robust niche for its line of branded apparel, frames, and other products.
As you might expect, Boyer plans to go out with a bang. There’s a big party planned at the shop for July 28th. Then on August 1st a liquidation sale will begin where everything — cool display items and merchandise included — must go.
Portland will sorely miss Velo Cult. Thank you Boyer Family for sharing this gift with us, and best of luck in the future!
For more information on the upcoming sale, follow Velo Cult on Instagram or visit them at VeloCult.com.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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BikePortland needs your support.
Huge understatement , really going to miss Velocirque.
Remember, folks, support your local bike shop!
Ugh. What a bummer.
Are all those vintage-y MTBs for sale too?
I was wondering the same thing – There is a Merlin Newsboy there I would love to have (but can’t afford).
I always wanted to support them but whenever I stopped in, left disappointed in the selection of goods.
That’s true of pretty much every bike shop. The ones who are more online-focused generally have a wider selection.
I get that no one can beat e-commerce for price or selection, but what they don’t have are instantly available must-have items like tubes, tires, bar tape, brakes, locks. These are consumables and when I need them, I need them now, not in five days or from some sktechy supplier I have never heard of to save $5. All these things are also quite small in footprint so it is easy to stock.
Wait. They didn’t have tubes? Really?
Maybe I’m just a grump, but I never got the point of the place. As you say, they never had enough stuff or were organised well enough to be useful as a bike shop. But it never felt particularly welcoming or enough like a bar/cafe that I’d want to just hang out there and drink a beer. The handful of times I tried to give it a shot I just left confused and wishing I’d gone to Universal or River City instead. It seems like it’s highest purpose was as an event/meeting space with a loose bicycle theme, but that’s a hard sell as a profitable business.
This week I went into all the ‘pro’ shops in Bend looking for two things: a road bike chainstay protector and an expander plug for a carbon steerer. Pretty mundane items, dontcha thing? I struck out on both. I am almost to the point that I immediately go to the Internet for bike parts, rather than phone around town or travel around town to be disappointed.
I was just there yesterday and walked in on a folk band holding their practice. I ordered a sandwich and soda and had lunch before getting the parts I needed.
Very disappointed to hear this.
That really sucks. Nice to see the city keeping on top of ruining nice things for its citizens.
“…in the end the requirements from the city to keep the bar going are too great for a business like ours to take on… the expense for upgrades and the change to the layout does not make sense.”
I have no reason to second guess their characterization—that they view things this way—but I’m also not going to jump on the the city is ruining it for all the good guys bandwagon.
Do you think the city shouldn’t regulate businesses that serve alcohol? Maybe Target can just throw a bar in the back of their grocery section and call it good?
Target could very easily throw a bar into the back of their stores if they wanted to. They have the money and the pull to make it happen. A much smaller business doesn’t. Portland is fairly well known in the region for having a byzantine and inefficient permitting process that causes a lot of trouble for small business owners. It’s particularly onerous when dealing with alcohol and cannabis, which means dealing with ONI/C&CL and Fire & Rescue, both of which are headaches even on a good day with a good legal team. I know that sounds strange, given the number of bars and dispensaries that we have in town, but it makes it extremely tough for a small business whose (usually leased) space is not specifically designed to be a bar to serve alcohol. It’s one reason why we likely won’t have any sort of cycling cafe scene here, which is a shame. Having them around makes cycling more pleasant, which is an important building block for a healthy cycling culture.
There are Targets with bars.
I’ve always thought women’s clothing stores should have little sports bars back by the dressing room so I’d have something to do while my wife tries things on.
Perfect venue for NWTA meetings, Gold sprints, live music, TdF viewing, beers and BS’ing with friends new and old on any given day, and most importantly- a great place to hang with my son and play Battleship around a bunch of super positive people. RIP.
Oh damnit to hell. I should have had more beers.
“…in the end the requirements from the city to keep the bar going are too great for a business like ours to take on. We don’t own the building so the expense for upgrades and the change to the layout does not make sense.”
Would be great to know the specifics about this issue. This isn’t the first business to cite this as a reason. Portland needs to be friendly to small business. I have seen first hand ridiculous amounts of over regulation drive out small business. Portland can do better.
Perhaps, but I’ll say that this town has rather more than enough businesses that serve alcohol. Making (that aspect) easier doesn’t strike me as a useful priority.
I dunno, if it is shutting down multiple businesses and having a negative impact needlessly, I don’t think it should be de-prioritized. We can work on more than 1 thing at a time and who cares how many businesses serve alcohol. Let’s spend less time regulating things like that and more time working on the other larger problems.
I didn’t say Velocult’s troubles should be deprioritized, though that train seems to have left the station. What I was saying was that the alcohol serving dimension should not be tampered with, for reasons already mentioned.
I didn’t mention Velocult specifically (actually said several businesses) and only talked about alcohol. Your comment makes no sense. I was specifically talking about serving alcohol and how those laws seems to be over-regulation. Somehow you completely missed that.
I think we were both talking about alcohol serving establishments and regulation. We appear to disagree, which is fine. I don’t think I missed anything,
Why do think booze is over-regulated in PDX? It might be, but I have never heard of anyone having a problem getting a drink here.
Because it is forcing Velo Cult to close — that’s why.
Sometimes it is more fun/convenient/lazy to blame the OLCC or the city for the situation.
Do you know anyone that owns a small business that has tried to get a liquor license? Have you been a server here in Oregon?
Not sure who you are asking. All the indentations got used up.
If it was me, no, and no.
But given the level of saturation of alcohol serving establishments in this town, I’m not sure I follow where you hope to take this? It’s not like we’re in Utah.
9 Watts, was def not talking to you.
Okeedokee. Sorry to have intruded.
Surely, market forces will decide when the city has more than enough businesses that serve alcohol, without any unnecessary interference from the city.
Sounds more to me like the city does alcohol regulation sort of like it does greenways – over-designed all the way.
“Surely, market forces will decide when the city has more than enough businesses that serve alcohol, without any unnecessary interference….”
Hahahaha that’s is funny. The market.
I suppose you feel the same way about cigarettes, gambling, strip clubs, shooting ranges, glass manufacturing? No regulation?
Would you want any/all of these abutting your back yard?
Wow, whataboutism and nimbyism all in one post, good one!
A cycling cafe like VC isn’t just about serving booze or about selling parts and service, it’s about being a gathering place for cyclists, a place where you can build and sustain the community. Being able to roll your bike into the business is a big deal, as is having mechanics on site. That’s what differentiates a cycling cafe from a typical coffee shop or bar. And, given our culture of enjoying libations, having beer and wine at these places is necessary for the business to be viable.
On a national level, the number of places you can get booze has ballooned in the past decade due to deregulation. Of course so have deaths from deaths from cirrhosis of the liver..
From looking online at the permit it history it appears to me that the City of Portland considered the move from antique mall to bike shop as being the same use, but adding the bar caused the city to declare it a change of use. That means that instead of code violations being grandfathered in the city expects code compliance. This is basically the same thing that killed the P Palace thing that the guy from Voodoo doughnuts had planned because if the use hasn’t changed in awhile it can mean that a lot of money would be required to complete the needed upgrades. Having more buildings come into compliance is obviously a good thing but I wish there was a way to do it without killing great businesses like this one. My guess is that something retail like a furniture store will replace it meaning that the upgrades still won’t occur.
yes I think this exact pattern ends up punishing small businesses or building owners who should be incentivized to create safety upgrades in light of increased responsibilities of serving alcohol in a space. It unfairly rewards chains and franchises who want to get into neighborhoods exactly like this and does create jobs but profit goes outside the community. It is a decent way for governments to make corporations bear more burdens for public safety but then they become reliant on that money too…
They could, maybe, not serve beer at a bike shop?
Bike shops are all but dead if they can’t evolve. Even if they do, they might be wiped out. The big ones backed by online presences are marginal at best, even if they’ve turned into de facto single-brand dealerships for Trek, Spesh, Giant, or C’dale so that they can get better wholesale discounts. The repair business will be threatened by mobile services like Beeline Bikes. The cycling cafe (or cycling pub, if you like) is one such evolution. VC was a large play at that, and Golden Pliers is a much smaller one, though I think they’ve run into trouble with the law with respect to being able to serve beer. In Portland, I think that’s a dealbreaker. I dunno. I never saw much traffic in Western Bike Works’ cafe. I wonder how Breadwinner’s cafe is doing?
Fire Marshall, I believe, made them close the downstairs meeting space quite some time ago. Not much drawing me to Hollywood now.
Oddly enough, it’s now an escape room.
Probably fire code and needing to install sprinklers. Its super expensive to put those in.
I’d like to not die in a fire, though. How do we find the right balance?
It is odd that almost nobody mentioned buying any bicycle related items in their “sorry to see you go” messages above. Retail bicycle shops are in a tough spot these days.
I was there for parts but ended up having lunch as well. I’ve done that in the past. In for something specific, grabbed a beer to ogle my era of MTB’s hanging up around the place for a few minutes.
It’s one of the more accessible bike shops for me from where I work and if I can combine a trip for something with a lunch then it makes it that much more appealing.
I just bought a Portland Design Works light from them last month and had them build me some wheels and tune up my bike last August. Guess I’ll have to find another good mechanic. Anyone got any suggestions?
Golden Pliers on Skidmore at Interstate.
Cat Six, up 42nd a fair bit, but it is the best damn shop around.
My favorite times at Velo Cult were the Cranksgiving events there. It really felt like a vibrant oasis of goodwill and happiness while there. Sad that the forces of drab win another battle.
Which is why I was asking for specifics. Would be good to know.
Anyone know if the business is for sale? Can we crowdrise to take it over? Who’s itching for a bar investment?! Would hate to lose this sweet space to another boring shop in Hollywood that I’ll never visit…
that’s what happens when governments are forced to rely more on corporate money to compel safety standards maintenance or upgrades. These expectations hit small-and-local businesses more unfairly and then keep their voices out of the industry.
After reading their statement again, it seems as if they probably could afford to make whatever changes are needed — but that since they don’t own the space, it would be too much of a risk. Why would you invest a bunch into a space where the landlord can kick you out at the drop of a hat when more lucrative condos come a-knockin’?
I think the old saying is: “if you want to make a small fortune in the bike industry, start out with a large fortune”
It makes me sad that some BP commenters would take this as an opportunity to kick VeloCult when they’re down.
If you didn’t like (or understand) VeloCult, or were bitter that they didn’t have as much inventory as a big box bike shop, now’s a great time to keep quiet. Your negative comments are producing only negativity.
I say this because this place was so very special to the (most of the) bike community, and it’s the end of an era for many of us. Let’s take a moment to be uplifting for a change.
I only found two out of forty-four. What am I missing?
If it was special to “most of” the bike community, it wouldn’t have gone out of business. It may be, anecdotally, your community, and the local bike shop as a whole is not having an easy go of it, but if the focus moves from the acquisition of bike parts and service to community hangout, so does the business model, unfortunately the ramifications of that took velo cult down. Chiding those that didn’t get it though does nothing.
Velocult has always been my second home… 🙁 thanks for setting up such a RAD place.
Kittens: I always wanted to support them but whenever I stopped in, left disappointed in the selection of goods.
Dan A: That’s true of pretty much every bike shop. The ones who are more online-focused generally have a wider selection.
Selection = Sales. Sales = Money to buy more stuff to sell (AKA “wider selection”).
It’s a constant balancing act in the quickly dwindling world of “brick & mortar.”
Online-focused shops have lower overhead, and may not even need to physically stock the stuff you buy from them, getting it drop-shipped from a wholesaler or the manufacturer. Retail shops don’t have that luxury.
Online-focused shops can operate on razor-thin margins, while brick & mortar shops need a fair return on their buying dollar to keep their basic bills paid.
Recently, I watched a customer pick up a tail light in our shop, look it over with interest, search it on his phone, and put it back without buying. Presumably, he found it for less online. A freakin’ $27 light.
Repeat that scenario a million times a day, and it’s no wonder that bike shops are closing down faster than Blockbuster stores. Oh, wait. There’s only ONE of those left. And it’s over in Bend.
John at Rivelo (May 24, 2015 – Present)
I don’t mean online-only shops, though of course that’s true too. I mean shops like Western Bike Works and Universal Cycles, who have space enough to keep a large stock on-hand, have greater choice for the things I want (I’m very particular) and can order most of what they don’t have.
I went to a number of different bike shops recently looking for the right trunk bag for my rack. None of them had more than a couple of bags, and there weren’t any in the size I was looking for. I found the right bag online, and then again I tried to see if I could find that bag locally, but I could not and eventually had to order it.
That said, there are a number of shops in Portland who have really neat selections of certain things, and are worth seeking out to find the things you are looking for. When I go to a new shop, I always spend a while wandering around making a mental list of what’s in stock so that I’ll know where to go next time I’m looking for that thing.
Sky – thanks for activating Hollywood and creating a “Third Place” for the cycling community.
I just assumed the building had been purchased…rent + triple net makes it tough. T
I consider the time when Velo Cult moved in to be the high point of New Portland. A synthesis of do-it-yourself bike culture, beer culture and camaraderie in a one-of-a-kind space. When Velo Cult arrived here in town in seemed as if cool , creative things were happening here every day. The sad day when this shop closes down will bookend this era and replace it with one marked with more cracker-box condos, corporate retail culture and people circling the block looking for parking spaces. Hopefully we can get our mojo back, and turn the tide against the onslaught of fakery and plastic but until then lets raise our glasses to the last days of Velo Cult.
Very waxy and poetic take, but DIY bike culture may not be good for business if you’re ya know, a bike shop, and people circling the block in cars looking for parking is the idea.
I’ve heard from a first-hand source:
* problem = OLCC regulations
* modification cost = $200,000
* decision = closure.
I’m not saying it’s necessarily 100% true, but I bet it’s pretty close.
Very sad to see it go. They hosted me for a bike touring slide show last winter, I had 50 people in attendance, the venue was perfect, and the attendees bought a lot of beer. But $200,000 is a pretty high number to get with beer sales.
Support your local bike shop. And your local community venue/bar.
Thanks for the memories,
I expect in a few years there will be ample commercial space with up-to-date life safety systems in place for the kind of rates a place like Velo Cult can afford. By code ,most of the new apartments constructed in the last few years and under construction right now have large quantities of commercial space on the first floors. Once the upcoming apartment bust plays out, and the banks take over many of these places they can be resold or leased at the kind of rates that our future cycling gathering spots can afford, and expensive updates won’t be needed. We just need to hang in there till then.
Why, because there will have been an earthquake, all the folks of means will have left Portland and everyone else will be dying to lease affordable space so they can repair 25 year old mtn bikes?
more like the real estate market will take an inevitable downturn, combined with an oversupply of over-expensive apartments (compared to wages) which will cause the market for RBS (rent backed securities) to crash and cause much of the rickety financial structure that supports the modern large scale multi-family to become insolvent. Many of these developments will be auctioned off on the cheap reducing the cost basis of the new owners drastically. The large volumes of empty ground floor commercial space will meet the brick and mortar retail collapse to crush the value of commercial space. Then 2020 or so oil supply problems will crush happy motoring at the same time the tariff wars have cut us off from the mass supplies of cheap imported bikes. Then shops that can maintain and repair old bikes will become the booming industry of the day. Hence the inevitable return of Velo Cult type shops rising from the ashes of techno-real estate nirvana.
An interesting theory, but sadly it seems too optimistic to me based on how the business cycle generally works. Typically during an uptick in the economy even weak firms are able to do OK because credit is easy to get and people have more discretionary income. When things turn down, marginal firms and industries suffer bloodbaths. Stronger companies that have banked assets during the recession are able to ride out the recessions and use those assets to make strategic moves to be positioned for the next period of growth. There isn’t really a big relative reshuffling during recessions (typically), it’s just all companies do worse and the companies that were on the margin go out of business. The fact that there are lots of empty storefronts during a recession doesn’t mean it’s easy to get in the game. It means money is tight and nobody is doing that well. I would predict the next recession will be a bloodbath for local bike businesses since anecdotal reports suggest they are a fairly marginal proposition even in a boom :(.
I’m so bummed about this. Velo Cult has some issues, sure, but it was a special place, one that always had a great beer, rad bikes, and partnered with interesting groups to host some cool events (including lots of BikeLoudPDX ones!). Top memory is attending a very sweaty (before they had AC) late night summer square dance among the vintage bikes. Musicians were fiddling away and everyone was dancing with joy. I’ll miss it for sure.
Farewell blowout party Saturday starting around 6 pm ish.
We’re going to finish off VC’s beer and empty VC’s stock of T-shirts, drink and party, pretend like its the high point of 2012 like bikeninja said. We’ll dance on the deck of the Titanic and there’ll be no tomorrow, no closure, no iceberg, just the raddest bike shop-tavern-friend place the PDX bike community has ever known.
See you there!
I’ll never let go, John. I’ll never let go.
I should also add:
Support the other privately run businesses that are key to making Portland a great place for bicycling.
Bikeportland.org, the 12 yr old news blog comes to mind as being something that could use more monetary support.
Anything else out there? “Businesses” that are a pivot of love as much as a for-profit business?
It IS because of the OLCC’s insistence that Velo Cult build out a kitchen so they can serve food. Apparently Sky’s modern solution of creating business agreements with local eateries to make and deliver food (on foot or by bike) was not good enough for them.
They did. A full selection.