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Velo Cult will close retail shop to focus solely on e-commerce

Posted by on July 25th, 2018 at 7:26 pm

Velo Cult was a central meeting place for bike lovers of all types.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

Velo Cult owner Sky Boyer in February 2018.

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.”

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Sky Boyer and two employees renovating the 10,000 square-foot former antique mall in 2012.


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 jonathan@bikeportland.org

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dwk
Guest
dwk

Absolute bummer…..

Vans
Guest
Vans

Huge understatement , really going to miss Velocirque.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Noooo!

Very sad.

Remember, folks, support your local bike shop!

Ted Buehler

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

Ugh. What a bummer.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

Damn. I LOVE the space and they had some of the best damned mechanics around. This is such a huge bummer and I really appreciate how it was a cultural spot.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

I guess my Velo Cult shirt will be a collector’s item at some point. 🙂 🙁

9watts
Subscriber

Are all those vintage-y MTBs for sale too?

Middle of The Road Guy
Guest
Middle of The Road Guy

I was wondering the same thing – There is a Merlin Newsboy there I would love to have (but can’t afford).

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

I always wanted to support them but whenever I stopped in, left disappointed in the selection of goods.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

That’s true of pretty much every bike shop. The ones who are more online-focused generally have a wider selection.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

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.

SERider
Guest
SERider

Wait. They didn’t have tubes? Really?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

“more online-focused”

Not “online”.

dave
Guest
dave

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.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

Can’t say I ever bought bike merchandise from them, but I did get my commuter bike serviced there soup-to-nuts every time it needed it. Also, I would just stop in if I was in the hood for a beer, and I’d come in for some of the events.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

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.

Al
Guest
Al

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.

world's slowest mamil
Guest
world's slowest mamil

That really sucks. Nice to see the city keeping on top of ruining nice things for its citizens.

9watts
Subscriber

?

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

“…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.”

9watts
Subscriber

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.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

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?

world's slowest mamil
Guest
world's slowest mamil

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.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

There are Targets with bars.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

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.

Brian
Guest
Brian

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.

Mike C
Guest

Oh damnit to hell. I should have had more beers.

m
Guest
m

“…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.

9watts
Subscriber

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.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

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.

9watts
Subscriber

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.

Alex
Guest
Alex

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.

9watts
Subscriber

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,

noah heller
Guest
noah heller

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.

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

Because it is forcing Velo Cult to close — that’s why.

9watts
Subscriber

Or not.
Sometimes it is more fun/convenient/lazy to blame the OLCC or the city for the situation.

Huey Lewis
Guest
Huey Lewis

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?

9watts
Subscriber

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.

Huey Lewis
Guest
Huey Lewis

9 Watts, was def not talking to you.

9watts
Subscriber

Okeedokee. Sorry to have intruded.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

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.

9watts
Subscriber

“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?

world's slowest mamil
Guest
world's slowest mamil

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.

Noah
Guest
Noah

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..

https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/deaths-liver-disease-are-surging-drinking-blame-n892521

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

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.

kate
Guest
kate

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…

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

They could, maybe, not serve beer at a bike shop?

world's slowest mamil
Guest
world's slowest mamil

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?

mh
Subscriber

Fire Marshall, I believe, made them close the downstairs meeting space quite some time ago. Not much drawing me to Hollywood now.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

Yes, not enough egress for fire escape from the basement. It was a great little space though.

world's slowest mamil
Guest
world's slowest mamil

Oddly enough, it’s now an escape room.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

Smaller number of people at a time than what a performance/theater space attracted. That was the issue.

I wear many hats
Guest
I wear many hats

Probably fire code and needing to install sprinklers. Its super expensive to put those in.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I’d like to not die in a fire, though. How do we find the right balance?

Jon
Guest
Jon

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.

Al
Guest
Al

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.

idlebytes
Guest
idlebytes

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?

Johnny B. Goode
Guest
Johnny B. Goode

Golden Pliers on Skidmore at Interstate.

Brian W.
Guest
Brian W.

Cat Six, up 42nd a fair bit, but it is the best damn shop around.

Huey Lewis
Guest
Huey Lewis

Golden Pliers.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

I mentioned that I loved their mechanics. Brought my bike in there to have the pads replaced and lines bled when my hydraulics needed servicing. Had more than one wheel rebuilt there. And had my Alfine 11 get its lubrication change there too.

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

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.

m
Guest
m

9watts
Or not. Sometimes it is more fun/convenient/lazy to blame the OLCC or the city for the situation.Recommended 0

Which is why I was asking for specifics. Would be good to know.

galavantista
Guest
galavantista

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…

kate
Guest
kate

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.

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

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’?

Monte
Guest
Monte

I think the old saying is: “if you want to make a small fortune in the bike industry, start out with a large fortune”

Maria
Guest

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.

9watts
Subscriber

I only found two out of forty-four. What am I missing?

Ps
Guest
Ps

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.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Velocult has always been my second home… 🙁 thanks for setting up such a RAD place.

Rivelo
Guest

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)

https://www.instagram.com/rivelo_pdx/

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

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.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

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.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

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

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

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.

PS
Guest
PS

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.

Ted Buehler
Guest
Ted Buehler

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,
Ted Buehler

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

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.

Ps
Guest
Ps

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?

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

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.

chris m
Guest
chris m

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 :(.

Emily Guise (Contributor)
Subscriber

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.

John Liu
Subscriber

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!

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

I’ll never let go, John. I’ll never let go.

Ted Buehler
Guest

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?

Ted Buehler

Skid
Guest
Skid

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.

Mike C
Guest

SERider
Wait. They didn’t have tubes? Really?Recommended 1

They did. A full selection.