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Rivelo, Breadwinner Cafe, and Norther Cycles are all closing

Posted by on January 2nd, 2020 at 8:06 pm

Portland’s local bike culture and retail landscape has taken a few more hits.

The last decade has brought with it a sea change in Portland bicycle culture. The new decade looks to continue the trend as three beloved small businesses have decided to call it quits: Rivelo, Breadwinner Cafe, and Norther Cycles.

Rivelo was a small, niche shop located just off the Springwater Corridor near OMSI that specialized in Rivendell bikes. In addition to a well-curated selection of parts and accessories, the shop was known for its collection of Bob Dylan records and a love of riding slow. Rivelo opened in 2015 and shop owner John Bennett says he’ll play his last record at the end of this month. Bennett says he’ll miss running the shop and plans to spend his post-bike shop life as an AirBnB host. The shop’s Instagram account will live on.

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Inside Norther Cycles.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Norther Cycles owner Starmichael Bowman has also decided to throw in the towel. Bowman is a former co-owner of Kenton Cycle Repair who opened his doors on North Albina and Killingsworth in 2015. After over ten years in the local bike scene, Bowman said via Instagram last week, “I’m giving up on bikes, maybe forever, maybe not we’ll see how I feel way down the line.”

Norther was known for handmade randonneuring bikes and all the accessories only a true rando lover could appreciate (in February 2017 Path Less Pedaled paid a visit and called it “randonneuring paradise”). The shop was a collaboration between Bowman and bike maker Mark Simmons of Belladonna Cycles. It had a large shop space behind the retail store where Star and Mark could make nearly anything. Portland will miss their custom builds, creativity and expertise.

You can wish them well (and help them clear out any remaining inventory at huge savings) at a farewell party this Saturday (January 4th).

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The cafe had a window into the framebuilding shop.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The closing of Breadwinner Cafe is a half-goodbye. Breadwinner Cycles — the custom bike business owned by Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan — is alive and well. Tony and Ira joined forces to launch Breadwinner in 2013. Four years later they moved into a shop and office space on North Williams at Page Street. The café opened in December 2017. Its last day will be Sunday, January 5th.

“We thought locating a bike-centric cafe on Williams would be a slam dunk, but it turns out that running a little restaurant is a lot more complicated than we figured,” Tony shared with me via email last week. “After two years of slow growth and despite a strong, small community that developed around it, the cafe has not brought in enough money to cover its costs.”

Tony added that closing the cafe will allow he and the rest of the Breadwinner crew to focus on making bikes and building custom wheels — something they do a lot more of since their purchase of Sugar Wheel Works in March 2019.

These are the last three closures in what was a bruising year for Portland’s vaunted bicycling ecosystem. 2019 saw the closure of A Better Cycle, Western Bikeworks’ Pearl District location, United Bicycle Institute, and Cyclone Bicycle Supply.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

That’s too bad on all accounts, but having a niche store in a smallish city is a tough market share. I will say, Breadwinner cafe had one of the best espressos I’ve had outside of Italy.

Corbin Dallas
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Corbin Dallas

Almost as if capitalism rewards the rich developers rather than the small business owners 😐

Jd
Guest
Jd

There’s been an A frame sign advertising the breadwinner café planted right next to the bike lane for almost the past 2 years.

Carrie
Subscriber

Jon
Extremely expensive steel bikes without disc brakes are basically useless in wet places like the PNW particularly if you enjoy being able to stop your bike with any control.

Wow, I didn’t realize how amazing my bike handling skills have been over the past 6 years commuting on exactly such a bike (though mine isn’t extremely expensive because 2nd hand).

This news is really, really sad. Both shops made beautiful, quality products that would last for decades. And indicative of how the local customer base HAS changed.

rick
Guest
rick

Is it true that Universal Cycles will relocate to SW Walker Road in Cedar Hills?

Rudi V
Guest
Rudi V

The dream of the 90s is no longer alive in portland.

As for rim brakes, 140 years of use in the PCNW and everywhere else says they’re not “useless” at all.

Phil
Guest
Phil

The link to Breadwinner goes to a cafe in Atlanta. Try https://breadwinnercycles.com/cafe/

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

I would have a hard time buying a bike online. When I bought my current bike, it was because it “felt right” when I test-rode it. The hassles of unboxing, assembling, then finding out a bike doesn’t “fit”, and trying to return it just seem sooooooo not worth it. I suppose I could study frame sizes and head/seat tube angles, chainstay/top tube lengths, etc. and take a mathematical approach to getting something close, but ugh. I could also go the used-from-a-private-seller route, as long as I could determine there were no, ahem, “provenance” issues, but there are other potential hassles going that route. I like buying new bikes from a real shop. On the other hand, it is a little too convenient to order a few brake pads or a new chain/cluster from The Company.

Unfortunately the shop I did buy from closed years ago, the shop a few doors down had already closed a couple of years before that, Performance just closed their B&M shop in Beaverton… It really does seem that our economy favors the large over the small. Without some kind of online retail option, it just doesn’t appear that any bike shop can compete on retail hardware. Is service (especially e-bike service) the place to be? Or are too many bikes made so cheaply that they are considered disposable rather than serviceable? It doesn’t take too many professional services to cost the same as a replacement bike, unless one does spend the cash for a hand-made, custom bike—something few folks have the means to do. How can a local shop serve the folks who buy a new bike every 10 – 15 years, do a lot of their own maintenance with parts they can order online, and only really need a shop when something goes wrong that they don’t have the tools or skills to fix? Strategically placed vending machines with tubes and patch kits?

I guess I don’t really have anything helpful to say, other than “that sucks”, which isn’t helpful, and “best of luck” to those closing shop and moving on.

Shuppatsu
Guest
Shuppatsu

I’ll be sad to see Rivelo go. I love Riv bikes, and I love Bob Dylan. But truth is I don’t have the scratch for a new Riv bike, and it’s too niche/out of the way to serve as my regular bike shop.

I visited the Breadwinner cafe once. There was nobody behind the counter. There were plenty of people in the shop, but they all seemed busy. I left without getting anything.

cmh89
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cmh89

I mean you can see Breadwinners logic if you are in 2015. Williams was hypothetically supposed to a modern street. PBOT has completely failed on the Vancouver/Williams bike way leaving the businesses and people who live there to deal with the consequences. Williams is such a cluster and so congested with SOV traffic that I didn’t notice Breadwinner for the first year or year and half I commuted through Williams. My only focus when I am on Williams/Vancouver is other bikes in the congested bike lane and watching cars in the congested dangerous motorist only lanes.

N. Williams is a great example of PBOTs progressive talk hood-winking people and then their regressive policies screwing them over

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

I hate to be the one to say this, but I think the evidence is clear that Portland Peaked about 2015 and it has been downhill ever since. Like the Butterfly many beautiful things only last for a short time before fading away.

Beth H
Guest

I GUESS it’s sad to see all these little shops go. But people grow and their needs change. When I left the bike industry in 2012, Citybikes had already evolved in response to a shifting demographic. In 1986, when it opened, a lot of surrounding housing was quite affordable and inhabited by folks who weren’t afraid to save money by getting their hands dirty (I.e., doing their own basic bike maintenance). Citybikes was perfect for them and business was robust enough for us to open a secon location.
Then, inflation and the internet came along and changed the landscape — the demographic. The newer inhabitants of inner SE wanted someone else to fix their flats, and they had no patience for the janky vagaries of used bikes. The best used parts were being hoarded and flipped online for twenty times what we would’ve sold them for in-house.
So after much hand-wringing and discussion, we adapted. We brought in new bikes. We charged more for used bikes and parts. We started selling online. And ultimately, we bought our buildings to provide a cushion of security for the business in the longer term.
Has it all been perfect and wonderful? Of course not. Lives change, times change, things happen and people move on. That’s also adaptation of a sort.

Don’t blame it all on “the evil developers” or “customers who shop online” — life happens and everyone has to adapt. Sometimes it works out; Citybikes still operates one small repair shop in its original location with a leaner workforce. And sometimes it still works out; I left Citybikes in 2012 and became a modestly successful touring musician with four albums to my credit. And sometimes it works out yet again; the people who leave closing shops or who move on to other projects (or have kids, or retire, or leave town) all adapt somehow.

Very, VERY few of us actually DIE as a result of not adapting.
This is not Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
We almost ALWAYS adapt and, even if it’s not what we imagined, something works out.
Best wishes to everyone moving on from the year’s closures and evolutions.

hotrodder
Guest
hotrodder

Sorry to see all three of these shops close; I’m going to do a “sweep” of all three tomorrow, Saturday, just because I want to remember them. Listening to Dylan sing “Duquesne Whistle” in Rivelo’s honor as I write this….

As to the BW Cafe, well, like has been said, it never felt that inviting to me, just a place to meet for a minute while the ride for that day queued up. I really wanted it to be a place to just hang, like the late lamented VeloCult, but that was never going to happen. Not there, not in that building.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

A front DRUM brake on a FIXIE is the best of all possible street bike worlds.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

I bought a bike from Ira Ryan before breadwinner. Nice guy and. Beautiful frame. But hated the Avid brakes. Paul brakes fixed it. Best wishes to a skilled craftsman in a shrinking market. Somehow quality products are able to rise above market downturns

Andrew N
Guest
Andrew N

cmh89
I mean you can see Breadwinners logic if you are in 2015. Williams was hypothetically supposed to a modern street. PBOT has completely failed on the Vancouver/Williams bike way leaving the businesses and people who live there to deal with the consequences. Williams is such a cluster and so congested with SOV traffic that I didn’t notice Breadwinner for the first year or year and half I commuted through Williams. My only focus when I am on Williams/Vancouver is other bikes in the congested bike lane and watching cars in the congested dangerous motorist only lanes.N. Williams is a great example of PBOTs progressive talk hood-winking people and then their regressive policies screwing them overRecommended 7

Possible comment of the week right there, especially that last line.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

Time to accept Portland is not “Americas Bicycle Capital”.

Alain
Guest
Alain

Been riding seriously (some racing, mostly commuting, touring and the like) for 32 years, and 27 of those have been in Portland. The city is certainly far, far better than in years past. Could it be better, of course. But rewind to when riding down N Interstate meant share a lane with double tractor trailers. Now, many drivers exhibit a courtesy unthinkable in other cities I visit, even cities in our own region. I want Portland to get better, and to do it faster, but rewind 10-20 years ago, and today’s bike infrastructure seems unreal. What gets me sad and a little angry is seeing great shops close (Norther) or move to the suburbs (Universal). These closures can make the convenience and practicality of cycling in Portland less so. Sure, I can still find stuff, I just have to go further and spend more time doing so; frankly, I’d rather spend that time riding somewhere else. I have no complaints on the coffee and beer front, but sometimes you want you bicycle stuff to be as easy to come by!

Tony
Guest
Tony

So why are bike stores closing shop? I don’t commute by bike and live on the west side. I thought the city is getting more dense with all the condos replacing houses and more people moving into Portland. Are these people not riding bikes and needing service for their bikes?

Tom
Guest

I read with sadness that Norther is closing. I heard rumors that Universal was moving outside of Portland proper. It was an unsurprising surprise to hear that Rivelo is closing at end of month. There will be others closing, and possibly others to open in neighborhoods that have been starved of a LBS for a generation or 2. The bike scene is in constant flux, like everything else in life and in cities.

And there are 50+ Local Bike Shops that are here to stay. Some of us focus on weird niches. We just want to fix your bike, no matter what brand, style, or level of decrepitude it is in. We are still here. Because the Internet can’t fix your flat or remove that brake squeal. The tools and hands and expertise do not magically exit from your smartphone to do the thing.

johnyy speed
Guest
johnyy speed

Sad to see the demise of places like Rivelo….though Norther was an interesting shop personality issues were a definite turn-off…..Star Michael!