Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 18th, 2020 at 9:50 am
As the grip of coronavirus tightens around Portland, bike shop owners are caught in the middle. Stay open and risk the health of their workers and customers? Or close and give up much-needed sales revenue and leave people with diminished access to a vehicle that in many ways is needed now more than ever?
Shop Status Spreadsheet
“We have a tent setup in our MLK store parking lot for service intake, online order pickup, and to maintain the number of customers in the store to 10 or less.”
— River City Bicycles
For most Portland bike shops the answer is (right now at least) to find a middle ground. In the past 24 hours I’ve heard from over 40 local bike shop owners about how they’re dealing with these unprecedented conditions and I’m collecting their status on a Google Sheet anyone can view.
Things have changed a lot since I first covered this topic three days ago. The latest responses to the crisis are as varied as their product offerings: Some are open as usual with heightened cleaning protocols, others are closed and will only see customers by appointment.
Before I share more, it’s worth noting the special circumstances bike shops are in. Unlike bars, restaurants and other small retail businesses, bike shops provide an crucial service during this crisis. And that’s not just my bias showing. We’ve seen in past disasters that bicycles are amazingly resilient and necessary mobility tools when times are tough. In the past few hours, officials in places that are under lockdown like Philadelphia and the California Bay Area, have decided that bikes shops should be considered “essential” business and are allowed to remain open.
Without a specific mandate to close from Portland or Oregon officials, bike shops are establishing their own protocols. A few trends I’ve noticed: Most all local shops remain open and have extensive cleaning measures in place; Shops with e-commerce capabilities will fare much better; Most have moved to electronic payment methods only; The best way to support shops is to donate, buy stuff online, or purchase gift cards or store credit; Nearly every shop is available via phone or email for drop-offs and pick-ups of repairs or new bikes and products.
Find your favorite shops via the Portland Bike Shop Status spreadsheet.
I’ll share a few selected highlights below…
7 Corners Cyclery:
If you want to just drop your bike off and leave without any contact with people, please put your name and number on masking tape and mark your bike and leave it in the rack by the register or elsewhere at the front of the store. We will call you to discuss what work needs to be done on it.
Abraham Fixes Bikes:
We are limiting our interactions to one person at a time.
We’re offering free pick-up and delivery for most services ($35 labor minimum) in our 97203 zip code.
Cat Six Cycles:
We’ve set up a PayPal.me site where folks can get shop credit in any amount they like and we’d ask folks to add their name and phone number or email address in a note so we know whose account to give the credit! We don’t have traditional gift cards or certificates, but this is as good as cash for anything in the store (including labor).
We have a webstore that showcases a lot of what we sell, and we continue to answer the phone and email whether we’re working from home or at the shop. Like Amazon, but with real people that know stuff. For any orders within a reasonable radius of the shop, we’re offering free bike delivery.
I started my business in the spring of 2008 and watched as the economy melted in front of our eyes, I made it through the Eagle Creek fire and the pinch that put on tourism, and now I have another situation to make it through. In the past 11 years I’ve never had to lay someone off, but yesterday told my staff that I had to cut their hours.
Metropolis Bike Repair:
We have shut off the entire bike shop except the front counter. We also have a side window that opens that we may use to sell small things like tubes.
The Outer Rim:
We want to help people continue to be able to get where they need and be a resource for our community. We can take orders over the phone and have them ready for “take out”.
We have a tent setup in our MLK store parking lot for service intake, online order pickup, and to maintain the number of customers in the store to 10 or less.
All visitors will be asked to wash and disinfect their hands upon entering the store. All visitors are expected to know and implement CDC guidelines to help stop the spread of germs.
The light is still on and we are still open. Come make sure you social distancing machine is in tip top shape so that you can enjoy the scenery!
Nonprofits hit especially hard
“This closure will like set us back at least about $75,000 in revenue.”
— Jonnie Ling, Community Cycling Center
Portland’s nonprofit bike shops are in a different boat. They don’t carry lots of inventory, they don’t have e-commerce sites to fall back on, and their business relies on volunteers (which don’t exist anymore) and face-to-face contact. Our friends at Bike Farm said, “As our shop runs on volunteer power we will not have an income during this time as we are unable to sell stand time, parts or bikes which are our primary sources of revenue.” Bikes for Humanity is completely closed.
The Community Cycling Center is the largest nonprofit bike shop in Portland and the impacts of the virus will hit them very hard. Executive Directory Jonnie Ling said 2020 had already been tough on them and their currently planned two-week closure will cost them about $75,000 in revenue. “We are concerned about the weeks and months ahead, but are cautiously optimistic that our staff and community of supporters can help push us through this.” The CCC has set up a special “emergency funding campaign” website to accept donations.
Hopefully federal/state/county financial assistance will be coming soon for these businesses and their customers in need. For any Oregon shop owners who might be at risk of eviction due to coronavirus-related losses, I highly recommend reading this thread from lawyer Doug Hageman about the fine print in Multnomah County’s eviction moratorium order:
I wish everyone well. BikePortland is here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out if our platform can assist you in any way. I’ll continue updating the Portland Bike Shop Status Spreadsheet as conditions change.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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