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Western Bikeworks retail store to close by end of this year

Posted by on September 18th, 2019 at 9:17 am

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Another large Portland bike retailer has decided to shut down its brick-and-mortar location. Western Bikeworks is set to announce today that their 10,000 square foot shop on the corner of Northwest 17th and Lovejoy will close before the end of this year.

Jay Torborg, CEO of Western Bikeworks’ parent company Velotech Inc, told us via email yesterday that the move comes as their lease is up for renewal and they’ve decided to prioritize their online business. “The expected future costs of operating the store have cast doubt on our ability to operate this store profitably,” he shared.

Torborg opened the retail store in 2011 based on the strength of Western’s online business which had grown steadily each year since it began in 2003. In addition to a wide selection of new bikes and gear, the shop has a cafe and large service area.

“We felt that our strengths are more in e-commerce than brick-and-mortar retail.”
— Jay Torborg, CEO Velotech Inc.

Despite its impressive footprint and great location in the Pearl District, the store accounts for less than 10% of the Velotech’s total revenue. 90% of the company’s business is generated online via their three websites: WesternBikeworks.com, BikeTiresDirect.com and Trisports.com.

In addition to the significant costs of operating the store, Torborg says Velotech’s new distribution center in Charlotte, North Carolina — opened to better serve the eastern U.S. — needs more investment to bulk up its inventory. “It made more sense for us to use our available capital to fund our Charlotte expansion,” he explained.

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Torborg said the small retail storefront at Velotech’s warehouse near Northeast Columbia Boulevard and 82nd Avenue will be expanded once the Lovejoy location closes.

Asked what the decision to close says about the Portland cycling market, Torborg said he believes it remains strong and pointed to the many “great stores” that continue to operate in the metro area. “We felt that our strengths are more in e-commerce than brick-and-mortar retail.”

Even though the shop is closing, Western Bikeworks will continue to support local cycling clubs and teams. As for the dozen or so people employed at the shop, some of them will be offered positions at the company’s warehouse. The store will remain open through the holidays and will close its doors for good in early 2020. Until, expect big upcoming sales on all showroom stock.

Western’s closure continues a trend of disappearing bike retail operations in Portland. In the past year we’ve seen the closure of Crank Bike Shop, A Better Cycle, Performance Bicycle, and Velo Cult.

Disclaimer: Velotech Inc is a BikePortland advertising partner.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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19 Comments
  • Avatar
    Dan A September 18, 2019 at 9:41 am

    Crap, this is my shop. I regularly stop in here to pick up supplies on my way home.

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      Middle of The Road Guy September 18, 2019 at 9:58 am

      It sure is/was a convenient location. It allowed me to do a lot of trip chaining when doing things downtown.

      I hope the employees end up on their feet.

      Recommended Thumb up 12

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    Dan September 18, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Yeah, this is a bummer. I demo’d my Cannondale there before I bought it — they let me take it out overnight, meaning I got to do a bunch of climbs in the West Hills, ride the drops on Highway 30, etc. before making a decision. Too bad that won’t be an option next time I’m in the market.

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    John Lascurettes September 18, 2019 at 10:01 am

    I didn’t realize Bike Tires Direct was associated. That’s how I usually order my tires and then pick them up near the airport at their warehouse store. I’ll continue to support them that way. Bummer to see another LBS close.

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    Al September 18, 2019 at 10:07 am

    This is a bummer. While I didn’t shop there that often, the Velotech location is a lot closer to me, I did take my bike in a couple times and got great service when other shops quoted me very long maintenance times.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty September 18, 2019 at 10:19 am

    They fixed a bike of a friend on an organized ride; swapped out a wheel and refused to take his money. Good folks, I am sad to see them go.

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    Bike Guy September 18, 2019 at 10:34 am

    bummer. also hope the staff there find some employ in the future. After enjoying as much of their unemployment benefits as they feel like 🙂

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    Colin Ross September 18, 2019 at 10:43 am

    That’s a shame. Having worked there for several years I know the store is staffed with wonderful people who love the Portland bike community. It’s never good to see a LBS close, especially not one this large.

    Recommended Thumb up 13

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    Todd Boulanger September 18, 2019 at 11:41 am

    Too bad, I always had good shop service at WBW. I am not surprised that a rent renewal cost inflection point caused this reconsideration…Outer Pearl/ Slabtown rents are very different than when they started …this location will likely make more $ as another brew pub, ______, etc.

    Another major closing…just confirms that the Portland/ regional bike commuter “growth” can no longer support the bulked up retail that developed in the glory days when lots of new commuters needed to buy everything for their bike commuter kit. Now the spot light turns to the SE USA and other affordable bike cities…unless the CoP can triple down and hit its 2035 (or 2040?) goals.

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    hotrodder September 18, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Yeah, this is a drag.

    I’ve got a lot of stories about Western. (Like the time I met Bobke there!)

    One in particular was indicative; I broke my chain on 24th and Glisan so I walked over to Western. The mechanic stopped what he was doing and got me back on the road – and even fixed a brake pad I had inadvertently put on backwards – and wouldn’t take any money. He was friendly and courteous and he made me feel welcome and grateful.

    Sorry to see you go.

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      Middle of The Road Guy September 19, 2019 at 7:10 am

      That was Valentine’s Day a like 5 years ago! Dude was hilarious.

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    Andrew September 19, 2019 at 6:25 am

    First 21st Ave Cycles, now WBW. Looks like I’m all out of super convenient LBSs. I think the only shop left in NW is that MTB shop on Thurman.

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      Jillian September 19, 2019 at 12:02 pm

      Yeah, and REI – they do have a bike shop in there. I was looking up where I will need to go for bike help, as Western is my go-to bike shop. Not a lot of options anymore in NW/Pearl. Super bummed!

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        Andrew September 19, 2019 at 7:02 pm

        I always forget they have bike stuff at REI. I’ve got a membership too, but whenever I need gear or parts I usually think of a regular lbs.

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    Dan Forester September 19, 2019 at 8:02 am

    Western Bike Works is a great shop. I made a point of going there because of the friendly, helpful staff. I will miss them for sure.

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    Kyle September 19, 2019 at 8:13 am

    I found WBW years ago, and was impressed by the integration between their retail store and their website. I thought it was an innovative approach that I was able to check something out in store, think about it a few days, and either buy and pickup in store, or have it shipped to me if strapped for time. I just bought a backpack from them this week!I thought it was a very modern approach that perfectly satisfied todays consumers, who want the convenience of seeing something in person sometimes, and learning more or ordering online others, all with the benefits of there often being sales and/or cheap/fast shipping. I’m sad to see the retail store component of the business go away, and am not sure the store will have the same value to me moving forward.

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      Jason E Start September 24, 2019 at 9:38 am

      Kyle,

      We believe that the model you so eloquently described is super viable. It’s just nearly impossible to pull off in the Pearl in a 10K square foot space. The costs are just too high to make the #’s work.

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    Liz September 19, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    WBW introduced me to the best womxn in Portland’s bike industry and is the only reason I know what a 16 lb Bianchi feels like. Thanks for the super weird job environment and best vegan chocolate peanut butter espresso shakes that side of the river has ever seen (real props go to Bryn, WBW’s epic Barista of yore.)

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    Dave September 20, 2019 at 7:35 am

    Real retail is getting squeezed between mail order/Scamazon.scum, and the ever increasing cost of renting space. I am waiting for another shoe to drop–a major crash in the value of commercial space as the internet’s retail wrecking ball continues it’s swinging.

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