On the 10th anniversary of her Sugar Wheel Works company, Portlander Jude Gerace has decided to move on. But the good news for Portland’s bike industry is that Sugar has been bought by Breadwinner Cycles.
Later today, Breadwinner owners Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan will announce their plans to welcome Sugar’s existing employees, tools, and inventory into their space on 2323 North Williams Avenue. Jude will stay on as an advisor for three months to help with the transition.
“We were both very surprised. But as soon as we walked away, we were like, ‘yeah, we gotta’ do this!'”
— Tony Pereira, Breadwinner Cycles
In a recent interview with Tony, Ira, and Jude at Breadwinner’s shop, Jude said she’s been thinking of leaving the bike industry for several years in order to focus on her passion of helping small businesses grow. It’s something she knows a lot about. Sugar (which was Epic Wheel Works before industry giant Specialized threatened to sue over the name), began in a tiny space in southeast Portland. In the past decade, Jude has built the company into a nationally-recognized business that employs three people.
Judes sees selling her business to Breadwinner as a natural fit.
“I wanted my exit to have a triple-win. I really wanted my staff and customers to be taken care of, and I also wanted my business to feather into a business that had the same values and that could benefit from Sugar’s presence. The first people I thought of was Tony and Ira,” she shared. “I feel like when you start a business like Sugar you have a responsibility to your customers and community and staff and I take that very seriously.”
Tony and Ira launched Breadwinner in 2013, but each of them began working with Jude prior to that under their previous labels of Pereira Cycles and Ira Ryan Cycles.
When Jude asked them out to dinner late last year, they had no idea she would pop this question. “We were both very surprised,” Tony recalled. “But as soon as we walked away from Jude, we were like, ‘yeah, we gotta’ do this!'”.
Breadwinner already points a lot of their customers to Sugar for wheelsets, and vice versa. Now all the wheelbuilding expertise and offerings will be in-house at Breadwinner. They plan to remodel their shop and Breadwinner Cafe space to include a retail storefront. The addition will allow Breadwinner to offer more services and it will reduce Sugar’s overhead expenses.
One of the factors that made this deal possible is that Sugar is in a strong financial position. “We’re taking on another successful business,” Tony explained. “It’ll be an instant revenue stream for us.” As for Breadwinner, the company sells about 100, high-end, complete bikes per year and has found a strong niche.
The move will also allow Breadwinner to flesh out its vision of being a hub of cycling industry activity. Next door to Breadwinner is Endurance PDX a bike-centric physical therapy and fitting specialist. They also sublet to Cascadia Suspension Works. And just across North Page Street is the shop of Ahearne Cycles, Igleheart Custom Frames and Forks, and Metroplis Cycles.
“Bringing in Sugar will be another opportunity to create more of a hive here,” Tony said.
This move illustrates not just how much these entrepreneurs have grown over the years, but how much Portland has changed along with them.
“We’re leading with our hearts. And I think that for us, standing here, working together and being stronger together… that’s pretty cool.”
— Jude Gerace, Sugar Wheel Works
“Our luck was being in Portland and starting our businesses when we did,” said Tony. “Portland has this vibrant bike thing going on, and I know we are all very proud of our place in that; but right now, you couldn’t start that over again. Think back 10 years ago when there was this bike-making boom. There were about 40 framebuilders in town and now there are just a handful of us.” Tony attributes some of that to a shift in the market, but the change is largely due to the steep rise in the cost of housing and shop space. When Jude started her business she paid just $185 per month for her space.
“Our businesses growing up is a good sign. We’ve survived, and we continue to grow, along with the city,” Tony said.
For Jude, she’s moving on the same way she moved in. By putting values in front of profits.
“We’re leading with our hearts. And I think that for us, standing here, working together and being stronger together… that’s pretty cool. And I think that’s the Portland thing. We’re willing to look outside of ourselves and our own individual success, and to see how we can make something happen.”
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